School system administrators re-cently spent two days at the lake. But there was no sunbathing or skiing going on. It was all about moving McDuffie County schools from good to great.
The seventh annual retreat for school officials took place on Monday and Tuesday of this week at McDuffie Place, the school system's property on Clarks Hill, near Raysville.
The first day of the retreat consisted of a study of the Jim Collins bestseller Good to Great. The second day was long-term strategic planning and brainstorming ideas on how to improve the system as a whole as well as individual schools.
"The book primarily talks about how you take a good organization or a good school system and make it into an excellent or an extraordinary school system," said Retreat Instructor Terry Nelson, the executive director of the Regional Educational Service Agency.
"What we're doing right now is actually looking at the strategic plan-ning process, looking at where we are, what we have in place and also where we envision ourselves three to five years from now," Dr. Nelson said.
School system administrators from new Superintendent Mark Petersen down to each school's assistant principals were present to participate in the retreat. Dr. Petersen used the opportunity to soak in more infor-mation about the McDuffie County school system.
"There's a tremendous amount of knowledge, experience and quality in this group," Dr. Petersen said. "I've learned more over the last couple of days than I have in several weeks be-cause of their knowledge and experi-ence. They've been here. They know these children."
Participants said the retreat is a good way to get everyone in the system on the same page. They also commented about appreciating the opportunity to network with co-workers that they rarely get to see.
A gathering of school ad-ministrators, even in a county the size of McDuffie can be a challenge to accomplish. According to those present, holding the meetings in a retreat style allows them to get away from the hustle and bustle of school buildings and offices.
"Sometimes within the confines of your own building, you're very focused on what's going on with your particular institution and not what's going on with the com-munity and with the system as a whole," said Lynn Cato, Thomson High School's new assistant principal.
"This is very peaceful. Out here on the lake, you feel like some of the tensions and pressures and interruptions that would be in the building are taken away," she said. "You have an opportunity to reflect and to talk freely and openly about things you think need to be done."