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Gainesville school officials, stakeholders discuss strengths, weaknesses
System working on improvement plan
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Gainesville parents, school officials, principals and administrators old and new met in the choir room at the Gainesville High School Performing Arts Center, pulling their chairs into a circle to discuss what’s going on in city schools.

The group discussed several key improvement areas for the school system, including support and performance of students with disabilities and English as a second language students, as well as high school graduation rates and professional development needs.

The meeting Tuesday was the school system’s fiscal year 2016 Consolidated Local Education Agency Improvement Plan, or CLIP, revision meeting. The CLIP is a 31-part document that maps areas of possible school improvement.

In 2006, the Georgia Department of Education implemented the CLIP, which is a required plan for every local education agency, or school board, in the state. The CLIP includes every bit of required information for federal and state-funded programs.

Sarah Bell, chief academic officer, said each Gainesville City school is currently developing a school improvement plan, and the district’s plan has a similar intention.

“This is an opportunity for us to leverage all of the funding that we have available from a federal perspective,” Bell said, listing several federal funding programs. “...So this is an opportunity for us to look at things holistically as a district, determine what our needs are and then develop an improvement plan or plan of action for the district and how we plan to use federal funds.”

Federal funds are typically dispersed in October, so the document allows the district to also communicate its intentions with the state during that time.

Bell and Priscilla Collins, director of school improvement, held the meeting Tuesday and began by opening the floor for comments from those gathered.

Teachers and administrators discussed the need for additional support for English as a second language students, the perennial need for professional development and their plans for improving student literacy and graduation rates.

Pam Wood, principal at New Holland Core Knowledge Academy, shared one enterprise her school has done for a few years now to improve the performance of students and teachers.

“We collectively meet every single week,” Wood said. “It’s non-negotiable. Teachers bring data and children’s names, and during that meeting every single week, we devise strategies for students who are struggling. Then we progress monitor them as we go along.”

Bell said she was pleased with the feedback from principals, teachers and administrators. She said stakeholders are welcome to provide continued feedback and ideas through July, while the CLIP is still being revised. Paula Rufus, Title One coordinator, is the central office contact working on the plan.

“We certainly feel that it is important to hear from everybody as we’re building this district plan and to garner all the ideas that we are able to garner,” Bell said.