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Plan to improve schools sent to school board

November 17, 1998|By LAURA ERNDE

After nearly a year of work by hundreds of people from the community, a blueprint for improving the school system is in the hands of the Washington County Board of Education.

For the first time in the school system's history, the board has a strategic plan.

"It's the first time in the history of the county that we've had a coordinated approach to public education," said board member Andrew Humphreys.

Parents, teachers and community members can see in black and white the direction the school system is headed, board members said.

The plan lays out dozens of recommendations. It makes suggestions on how the central office should be organized, how the budget is written and how the curriculum should be developed.

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It puts a timetable and a price tag on all of its ideas.

Many recommendations won't cost anything. Others will be expensive. The most costly is for school renovation and maintenance. Over five years, the schools need to spend an extra $1.5 million a year to bring the schools to an acceptable level, according to the plan.

The strategic plan grew out of last year's curriculum audit, which pointed to problems with equity, staff development and curriculum.

"It's a document that helps set the direction. It's now up to us to start moving in that direction," said board member Edwin Hayes.

But the plan is also flexible and allows the school board to set priorities and add and delete suggestions as necessary.

"Now it needs to be fleshed out. It needs to have a life," said board member B. Marie Byers.

School board members, including those to be sworn in Dec. 1, said they won't let the plan sit on a shelf.

"It is critical to the system to follow up on this," board member-elect J. Herbert Hardin said.

The community certainly hold the school board accountable, board members said.

"The beauty of it, though, is we've added the input from the community. It is their system," Hayes said.

In fact, some of the recommendations are already in the process of being implemented.

The board last week approved the hiring of a technology director at the suggestion both of the plan and an independent auditor.

"I see the teachers working very hard and people at the central office working very hard. It is for the benefit of the whole community," said board member-elect Mary L. Wilfong.

Board member-elect Paul W. Bailey said the community members who created the plan must stay involved to make the plan work.

"These folks are going to have to be counted on to be influential in the community and try to sell it to the community," he said.

Some school board members think the biggest hurdle will be finding the money to accomplish everything laid out in the plan.

"In an ideal world, we should do everything in the strategic plan. However, we're living in a world of Washington County and I don't know if we can make everything happen. We're certainly going to try," Nipps said.

Byers said she wants to get more input from teachers.

"Their ideas and their creativity and their thoughtful use of time will energize this plan," she said.

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