Friday, April 18, 2014

What is the single biggest weakness in our Hall County school system?

Funding and inertia are always the weak spots for government organizations. The board of education is no different. There are many competing interests that require funding, however, the overarching interest should, and for me will be, what is in the best interest of the children. We must provide them the education that prepares them for the practical aspects of life and work.
For the inertia issue, I note a positive characteristic of the Hall County school system is a recognition that change is necessary and a willingness to adapt to that change.  As the state school system undergoes the sea change from the restrictive, narrowly focused process unfortunately inate in the No Child Left behind system to the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) model that can more finely focus resources to the most critical areas needing improvement, the system will have to adapt. It will take an academic knowledge base and experience in rapidly moving, large scale management in the school board to both nudge the inertial elements that may hold us back from providing the world class education our children deserve and guiding the implementation of that system.
For the funding issue, there is strong political pressure to avoid increasing taxes. With $27 million less in funds available than there were several years ago, yet more students to serve, the fact that adequate services are provided is remarkable. Those same cost conscious efforts that privatized for economies and reduced costs elsewhere must needs be continued. However, the reduction in people resources brought about by deferment of hires, lay-offs, the mini-layoff we call furloughs, and increased class sizes will soon extract a heavy toll on performance. Grants, bonds, SPLOSTs, and other such methods of secondary financing will have to be sought and continued. In addition, the economies learned through the charter school experiments will have to be adopted and adapted to the remainder of the public school system where feasible.
The shortfalls in state funding have put an extra burden on the citizens of Hall County through increased millage rates. At the same time, the school district has begun to get in the habit of "economize where wise." I would like to see that continue and those skills be honed. Therefore, I believe we need to use the majority of "rebound windfall" to first reduce the tax burden on the citizens. Using the rest will require a well thought out prioritization after a cogent strategic plan is developed.
I believe a clear vision and a cogent strategic plan that leads to that vision are lacking. I know some may disagree with that, but if you’ve never done it, how can you know? I have done it in organizations big and small and seen them succeed beyond their aspirations. We can achieve that high degree of successful plan in our system. These need to be the product of the Board, the staff, the faculty, the parents, and, yes, the students. They must also be readily visible to all of these stake holders at all times, frequently revisited, and used as a basis for planning and decision making throughout the system

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