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New super:‘Bold steps’ needed to improve schools

Photo: Superintendent David Moore speaks at a townhall meeting.

Superintendent David Moore told a standing-room-only crowd at a townhall meeting last week that the school district’s current way of operating isn’t working, and vowed changes are on the way.

Those changes include better management of the district’s finances and holding school administrators and teachers more accountable for student academic success, Moore said.

Moore delivered his bluntly worded message to more than 150 school employees and residents who attended a Jan. 16 townhall meeting at the J.A. Thompson Administrative Center.

“Our current plan is not working,” Moore said. “Bold, courageous steps must be taken to improve the district.

“I’m going to be questioning our current efforts and outcomes, the effectiveness of our current leadership. It’s not a matter of can things change.  They will change.”

Moore, who took over as superintendent on Dec. 2, noted several immediate changes need to be made to improve the district’s chances of success. The first step is to make sure school employees have clearly defined roles and understand what is expected of them.

To do this, Moore is working on a new organizational chart that is expected to shake up several key areas, including the district’s Human Relations office, which was plagued with problems under the prior superintendent.

He’s expected to share the proposed new chart with School Board members later this month.

Moore has already taken steps to make sure the entire school district staff commits to complying with a long-standing federal desegregation order aimed at reducing racial inequity in the district.

He recently announced that school administrators’ annual job performance evaluations will take into account how well their departments or schools have progressed or failed to progress in meeting desegregation goals of improving African-American student achievement and hiring more black staff members.

That success or lack of success will be publicly discussed monthly at board meetings, and prominently displayed on the district’s website, Moore said.

The district also needs to provide more training and resources to help teachers better do their jobs, Moore said.

Moore said one of his primary concerns is that student academic achievement levels have remained stagnant in recent years. Another concern is the district’s general fund has continued to shrink during the past four years.

Moore plans to form advisory committees to evaluate key areas in an effort to solve the problems he identified. Those committees will consist of school employees and residents who will report directly to Moore.

Moore hopes to use the data and feedback gathered by the advisory groups to help the board develop a new five-year strategic plan in May.

In the meantime, Moore and his administrative team is working on a 90-day plan that will identify key priorities and specify “precise daily steps and goals” the district is expected to complete during the next three months to improve district performance.