Union Board of Education discusses strategic planning, hears audit report

News, Panthers Corner

BLAIRSVILLE, Ga. – Superintendent Dr. John Hill presented a proposal for strategic planning and the Union County Board of Education heard the results of a communication audit at the board’s Tuesday, April 17, meeting.

Last month, the board voted to accept the Georgia Vision Project as a guideline of recommendations and suggestions for school boards to follow in updating strategic plans. During Tuesday’s work session, Hill explained that although some programs within the school district are updated annually, the school system’s charter renewal and Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) accreditation are updated every five years and both are slated to be renewed in the 2018-19 school year.

Hill proposed to the board to hire the Georgia School Board Association (GSBA) as a third party entity to assist the school system with updating its strategic plan. Hill also stated the use of a third party to help develop a strategic plan will promote increased honest input from the community and the school system’s stakeholders.

After BOE Chairwoman Cynthia Odom asked about future needs inherent of the strategic plan, Hill answered saying, “It will basically provide us a clear five-year road map as to where the (school) system’s going.”

Later, in the regular meeting, the BOE unanimously approved the hiring of GSBA to assist with developing an updated strategic plan for the school system. Neither the terms of the hiring nor the cost were disclosed during the meeting.

Dr. Paula Davenport, federal programs director and student and staff director, presented the board the results of a communication audit recently conducted by the GSBA.

“It’s very important that our school system communicates effectively and that we’re transparent in all that we do,” Davenport stated to the board.

Davenport explained a representative from GSBA recently visited the school system and spoke with parents, students, teachers, school leaders, and focus groups while also examining the school system’s website, social media sites, and various paperwork to determine what the school system is “doing well and maybe some things that (it is) not doing well” in its approach to communication.

Regarding the reasoning for the communication audit, Davenport stated there were four main goals: to better educate the general public, to improve parent engagement, to build morale internally, and to praise achievements within the school system.

The audit, according to Davenport, reported the school system is utilizing social media quite well and especially noted Union County High School’s utilization of social media.

As far as improvements suggested to the school system, the audit stated communication in family engagement could be better incorporated into the school system’s mission statement. The audit also stated the school system’s branding is dated and pointed out inconsistencies in fonts and logos on the school system’s website. Also, the results of the audit suggested providing professional training to teachers and school leaders on communicating with parents of students.

Later in the meeting, several awards and recognitions were made. Millie Owenby, principal of Union County Primary School, presented Librarian Casey Potts with a Going the Extra Mile recognition. Owenby read a list of several responsibilities and tasks Potts has willingly performed and added, “But most importantly, Ms. Casey knows every student’s name in our building and she also knows what their interests are.”

Gwen Stafford, principal of Union County Middle School, recognized the school’s boys soccer team for going undefeated and winning the region championship this past season. Of the team’s accomplishments, Coach Chris Robbins stated, “I couldn’t be more proud of this team right here. Thank you for letting me coach them.”

Josh Davis, Career, Technical and Agriculture Education (CTAE) director of Union County High School (UCHS), recognized welding instructor Derrick Dillinger and four welding students for finishing as runner-up in this year’s Skills USA welding competition.

Gerald Bavero, assistant principal and testing coordinator of UCHS, presented eight advanced placement (AP) educators – April Krieger, Deborah Nichols, Teena Atkins, Greg Chambers, Lynn Deweese, Mark Donahue, Alecia Frizzell, and Katie Scott – with certificates of recognition for the state naming UCHS as a 2018 AP Challenge School.

“The reason our school performs so well is right here,” Superintendent Hill said of the AP instructors.

For this month’s Partners in Education award, Davenport presented three nearby colleges with plaques in appreciation of those institutions’ participation in the dual enrollment program in Union County Schools. According to Davenport, during the 2017-18 school year, 161 Union County high school students participated in at least one dual enrollment course. All told, 529 different courses were taken by Union County students at eight different institutions. Davenport also stated that all tuition fees and costs for textbooks are all waived for dual enrollment students, accounting for a savings of $760,400 to students for this school year alone.

Davenport presented the Partners in Education awards to Dr. Mark Ivester, president of North Georgia Technical College, Dr. Drew Van Horn, president of Young Harris College, and Sandy Ott, campus administrator of University of North Georgia at Blue Ridge.

“We’re so appreciative. I don’t believe that everybody realizes what we have here and the value that Dr. Davenport highlighted – three-quarters of $1,000,000 this year,” Hill stated. “These folks are so helpful, and we appreciate everything you do for our kids.”

Tiffany Setzer, assistant special education director, presented special education instructors Carla Drake and Alicia Meng as the first recipients of the Extra Mile and Service Above Self awards, respectively.


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Jason Beck

Born in Merrillville, Indiana, raised in Cleveland, Tennessee, and currently resides in Copperhill, Tennessee. Graduated from Bradley Central High School in 1996 and attended the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, eventually earning a B.A. and M.A. in English. Hobbies include hiking, camping and fly-fishing. Interests include baseball, hockey and cliff jumping.

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