Whitfield schools asking for community input

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Posted: Saturday, August 9, 2014 11:15 pm

Whitfield County Schools doesn’t “just want community input, it has to have it.”

So says communications specialist Eric Beavers, who said the school system will begin a process on Monday to form its future goals and direction as a system based heavily on community interests.

The system, during the next five months, will work to shape a Strategic Plan that will dictate system-wide missions and beliefs, identify needs and expectations, and lay out long-range goals.

Through surveys and a 23-member committee, school officials hope to gather stakeholder —  members of the community included — opinion, and factor that very prominently into the plan.

“This will entail involving a variety of stakeholders — principals, teachers, directors, the general public and more,” said Audrey Williams, chief officer of assessment, accountability and technology. “We want to see what our community feels that we should begin working on.”

One platform in which community opinion will be gathered is a seven-question survey that becomes available Monday.

The survey, which asks questions like “What are the greatest challenges or issues this system has to address over the next five years in order to provide a quality education to students?” and “What could the school district do that would delight you?” will be mailed to school principals, parents, and business and government leaders, and posted online.

The questionnaire — a hard copy of which can be requested — will be found at www.surveymonkey.com/s/wcs-strategic-planning. The link will be shared on the system’s website and Facebook and Twitter pages.

The survey will be available in English and Spanish, and be open through Aug. 30.

Whitfield County Schools also will rely on a committee, formed mostly of school principals and department heads, that will meet 10 times through December.

“We want to be responsive to our community — to our parents, to our teachers, to our board, to our superintendent and to ourselves,” Williams said. “We want fresh ideas, from our community, about things we should be working on.”

Williams said opinions regarding school policies, customer service, curriculum and more are all welcome.

A press release issued by Whitfield County Schools states, “As the system looks toward a future of ever-changing student demographics, fluctuating school finances and the increasing demands from our community and nation to graduate well-educated citizens, school board members and the superintendent believe now is the right time to define and focus the district’s priorities.”

“Strategic planning will help the board to anticipate changes and make well-informed decisions about the future direction of the school system,” it continues. “As a vision for Whitfield County Schools unfolds, new ideas for the education of students can build upon school system accomplishments. Collecting as much feedback as possible is essential to the process, and we enthusiastically encourage parents and community members to get involved.”

The period of information gathering will culminate near the end of December, according to Williams, when the school system plans to release its new goals.

Developing the new Strategic Plan is a primary goal for Superintendent Judy Gilreath who, when her contract was renewed in June, said it would be most important “to sit down with community members, our leadership, other stakeholders and try to get a consensus on our goals and develop a way for reaching them.”

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