By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
School officials plan strategies for coming year
Focus is on strengthening weak points in the fall
Placeholder Image

The first day of class is less than a month away, and Gainesville school administrators are busy preparing for the challenges ahead.

Leadership teams from each school gathered earlier in the summer with Jamey Moore, director of curriculum and instruction for Gainesville City Schools, to work on their school improvement plans.

Principals presented brief overviews of their strategic plans at Monday night's board meeting.

"This is the first year, I think, that all of the schools have had some sort of retreat to work specifically on that strategic plan," Moore said at the meeting. "Our main goal with it this year is to narrow the focus. In the past we had too many items. By weeding the garden, we can focus on things we really want to look at."

Moore said overall themes in schools include increasing the focus on math and science and working with subgroups that are not performing well on standardized tests.

New Holland Core Knowledge Academy is implementing professional learning communities, which will collect, analyze and research data to help students perform better.

New Holland Principal Pam Wood said students will be able to participate in tutoring, homework clubs and one-on-one remediation. Specific improvement areas are writing and integrating more science and social studies into the curriculum.

"We had some of the highest CRCT (Criterion-Referenced Competency Tests) scores in our history this year, so we know it works," Wood said Wednesday. "It's more than just academics. It's how do we ensure that we see what we want to see."

Centennial Arts Academy will have a computer lab devoted to math education and a class on social skills, and Gainesville Middle plans to have a science exploratory period.

"The greatest area of focus seems to come back to vocabulary and reading, especially with the changes in math. The math was moved to understanding the question instead of computation," Gainesville Middle Principal Ken Martin said Wednesday.

Martin said the school plans to continue its focus on a family-type atmosphere in the school, and an area of opportunity will be providing differentiated instruction for English Language Learners and students with disabilities.

Several schools are focusing on inter-teacher relationships as well.

Teacher collaboration is one of the "Five Cs" of Fair Street International Baccalaureate World School's improvement plan.

Fair Street Principal William Campbell said the collaboration was necessary to make sure teachers are on the same page with class rigor, expectations and type of work.

Gainesville High School Principal Chris Mance told board members his school will put an increased emphasis on preparing for End of Course Tests, which will become more important as the Georgia High School Graduation Test is phased out.

"The main thing we felt like we had to do was get teachers to convince the kids that now it matters, because basically they blew it off," he said.

Wood's Mill High School doubled its staff to have a teacher in every content area. As the school saw poor performance on End of Course Tests this year, school officials wanted to focus on each individual child's performance, not just those of subgroups.

Gainesville Exploration Academy will have a similar focus, Principal Priscilla Collins said Wednesday.

"This year our focus is making sure we have contact with every child," she said. "Even the child who is on grade level or above, you don't want them to stay the same, you want them to grow."

Matt Maynor, new principal at Enota Multiple Intelligences Academy, is going into the school year determined to bring the school back to its charter curriculum, which focuses on different types of intelligence — visual, verbal, logical, musical and internal, to name a few.

Previously at Enota, the curriculum was taught by incorporating students into running the town of Smartville.

"We're trying to bring Smartville back strong," Maynor said Tuesday. "I think things just got busy. The bank wasn't operational last year and the post office wasn't really used. By surveys we sent out to parents, they all expressed a desire to emphasize it."

Moore said Wednesday he found administrators' dedication to school improvement admirable.

"It's an ongoing process," he said. "There is no real start, and there is no real end."