01/05/07 — Facilities top goal for school leadership

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Facilities top goal for school leadership

By Phyllis Moore
Published in News on January 5, 2007 1:57 PM

Wayne County's school superintendent says completing the school system's facilities plan and improving test scores are the district's two major goals for the coming year.

At the midway point of the current school year, Dr. Steven Taylor said officials are also gearing up to enhance two high school programs by the fall.

"We're in the planning stages for our school-within-a-school at Goldsboro High School, to get everything in place and get situated," he said. "We want that to be a success as we start off next year with ninth grade."

A ninth-grade class will also be added at Wayne Early/Middle High School, located on the Wayne Community College campus. Launched in the fall with 11th and 12th grades, Taylor said the program has already been termed a "real success."

But the immediate priority, he said, will be the completion of a facilities plan.

The Facilities Master Plan Team was formed in the fall, recommended after the county commissioners hired consulting firm Evergreen Solutions to study the needs in the school system. Three committees were formed to assess the capacity and construction issues -- education, facilities and real estate, and financing.

"The focus committees have been working hard in the month of December," Taylor said. "We're looking forward to their reports."

The education committee has already met twice, he said, and compiled a list of recommendations that will be handed over to the master plan team for consideration.

The facilities and real estate committee also visited schools last month and is expected to convene in the coming weeks, Taylor said. It will be awhile, though, before the finance committee enters the process, he said.

"It would be out of sync for them to meet now before (there's a decision about) what the actual plan is going to be," he said.

Findings have to first be studied by the master team, with the final decision resting with the Board of Education, Taylor said. Since the commission holds the purse strings, its board members will determine how much money might be available.

Taylor said he hopes the process will move smoothly and quickly.

"We want to finish as soon as possible," he said. "We are well under way and are making progress and are further along than we have been in awhile."

In the meantime, school officials are working to ensure students receive the best quality of education possible. Teachers and principals are gearing up for the end-of-course and end-of-grade tests coming up in the spring.

"Always on our plate is to meet the goals and standards and benchmarks that are set by No Child Left Behind and North Carolina's ABCs accountability program," Taylor said. The state and federal programs are two different measures, he said, but the district must meet both sets of standards.

"We're trying to meet Adequate Yearly Progress, all the things that we're expected to do under those two programs. We are continually looking to make changes -- to do what we can to try to meet those standards that are being set."

The bar is raised every so often, Taylor said, prompting the need for educators to regularly plan ways to meet the new standards. Sometimes, though, there are unexpected challenges.

"We were late getting the math scores" from last spring's tests, the superintendent said. "We're in the mode that we have to try to adjust -- whatever standards are sent to us, whatever mandates.

"We are pleased that in spite of the math calculation being changed and the standards being raised, we met 87 percent of our target goals that were set."

While that is not 100 percent, Taylor said it is still pretty good.

"We would like for it to be 100 percent. We are never satisfied where we are. We want to move forward," he said. "We are continually looking at programs that will move us along. Programs that are not, we'll look to remove those."

High school reform and parental involvement are also being addressed, Taylor said.

The high school reform will impact all the high schools, he explained, and is part of a push from the state Board of Education.

Enlisting the support of parents at every grade level is likewise an important piece of the puzzle.

"One of our goals always is to get our parents to participate in their child's education, be a partner with us," he said. "It has to be a cooperative effort between home and school."