Education

Fayette schools need goals for students, staff improvement, superintendent says

New School Superintendent Tom Shelton on his first day on the job at the Fayette County Schools Central Office, 701 East Main St.  in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, September 01, 2011. Shelton, who replaced Stu Silberman, previously served as superintendent of Daviess County schools in Owensboro since July 2004. Charles Bertram | Staff
New School Superintendent Tom Shelton on his first day on the job at the Fayette County Schools Central Office, 701 East Main St. in Lexington, Ky., Thursday, September 01, 2011. Shelton, who replaced Stu Silberman, previously served as superintendent of Daviess County schools in Owensboro since July 2004. Charles Bertram | Staff

Superintendent Tom Shelton wants Fayette County Public Schools to develop clear-cut, achievable "overarching goals" to guide efforts for boosting educational attainment.

Under Shelton's proposal, unveiled Monday night, the school district would adopt three to as many as five goals in categories that might include student achievement, student and family engagement, business and community involvement, or staff improvement.

For example, Shelton said, a goal for student achievement should spell out exactly what Fayette County students should know and be able to do when they graduate.

The proposal was among several Shelton submitted to the school board Monday night based on his first several months in office and the results of a recent state leadership audit of the district. The board took no formal action Monday night but gave the report an enthusiastic reception.

If the board approves his plan, Shelton said he would ask members to define the districtwide goals, with input from educators and the public.

Groups called "professional learning communities" would be created to monitor progress toward the goals and keep the school board and the community informed, Shelton said. The groups would be made up of educators, parents and other community representatives.

"I think it's crucial that we have clear goals that everyone knows, that everyone in the community can quote," Shelton said before Monday's board session. "We need goals based on what we want our students to know and focused on how we want to keep improving achievement. We need to define what that actually means, not simply say that we want to continue to improve achievement."

Without clear-cut goals, the district's efforts to equip its students as "21st-century learners" will lack focus and cohesion, Shelton contended.

The report marks Shelton's first public comments on his broad plans and ideas for the future of the Fayette schools since taking over as superintendent on Sept. 1. He came to Lexington after leading Daviess County Public Schools in Owensboro.

He described his proposals as evolutionary, not revolutionary.

"When I came to the district ... very clearly, the board and others told me that they're happy with what is going on in the district," he said. "They didn't want me to come in and radically change things or do away with things. They wanted me to say, 'How can we build on what we've been doing and continue to improve.' "

He pointed to the district's longstanding motto, "It's About Kids."

"That is the mantra we work under and will continue to work under," Shelton said. "But what we have to ask first, though. is what is the 'it'? We need to define what we really mean when we say 'It's About Kids.' "

Shelton said his proposals align well with results from the state leadership audit, which was required as a result of Bryan Station High School being placed on a statewide list of low-achieving schools last year. Fayette County, however, volunteered to become the first district in the state to undergo an expanded version of that audit, also released Monday night.

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