There’s a perception among people involved with Fayette County Public Schools that there are several barriers to all students achieving at high levels, consultants developing a strategic plan recently told board members.
A draft strategic plan is still being revised. But according to a discussion at a special board meeting Jan. 3, some major themes reflecting problems and possible solutions have emerged in audits, surveys and meetings over the last several months with parents, district staff and others:
▪ Classroom instruction for English language learners and gifted and talented students is inadequate. Communication is lacking between district officials and teachers, administrators and families. Principals and school governing councils need more help and support from Central Office. All students don’t have access to specialized programs.
“We are doing some great things, but we still have kids who are not meeting benchmarks,” board member Daryl Love said during the meeting. “We are not serving the needs of all of our kids.”
▪ There’s a concern that schools are not equal. There is not the same level of excellence across the district or equitable sharing of resources. All schools need to get support from Central Office staff to level the playing field. Schools have varied approaches to curriculum and instruction, which leads to inconsistencies in teaching and learning.
▪ The district’s staff needs to evaluate schools with more rigor. Schools aren’t keeping up with a changing student population that involve children from other countries. Only 13 percent of classrooms exhibited evidence that students are learning about their culture or that of others.
▪ The district could start to conduct an audit of equity issues in its schools. School district officials would also improve trust and collaboration between Central Office, school staff and families and make sure that all students can get into specialized programs.
▪ District officials could commit to a combination of translation services for print, radio, television and social media to have better communication with students and families who don’t speak or are learning English.
▪ In addition to more help for English language learners, district officials could better help special education and gifted and talented students.
▪ Central Office staff could work to have more effective relationships with teachers. Communication should improve among district offices. The district needs to support school councils and principals in hiring and retaining highly effective staff members. The district needs an induction program for new principals. When one school has a successful program or initiative, it should be shared with other schools rather than starting something new from scratch.
▪ District officials want to hire more diverse staff and staff that are multilingual to mirror student enrollment. Fayette County has a great staff, board members have been told, but to keep up with rising standards they will have to be able to keep equity in mind when teaching. Teachers would be trained to be more responsive to cultural differences between children and additionally to improve instruction. A goal is for students to have more access to advanced coursework and more access to dual high school and college credit.
▪ By the end of the 2018-19 school year, a goal is to recruit and retain the best staff to help close the achievement gap between low income, minority and disabled students and others and by the following year have a system of teacher training aimed at closing that gap. That includes modifying instruction to help disabled students.
▪ Goals include for the district’s general fund balance to stay healthy, for major projects to stay on budget and on schedule, for Central Office staff to increase their support of schools and for school budgets across the district to be increasingly equitable.
In development of the strategic plan, school board chairman Melissa Bacon said, “I want to own our deficiencies.”