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School board takes to the road for planning session

McCORMICK, SC - Sometimes school board members just need to get away.

The McDuffie County School Board recently spent two days at Savannah Lakes Resort in McCormick, S.C., focusing on their business and discussing goals.

The Aug. 11 meeting began with the board members listening to a conference call from State Superintendent Kathy Cox. Ms. Cox discussed policy rules, class sizes, SAT scores and sports practices during hot temperatures, among other things.

Superintendent Mark Petersen addressed the athletic issue, explaining that Thomson High School has a new athletic trainer, Brooks Johnson, to reduce health and injury risks.

"I watched her at some of the practices," said Jerry Randolph, the board chairman and District 6 representative. "She's a small person, but she's a pack of dynamite."

The Board also reviewed and tweaked their vision, mission and beliefs statements. The board members each carry a visual reminder of their vision in the form of business cards with the statement printed on the cards - "The McDuffie County School System is committed to providing a safe, respectful environment where academic excellence is achieved..."

"We should post this everywhere so there's no mistake what we are about, which is doing whatever it takes," Dr. Petersen said.

The system is seeking district-wide accreditation this year, rather than only the individual schools being accredited. District accreditation means the system will undergo an analysis proving all the schools in the county meet requirements and have a common goal.

"We are all in this boat together," District 2 Representative Paul Leroy said. "What (one school does) influences the next, and the next affects the high school."

As part of the goals to achieve the accreditation and the mission, all seven school principals came to the retreat to give their input.

The group was divided into three smaller groups, each consisting of at least one principal, board member and system administrator. Each group discussed concerns and solutions to all aspects of the educational process, including transportation, drop-outs, discipline, motivation, fundamentals, teachers, health, home life and safety in school.

In spite of the seriousness of their topics, there was laughter and camaraderie among all involved. Norris Elementary Principal Steve Rhodes was teased by his group when he asked to borrow note paper and a pen.

"The Norris principal didn't come to class prepared," Mr. Leroy joked.

In the end, the group had a list of new overarching goals of excellence in education, which will be presented to the Quality Assurance Review Team of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.

The retreat continued Saturday morning with Billy Johnson, from the Georgia School Board Association discussing superintendent evaluations and evaluation goals with the board. There was also more discussion on SPLOST IV and calendar schedules.

Web posted on Thursday, August 24, 2006

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