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Renewal school district explores accountability

With help from the Friday Institute for Educational Innovation, Rowan-Salisbury Schools (RSS) is working to develop measures for its success in renewal.

At the Rowan-Salisbury School Board meeting on Aug. 22, Superintendent Lynn Moody gave an update on the district’s renewal status. 

She shared that she presented to the State Board of Education on Aug. 7 to great interest. Later, the North Carolina Public School Forum featured an episode of Education Matters that focused in part on the district’s renewal status. Moody reported significant support by the state superintendent’s office.

Moody also shared that some components of renewal are being considered for release statewide. RSS has eliminated NCFE, the North Carolina Final Exam. The state is now discussing doing the same statewide.

The district plans to roll out several components of renewal in the coming months, including a new tool for digital portfolios. Additionally, the district has identified seven interpersonal skills for all students to develop, and that plan should roll out in September or October. 

The biggest component in progress is accountability for the district renewal plan.

“The reason renewal takes so long is all our systems are so intertwined. Principal bonus was based on attendance and test scores. We are still paying on an old system, but we expect accountability in new areas,” Moody said. “We evaluate teachers on an old accountability model that has been tried and true for years. We have to redesign that process to be sure it is equitable, objective, and defendable. Bit by bit, we are working to change all these things; every day we take a step forward.”

With the release of the district directional system in May, Moody reports they now have items to measure.

The directional system identified three major items for focus in RSS schools, including:

  • Mastery of fundamental standards in English, math, science and social studies; 
  • Interpersonal skills including creativity, leadership, teamwork, civility, work ethic, communication and problem solving; 
  • Unique life goals, beginning in kindergarten, identifying each student’s unique smartness, career aspirations, and personal passions.

“Starting a school year without an accountability model is clunky,” Moody said. “Next week, we’ll release our test scores under our old accountability model. By the end of October, we should be able to identify how we’ll measure in the future. It should take two to three years to get everything aligned. I’m very proud of our progress, and we have had so much support from the state.”

In other news, the school board considered the 10 options for remodeling Knox Middle School presented by architecture firm LS3P at a prior board meeting. Knox, built in 1958, has long presented maintenance and security challenges for the district.

District Assistant Superintendent of Operations Anthony Vann suggested combining options two and eight. These options include school security, new windows, new HVAC, LED lighting, interior, card readers, and perimeter fencing for a total cost of $14.9 million. A new school would come in at $78 million, a figure that board members balked at in March. After discussion, the board decided to ask LS3P to return with figures for an option combining options two and eight with new furniture for the school and renewed athletic facilities.

Vann presented an opportunity for a federal grant offering the district up to $10 million for construction of a new school. The grant is based on the poverty level of the county. Members asked Vann to apply for the grant with interest in building a new elementary school for the southern portion of the county. 

Maggie Blackwell

Maggie Blackwell is a freelance writer and former City Councilwoman in Salisbury, North Carolina. She started writing on her Tom Thumb typewriter at age eight and now spends her retirement playing with her grandchildren.