Carolina Journal News Reports
GREENSBORO — Many questions still surround Guilford County Schools Superintendent Mo Green’s ambitious new strategic plan. One major question is exactly what the Board of Education’s role will be in implementing the plan.
Green unveiled the plan Jan. 27 in a showy ceremony at Guilford Technical Community College. It definitely sets ambitious four-year academic goals.
Among them are 81 percent of students performing at grade level on end-of-grade reading tests; 25 percent of students in grades three through eight scoring above proficient on reading tests; a 16 percent increase in the number of students scoring at grade level on math tests; and 6 percent increases in students taking and passing advanced placement courses.
The tool for accomplishing these goals is equally, if not more, ambitious. Green wants to “regionalize” the school system, dividing into smaller districts to be overseen by “regional superintendents.” The plan is a model of the system put in place by Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools, where Green was assistant superintendent before taking over in Guilford County.
While it can’t be said that the school board has been overly enthusiastic about Green’s plan, it hasn’t exactly challenged it, either. The board seems tentative about asserting its role in implementing the plan, although at a February meeting board Chairman Alan Duncan said that if the board felt strongly against any aspect of the plan, especially regionalization, then it had an obligation to speak out.
“We’d be doing a disservice if we didn’t communicate that,” Duncan said. “I think it is important that we give some reaction if there’s something in the plan that’s not in complete accord just so it can be taken into account,” although, he said, he hadn’t heard any discord from the board.
Board member Paul Daniels did take the initiative to ask Green about the board’s role in implementing the plan.
“I’m afraid what we’re going to end up doing is working at cross-purposes or being redundant,” Daniels said.
Green reminded Daniels that the board gave him the go-ahead to initiate a strategic plan when he arrived at GCS.
“When I first started, one of the first things I did was ask the board to what extent will I be able to put in a plan that I think will move the district forward. What I got as a response was ‘Certainly, Mo, we want to have the opportunity to provide input and advice, but this is your plan,’” Green said. “That’s the way we’ve proceeded, and at no time am I thinking the board will be approving the plan in toto.”
Green added, however, there probably would be certain financial and policy matters related to regionalization of the district whereupon the board “would have the opportunity to react to, approve, or not approve.”
Daniels also was concerned about how regionalization would affect the board, mostly if realigning the districts would be required.
“It seems to me, at first glance, we shouldn’t be splitting districts,” Daniels said. “A board member’s district should not be split among two, or three, or four regional superintendents. By doing that, we’re moving the whole issue of accountability.”
Board attorney Jill Wilson explained that “districts don’t align with any semblance of order with the school locations,” so that regionalization shouldn’t make much of a difference in board members’ accountability. Wilson pointed out an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school that are on one contiguous site but are not represented by the same board member.
With that in mind, Wilson said a board member would more than likely have more than one regional superintendent in his or her district under the strategic plan.
Board member Garth Hebert quizzed instructional-improvement officer Lewis Ferebee on the advantages of installing a regionalized system.
Ferebee replied that the main benefit of regionalization would be combining school support offices and academic improvement offices, with the regional superintendent overseeing both offices, thus avoiding overlapping of services.
“Often, when you’re dealing with school support issues, they blend with academic issues,” Ferebee said. “The regional superintendent would still be responsible for facilitating academic improvement for the schools they’re supervising, along with addressing parental concerns and school support issues. Currently, the instruction improvement officers are separate from school support issues, but what I’ve found is they’re often related.”
Hebert replied that, while he understood the regionalization concept, he was still trying to “get a feel” for exactly how the plan was going to work.
“I see pictures in my mind, and none of them gel,” Hebert said.
Hebert also warned that, at some point, the superintendent’s goals and the board’s goals might conflict.
With these questions still in mind, the board nevertheless officially approved the generalized version of the strategic plan at a March meeting. Green is expected to present the board with two definitive options for regionalization at a later date.
Sam Hieb is a contributor to Carolina Journal.