2018-09-12 / Living

Kiwanis meeting gets update on PCS22

PETERSON PETERSON At the Aug. 27 meeting of the Roxboro Kiwanis Club at La Piazza restaurant in uptown Roxboro, Don Waldo was installed as a new member. Rodney Peterson, superintendent of Person County Schools, informed the club of the results of a recently completed strategic planning process known as PCS22, which involved all community stakeholders.

Peterson noted that a big change occurred last year t the high school. He was disturbed by the high school graduation rate and committed to determine what could be done better. A counselor was required to meet with each child and establish a pathway. This increased the graduation rate to 88 percent last year.

If a student does not do well in a course, he is now directed to a credit recovery program, rather than just requiring the entire course to be retaken. The goal is to be at a 90 percent graduation rate by 2022.

In January, the feeder pattern to the high school was examined. This was called Project Ignite at the middle schools. This allowed students to take some electives of interest to them, in order to identify potential pathways once they reach high school.

In May, the attention turned to the elementary schools. Third grade reading levels are not where they need to be and are being emphasized.

A look at whether resources are adequate is ongoing. Funds are not the only resource for emphasis; the system must be a good steward, as well. Accessibility for the impaired or disabled is important.

A facility audit study is therefore in the final stages.

Peterson said staff retention is always an issue, although turnover has been reduced from 17-18 percent to 12.3 percent. The amount of the local supplement has been a factor in this, but surrounding counties have caught up and are surpassing Person County.

Those who have been teaching for 20 years and beyond are finding their pay at a plateau and are looking therefore at more attractive local supplements for the last five years’ average salary, on which state retirement is calculated.

There are also issues with the hard-to-fill positions, including the nonclassroom positions like custodians, cafeteria staff and bus garage employees. There is competition from the private sector for some of the skilled trades positions.

The superintendent emphasized that school safety is the number one priority. He looked at the number of suspensions and how long these are and who is subject to them. The numbers being criminally charged for conduct at school is going down. Even those who are incarcerated are being served educationally.

Children are coming to school with needs that have never been seen before, with many of them being completely on their own. Middle school resources now include behavior specialists. The system has applied for and received two additional safety grants, including securing a clinical social worker. The system is partnering with the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to write a grant based on the childhood trauma models to leverage additional resources.

Stakeholder involvement is important. There are parent advisory councils at each school, with whom circumstances at the school are shared, so that these people can be voices for the schools in the community. There is conversation ongoing with Habitat for Humanity about having students at the high school build a couple of small houses for those in need.

Dual language is beginning in two elementary schools, where English instruction will be in Spanish for the entire day. The memo of understanding with school resource officers has been redefined, although the toolbox to implement this is still in development.

The complete strategic plan is on the PCS website. In response to a question about foreign language in the elementary schools, Peterson noted that Spanish is becoming more important in the business environment and that learning a second language also helps with thinking and problem-solving skills. He noted that about 10 percent of the Person County population is now of Hispanic origin.

Peterson mentioned the program through UNCChapel Hill that allows Person County to recruit teachers from other countries who are here on a five-year visa. Many of them are giving up substantial positions in their home countries in order to gain this experience.

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