KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The Clay County District Schools hosted its first of three community meetings on Jan. 12 at the Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High Media Center to share information and get …
KEYSTONE HEIGHTS – The Clay County District Schools hosted its first of three community meetings on Jan. 12 at the Keystone Heights Junior/Senior High Media Center to share information and get input on its five-year strategic plan with community members.
From survey results, current data and feedback from focus groups in November 2022, cabinet leaders crafted five distinct themes: student success, talent recruitment, development and retention, family and community engagement, safe and positive learning environments and fiscal and operational efficiency.
Participants were given 20 minutes to give their input on each of the five themes displayed on easel pads throughout the media center. The activity was formatted with each goal having two questions: what should we continue doing? And what should we consider doing to help us move towards these goals? Participants worked alone or as a group.
One of the key objectives is keeping standards, instruction and assessment tightly focused and rigorous was most valued, as well as holding students to high academic standards. Participants also noted the district's work to address student needs, including support for ESE, ESOL and MISS students.
"I see children, especially after the pandemic, coming forward and setting goals and looking to be successful in their future," said high school principal Laurie Burke.
However, Burke would like more vocational opportunities, including shop classes and career exploration courses. Other participants suggested after-school tutoring and online tutorials.
"I would like to see students giving back to the community in a positive way to help positive change. It takes some longer than others, but I believe every child deserves that chance. That's what we are here for," she said.
Participants advocated for greater district support for new or beginning teachers. "For retention, we try to give our teachers reasons to want to work and stay in the school district. Part of that is compensation, but part of that is professional development," Broskie said.
"When a person is frustrated in a job, they don't have certain skills or capacities to cope with those challenges, so part of our job is, we need to build that skill and capacity to ensure folks are prepared and totally ready to teach in our schools."
To consider moving towards these goals, participants suggested offering a teacher academy at the high school level and a mentorship program for new teachers.
An additional focus was family and community engagement.
"People are very supportive in our community. Our community supports our school system very well. I also see that parents have more opportunities to be involved. They can check their student's grades in a split second. I can reach out on social media. There are so many ways to communicate now that allow us to solve problems quicker," Burke said.
Participants agreed but said there needs to be better, more efficient communication with parents, especially parents who don’t speak English. The district also needs to consider working families when scheduling events and engagements.
The greatest need for fiscal and operational efficiency across the board was accessible transportation. Broskie noted that the school district is working to address the lack of bus drivers. Another concern was how to manage growth within our community. "Many homes are being built in Clay County, so we have to figure out how to keep up with all those students," he said.
Participants noted the district's respectful climate, culture and commitment to safety, including a single access point during school hours and monthly drills. However, they would like more interaction with local authorities to promote safe and supportive home and school environments.
The other two meetings will be on Jan. 19th at 6 p.m. at the Oakleaf High Media Center and on Jan. 23 at 6 p.m. at the Fleming Island High Media Center.
Feedback received during all three events and the district office's steering committees will help the District begin to craft initiatives toward the goals. The final draft will be presented to the school board for approval in June.
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