Decatur City Schools to develop long-range strategic plan

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Jul. 21—Decatur City Schools has taken the first step in developing a strategic plan for the next five to 10 years that will incorporate input from the community, teachers and school leaders on issues such as the location of future elementary schools and academic progress.

"The last time the board did this was 2015," said Superintendent Michael Douglas. "It's time. A lot has changed since then. We have two new high schools and a new career academy."

The board on Tuesday approved hiring Auburn-based E3 Strategic Solutions LLC, a company that employs former superintendents from around the state. Douglas expects the E3 contract to cost between $20,000 and $30,000.

He said E3 will handle surveys involving parents, teachers and the board.

"We want the board's, community's, teachers' wishes to be met," Douglas said. "The (company) will handle taking surveys and getting the input. They'll get feedback from every stakeholder."

Douglas said some state laws and data impacting education have changed since the last long-range plan was developed.

He said one problem with the existing plan is that it refers to types of standardized tests that are no longer used by DCS.

"What will the next five-year plans look like? We need a long-term plan for elementary schools. Where are we going to build them? Our elementary schools are getting older," he said. "We need community input.

"Whether Decatur grows or not, we still have to address aging buildings. We need to come up with a plan of where to renovate or where new ones might go. People will disagree, but we need to get all stakeholders to provide input."

He said he will insist on academic improvement being the "heart and soul" of the plan.

"I won't sign off on any five-year plan that doesn't have data point improvements (on test scores)," he said. "Student learning needs to be at the forefront of our strategic plans. People will probably be more interested in buildings, athletic facilities, but the true purpose of any strategic plan is to improve student outcomes."

Board chairperson Michele Gray King and board member Doug Bachuss discussed a 10-year plan after the meeting.

"With a 10-year plan, we will have things already set in motion," King said. "Technology is improving and changing every day. If you are already proactive instead of reactive you have something to work toward."

Bachuss said planning for the future is the right move.

"What are our students capable of doing?" he said. "What opportunities can we bring them so they can succeed?"

Board member Peggy Baggett called the students' opportunities in the future "mind-blowing."

"What can we do to make them think bigger and grander than ever before?" she said. "We're coming into a very exciting time. Work has been modified across the globe. Education is going to be rewritten."

Also on Tuesday, the board approved the following certified personnel transactions:

—Resignations: Austin Middle: Mason Dadian, physical education teacher; Loutrina Staley, science teacher; Austinville Elementary: Melanie Warner, pre-K teacher; Decatur High: Jessica Flanagan, business education teacher; Decatur Middle: Kathy Slayton, seventh/eighth grade art teacher; Oak Park Elementary: Lindsay Barnett, and Amanda Williams, second grade teachers; Special Services: Cynthia Tapscott, collaborative specialist; Carson Jones, special education teacher.

—Employment: Austin High: Sabra Ann Davis, family and consumer science teacher; Eva Mareno Yarbrough, secondary teacher/ACT preparation; Kevin Huff, social science teacher; Christopher Blake Gray, secondary teacher/head softball coach; Austinville Elementary: Amanda Meghan Lawrence, pre-K teacher; Emily Rose Morgan, K-5 teacher; Banks-Caddell Elementary: Casey Lynn Tumminello, guidance counselor; Career Academies: Robert Neal Grissim, engineering and advanced manufacturing instructor; Decatur Middle: Matthew Caleb Flanagan, eighth grade world history/mass media teacher; Alexia Trost, secondary math teacher; Frances Nungester Elementary: Olivia Heston Hooper, K-5 teacher; Samuel Allen Dean, physical education teacher/coach; Special Services: Audra Renee Reeves and Cheryl Lynn Harper, elementary ESL teachers; Woodmeade Elementary: Bryn Michele Gaston, Pre-K-5 teacher.

—Transfers: Austin Junior: Richard Lane Barnett, health and physical education teacher transferring to athletic coordinator at Central Office; Chestnut Grove Elementary: Benja Ringler, reading specialist to literacy specialist coordinator; Andrea J. Cohn, first grade teacher to reading specialist; Decatur High: Bonnie Hurst, librarian media specialist to technology instructional coach at Central Office; Decatur Middle: Stephanie O'Hare, math teacher transferring to Eastwood Elementary. or 256-340-2442. Twitter @DD_Wetzel.

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