The Richmond County School System has built a culture of learning that supports student achievement and is dedicated to the continuous improvement of its teachers, according to an external review team in town to evaluate the district for re-accreditation.
After a four-day tour, which involved interviewing about 500 teachers, parents, employees and stakeholders, the AdvancED review team recommended Richmond County be re-accredited with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Council on Accreditation and School Improvement when the national board meets in June.
“This is a culture of learning, and they really have put a focus on improvement despite challenges they’ve been facing,” said lead evaluator James Brown, a retired deputy superintendent from Tallahassee, Fla.
The district will receive a more in-depth and detailed report of the team’s findings in 30 days, and now must begin addressing the required actions. If approved in June, the accreditation will stand for five years.
Among its findings, the team also commended the district for its building and renovation projects that “show a systematic approach” to modernizing the school system.
Brown said the school board and superintendent form a government team “that is viewed by stakeholders as being committed to and supportive of the district’s vision, mission and beliefs.”
During their stay, the 10-member team evaluated standards and Web sites, technology; observed learning environments; and interviewed administrators, teachers, parents, students and stakeholders. The team members were comprised of teachers and administrators from Georgia to Wyoming.
The team also identified areas that need improvement, especially in reaching students with physical, social and emotional needs.
Brown said the district should provide more consistent services to this population to improve education and career planning.
“We realize you do all of these things,” Brown said. “You do meet the needs, but we did not see it being done on a constant basis.”
Brown also said there are some technological inequalities. Title I schools in Richmond County, which serve economically disadvantaged students, receive federal money to buy computers and other kinds of technology.
Brown said his team found the non-Title I schools had less technology and should be made a priority.
His team also outlined four required actions the district must take: revise and communicate the system’s mission and vision on an annual basis, revisit policies and leadership practices to make sure they are systematically implemented, improve long-term interaction with individual students and develop regular evaluative procedures.
Carol Rountree, the executive director of student services, said she was encouraged by the team’s feedback and looking forward to continuing to move the district in a positive direction.
She said she hopes to focus more on students with physical and emotional needs as the team pointed out, but that would require additional funding or another way to hire more counselors.
“Until we can add to our support staff, we’re going to be seen as minimally meeting the need,” Rountree said. “But you could see our commitment to quality education and … making a positive culture even in light of all the challenges.”
Board of Education President Venus Cain said with the team’s recommendation for re-accreditation, she hoped everyone in the system will help move the district to greater success.
“My charge to you is ‘Let’s go out there and make it happen,” she said. “I’m at the point now by any means necessary do we have to move this system forward.”