DeKalb Schools Superintendent Cheryl Atkinson said when developing her new strategic plan she wanted to make sure it passed the “7-Eleven” test.
During a recent State of the System address Atkinson told members of the DeKalb Chamber of Commerce her goal is to develop a strategic plan clear enough that anybody “walking in or out of a 7-Eleven,” could understand it.
Earlier in February Atkinson released the Excellence in Education Plan, which had five main goals: student achievement and success, excellence in leadership and personnel, operational effectiveness, safe and orderly schools and strong partnerships for education.
In her address she elaborated on these goals and how she said they would help move the school system forward over the next several years.
“School districts, teachers, students and parents all need ongoing diagnostic information to track progress. Unfortunately we didn’t have what we needed, but we will,” Atkinson said.
Atkinson said work is under way to develop a new curriculum and the system will propose the first draft in May. She also said the system will end social promotion, the practice of promoting students to the next grade at the end of the school year, even when they have not learned the necessary material, to keep them with peers their age.
Additionally, the system is in the process of working with other organizations to implement an early learning program to help children “jumpstart” their journey toward pre-kindergarten. The system is also considering giving students a shorter summer break.
“Many of our students aren’t leaving the area for those eight or nine weeks. Many of them don’t have anything to occupy their time—and that’s critical time,” Atkinson said.
Recently, the school system completed a personnel audit of central office staff and found pay adjustments needed to be made in some areas. Although Atkinson said she believes the system does need a central office to function, she said her goal is to drive more of those resources toward the classroom.
During a recent meeting with the DeKalb County School Board, Atkinson presented a plan to reclassify jobs and alter salaries that was unanimously adopted by the board. School system spokesman Walter Woods said the shift in oversight would drive approximately $109 million in annual spending from the central office to principals, and save the system $5.6 million this year.
Atkinson said in 2013 the system would implement a zero-based budget philosophy. She also stressed the importance of professional development for teachers.
“Our teachers must have instructional technology training and the technology at their fingertips. A weekly early release will allow teachers to have time to analyze the data and make good instructional decisions based on that data,” Atkisnon said.
Additionally, Atkinson said the system would start a leadership academy for existing principals and aspiring leaders. The system will also be “revamping” its options for students who don’t fit into a traditional school setting.