School Board discusses goal-setting

Published 10:09 pm Thursday, June 9, 2011

The School Board members met Thursday to discuss the success of the 2010-2011 school year goals and develop new objectives for next year.

In a work session, the members were updated on the results of five goals they set for the current school year.

One of the goals the board set was to create a successful and safe school environment.

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To address that goal, the schools tried to deal with issues such as bullying and truancy.

For the first time, a forum on bullying was held and broadcast into several schools using video conferencing.

About 150 people attended the forum to discuss and learn about bullying in the schools.

School Board member Phyllis Byrum said she thought it was so successful that more forums should be held this year on different topics, specifically suggesting truancy.

The board also focused on truancy by implementing a new truancy program at King’s Fork Middle School, Lakeland High School, and Kilby Shores and Mack Benn Jr. elementary schools to reduce the number of students with unexcused absences.

Kevin Alston, assistant superintendent for administrative services, said the schools have had great success with the program.

“Truancy is not just a school problem,” he said. “It’s a community program. The great thing about this program is that we have addressed it as a community problem.”

He said the program has exposed the reasons some students miss school regularly. Many times, there are underlying reasons besides just the children not wanting to come to school, he said.

Alston added the pilot year showed the division that the program is more needed at middle and high schools than at elementary schools.

He said he hopes the program will be in place at all Suffolk Public Schools at some point.

To address the goal further, Suffolk Public Schools was a part of a national survey that asked parents what information they want from the division and how they want to receive it.

The survey found parents prefer electronic delivery of school news, such as email, school websites and text messages.

Another School Board goal was to assure all of the city’s schools exceed the Virginia standards of accreditation by showing improvement in all areas measured by the Standards of Learning tests.

To meet this goal, every school has developed a school improvement plan that sets goals and summarizes the steps it is taking to meet the goals.

Additionally, principals conducted mid-year reviews in February through April to assess student process on the road to continuous improvement.

In a related goal, the board wanted to develop programs to encourage higher student achievement in fine arts and science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs, as well as improve graduation and drop-out rates.

The division’s on-time graduation rate has increased over the past three years from 72 percent to 80 percent.

Additionally, the dropout rate has decreased from 22 percent to 12 percent.

To set goals for next year, each member chose a certain area of development from a list of suggestions from Whitney.

The members will work with other school staff to develop ideas of specific objectives for the broad goals, and the board will discuss and refine those objectives during a July 14 work session.