Schools outline plans for improvement

Published 7:10 pm Monday, October 24, 2016

A small group of Beaufort County schools presented their plans to improve performance at a Board of Education meeting last week.

The presenters included representatives from: S.W. Snowden Elementary School, Chocowinity Middle School, Southside High School and Washington High School.

Every year, schools that show low performance scores must present a plan of action to the Board of Education. For the 2015-2016 school year, all four schools scored a ‘D’ school performance grade, and except for S.W. Snowden, performed lower than the previous year and failed to meet growth expectations.

Dr. Don Phipps, Beaufort County Schools superintendent, said he wanted the board members to see why the schools were labeled as “low performing” and what is being done to correct it.

S.W. Snowden Principal Catherine Tahaney and Assistant Principal Cassie Moore outlined a plan of action in two different categories: academic goals and community involvement goals.

According to the plan, the school hopes to have at least 50 percent of its students reach proficiency on math assessments (grades 3-8), at least 60 percent on reading assessments (grades 3-8) and at least 86 percent on science exams (grades 5 and 8), all by June 2017.

The school also wants to encourage parent involvement, with the use of contact logs and sign-in sheets.

Tahaney and Moore highlighted some positive aspects coming up this school year, as well. S.W. Snowden is partnering with the Aurora Fossil Museum to expose students to natural sciences and mathematics, and is also partnering with NASA educators for STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) activities.

In Southside High School’s action plan, Interim Principal Clint Johnson and Assistant Principal Debra Windley outlined some of the challenges their school faces, including students’ literacy needs, decreased funding and a 24-percent teacher turnover rate.

To combat some of these challenges, Southside plans to: focus on literacy in its lessons every day; begin holding learning committees across multiple subjects; emphasize the use of testing to determine students’ progress; set up mandatory tutoring time during homeroom; start more ACT practice; and begin literacy professional development with staff, according to the action plan presented.

Washington High School is also working to combat its own teacher-turnover rates and is strengthening its partnership with Beaufort County Community College to offer more college courses for students. The high school plans to incorporate more professional development and continue its focus on master (or school-wide) scheduling.

Chocowinity Middle School Principal Kimberly Gibbs and Assistant Principal Brianna Williams referenced many of the same challenges the other schools face, as well, from a need for a school-wide instructional vision, to a push for more parental involvement.

Chocowinity Middle hopes to foster growth within its walls by paying more attention to testing data, working to increase literacy skills and continuing its work with the positive behavior intervention and support system, according to the plan presented.

Although the school didn’t fare well with the statewide data, students did meet or exceed goals for at least one reading or math exam in all grades.

Phipps said he thinks it is important for the board members to see the positive factors happening in these schools, not just the negative.

He said every school is unique, and people need to see the whole story, not just the numbers on state data charts.

“The assumption is that they do poorly in everything. That’s not the case,” Phipps said. “I feel like the public needs to know that.”

Other schools, although not labeled as low performing, will present their own plans for the school year starting in November.