HCPS: on the right track

Published 6:31 pm Tuesday, November 4, 2008

WINTON — A partnership between Hertford County Public Schools and the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction (DPI) has begun in earnest. This past week, a team of educators from DPI came to Hertford County to conduct a comprehensive needs assessment. It was part of the plan that was in place when the two entities joined together under the tenets of the New Framework for Comprehensive Support for Districts and Schools. The framework is a result of increased demand from school districts and schools for more types of support from the state and a growing number of school district classified as “needing improvement.” Another factor was a mandate from the North Carolina General Assembly to create a framework for consolidated and comprehensive support. Unlike previous state assistance models, the framework engages the school district in a collaborative partnership, including self study, goal setting and improvement planning. The ultimate goal is to build capacity within the district so that assistance from an outside agency is not necessary. Hertford County Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Michael G. Basham said Thursday the district had received the preliminary report from the needs assessment and that it listed both strengths and areas of need. The needs assessment began with what the district does well and the first plank in that was an experienced, capable school board that understands its roles and responsibilities while being committed to working proactively in advocating for the schools in the community at large. The second was a superintendent, assistant superintendents and district office team that has created a strong and positive culture and readiness for change. The next tenant is a good understanding of the importance of leadership at central office and the schools and working intentionally to build leadership capacity at all levels. Other areas in which the district is succeeding, according to the report, include: * The district has begun to have data dialogue at all levels that has the potential to impact student achievement positively; * Deliberate and intentional processes support teacher recruitment and retention resulting in full staffing and continuity; * Community and business support district initiatives; * There is an emerging culture of collaboration and continuous improvement; and * Resources and technology are managed well and as a result schools are equipped to manage the needs of their students. “I am in agreement with the report because I think we are doing those things well,” Dr. Basham said. “It’s almost a mirror image to the report we received from AdvancED recently. I think it shows we are on the right track.” During the assessment, the team also found four areas in which the district needs to make improvement. The first on that list is to develop and implement an explicit strategy that encompasses clear goals, milestones and success criteria that can be shared and embraced by all stakeholders. The second area is to develop defined processes for monitoring the impact and effectiveness of district initiatives in order to reflect and realign as needed. The group also suggested the district establish and communicate high expectations that ensure the belief that higher standards can be accomplished at all levels. Finally, the district should develop and implement systematic strategies for gathering feedback from schools, families and the community in order to assess the impact of district strategies for improvement. “I think the report gives us an opportunity to pull together and work on some things that people think we need to do better,” Dr. Basham said. “In the coming weeks, we will be having some intense discussions to see how we can move in the direction of getting those areas addressed.” The district will be working with Dr. Jo Peel, a former Superintendent of Elizabeth City-Pasquotank Schools, as the District Transformation coach. He will work collaboratively with the district for the next three years.