Schools chief: Get better results

Published 6:07 am Saturday, July 24, 2010

Staff Writer

A level of high academic achievement for all students in Beaufort County Schools is the top goal of schools Superintendent Don Phipps for the 2010-2011 school year, he told the Beaufort County Board of Education Friday.
As a result of improvements in monitoring student progress and improved teaching methods, all schools should be able to meet or exceed the state average in each performance measure, he said.
Phipps outlined seven goals and eight objectives for achieving those goals at a school board retreat and planning session held about six months since he took over the helm of the county’s public school system.
He said that some of the work he outlined for the school board had already begun and that all the goals could be achieved by the end of the coming school year with the money currently available to the school system.
“We want to make sure we’re doing things that produce results,” Phipps said in an interview after the meeting. 
The retreat came two days after a the release of a report that showed students at fewer Beaufort County schools passed end-of-grade exams this year than last year and the system as a whole failed to meet their targets under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
As a district, Beaufort County Schools did not make its goals for 2009-2010, with four of 14 schools meeting 100 percent of federal markers. This was a decrease from 2008-2009 when eight of 14 schools met their goals, according to the report.
On Friday, Phipps said he will work to reverse that trend and have students at all schools meeting or exceeding the state average in each testing performance measure.
But, he said, teachers and school system staff members will have to change some of their practices in order to achieve that outcome.
“We can’t continue doing things the way we’re doing them and expect to get different results,” he said.
He promised more frequent student assessments, particularly in kindergarten through second grade, to enable teachers to more quickly spot those students who have problems in a particular area of their school work.
And he promised a stronger emphasis on literacy in the early grades to prepare children for their studies in the third grade and beyond.
Phipps cited the need for a wider use of technology throughout the school system to enable teachers, principals and system leaders to hone in on school trends.
He also said that the schools will accurately record crime data statistics and upgrade cameras and security equipment to help improve school safety.
“We want to make sure we’re very honest and calling it as it is,” Phipps said of crime data used by the schools.
He also promised to strengthen the professional development offerings for teachers and school staff, and listed the creation of a central training center for the schools as a long-range goal.
Phipps said he hoped to improve the school system’s financial picture in the coming year by building its savings, if possible, and by working to reduce energy costs.
And he promised to improve relationships with other community leaders.
Phipps listed his goals for the coming school year as follows:
— Beaufort County school students will demonstrate a high level of academic achievement;
— All Beaufort County school students will be educated in a safe, comfortable and healthy environment;
— Beaufort County Schools will recruit, train and retain quality teachers and administrators;
— Beaufort County Schools faculty and support staff will demonstrate competence and expertise in their assigned area of service;
— Beaufort County Schools will demonstrate fiscal responsibility and accountability with the resources provided by various revenues;
— Beaufort County Schools will have service-oriented, inviting, friendly and cooperative relationships with stakeholder groups;
— The school district will strive to develop friendly, sound and mutually beneficial relationships with other governmental agencies and community groups working toward the betterment of the education system.
Phipps said that while some of the goals and objectives in his report may be more difficult to achieve than others, he said, “We’ve got good people in place who can do these things.”
In other business, the board:
• Discussed changes to the school capital-outlay budget for 2010-2011. Currently, $908,938  of $1.257 million in projects included in the capital budget are under way, with an additional $245,940 being held in reserve as a contingency fund. The board asked Phipps to seek bids on construction projects at two schools — renovations to the bathrooms and plumbing at Bath Elementary School and the installation of new windows in some sections of Eastern Elementary School. The projects are being considered, in part, as a result of savings in the cost of installing a new roof at Washington High School.
• Approved a change in the system’s Healthy Living, Reproductive Health and Safety Education Policy that gives any parent wishing to withhold consent for a child to attend classes held on the subject to complete an opt-out form. Any parent wishing to withdraw a consent that was previously given may also do so by completing the form.
All board members attended the meeting except Mike Isbell.