Phipps is aiming high with improvement goals

Published 7:30 am Thursday, November 25, 2010

Staff Writer

Beaufort County’s public-school students will perform as well on standardized tests as their peers across the state, according to a plan unveiled to school leaders Tuesday night.
The Beaufort County Board of Education got its first look at strategies developed by Beaufort County Schools Superintendent Don Phipps to meet seven goals set by the school board.
And while Phipps’ goal is to have all the county’s public-school students performing as well as the state average on standardized tests within three years, some school-board members said that goal may not be possible for some schools.
“If we can get to the state average in Beaufort County that would be a big deal,” said board Chairman Robert Belcher. “But in order to get there, you may have to individualize these plans.”
Belcher cited John Small Elementary, P.S. Jones Middle, S.W. Snowden and, “to a lesser extent,” Northeast Elementary schools as those where the differences in local student test scores and the state averages as “too great” to make that goal possible.
The first step toward improving test scores will be to create and use teams in all the county’s schools that will evaluate the test data to look for strengths and weaknesses in each school, Phipps said.
Each school also will create intervention and remediation plans for students who need additional help, he said.
Responding to questions from the board, Phipps said that assessments for the school system’s youngest students are currently being conducted for each kindergarten student.
This way, teachers can identify those students who are having trouble with their school work and intervene while there’s still time to make a difference, he said.
In addition to improving students’ test scores, Phipps said, he also would focus on improving communication with the public through “strong community outreach.”
“Working with the public is important,” he said. “We’ve got to make folks feel comfortable about participating in their schools.”
Phipps said he planned to hold community meetings across the county to seek public comments about the local schools.
The seven goals established by the school board are as follows:
• Beaufort County Schools students will demonstrate a high level of academic achievement;
• All Beaufort County Schools 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.