Shelby school system unveils strategic plan

Imagine 400 community stakeholders divided into 71 action teams — that’s what it took to create a strategic plan for Shelby County Schools, the fifth largest school system in the state.

“We’re looking for a sustainable plan. Not just a plan you put on paper and it lays there,” Superintendent Randy Fuller said. “This is a sustainable plan that will grow as we grow … it’s ever changing and that’s the thing that is special and powerful about this.”

Fuller said the plan, along with a focus on continuous school improvement, leadership development and instruction will drive the system toward producing students who are better prepared for college and careers.

Shelby County Schools instruct a total of 27,122 students. Creating a plan that improves learning for all of those students called for a variety of minds from both inside and outside the system’s central office. It included parents, teachers and members of the business community.

The goals these teams created must be put into action, not just written down as Fuller mentioned. School improvement specialist Elizabeth Davis said each action team must complete an evidence folder to show what they have accomplished on their goals over the year.

“This isn’t a dog and pony show,” Davis said. “We are evaluating and monitoring what we are doing, we’re not just saying we’re going to do all these things.”

What they have said they are going to do is create programs within 12 action areas that improve the instruction of students. Those areas include: at-risk students, communication, community partnerships, continuous improvement, curriculum and instruction, facilities, governance and leadership, finance, human resources, professional learning, safety and discipline and support operations.

Professional development supervisor Lynn Cook chairs the professional learning action team. One of its main goals is to strengthen support for teachers seeking National Board Certification. There are currently 37 NBC teachers in the system, which only accounts for two percent of Shelby County’s teachers. The team thinks more should be invested to help other teachers reach this achievement.

“The more we look at where we are and where we want to go and how we want to get there, then the more we understand how to increase education for our students,” Cook said.

The group’s ultimate goal is to create a blog of helpful tips and information for teachers seeking the national board certification. The communication team, meanwhile, hopes to create a recruiting video to draw in new teachers.

One thing the groups plan to not let sidetrack them is the continuing downturn in the economy.

The system, like all others in the state, must submit a revised budget to the state board of education by the end of this month. Fuller said it will not however prevent the system from improving.

“What it takes is some variance. We may go into a situation where one of these strategies may require money that we don’t have,” Fuller said. “It’s going to be difficult, but if we have a plan in process, we’re going to be okay.”