By Heather Mullinix
Newly appointed Director of Schools Donald Andrews is focusing on the three Rs as Cumberland County Schools prepare to open next week. Andrews announced the theme for the coming school year would be A Formula for Success: Rigor + Relevance + Relationships = HOPE.
"As long as a child has hope, then he has a future," Andrews told the Cumberland County Board of Education during its August meeting as he updated the board on his transition to the director position.
"I want to thank the board for allowing me to come in early to do some due diligence," Andrews said. "On that first day, I felt it was not the first day."
He hit the ground running, taking the proposed budget and working with staff to prepare it for a special-called meeting July 8. Andrews assumed the job July 1.
Andrews is planning a series of community meetings after the start of school, set Aug. 26, 27 and 29 at 6 p.m. each night. At those meetings, he'll ask the public the same questions he's been asking teachers, students and administrative personnel — what are the strengths of the school system and what are areas for improvement.
"It's an opportunity for the public to come in and share their thoughts and ideas," Andrews explained.
While the meetings are a part of Andrew's transition plan, the fall community meetings are something he intends to hold each year. He also plans to hold twice yearly community trustee meetings with area leaders, business community members and other stakeholders to offer updates on the state of the school system in Cumberland County. There will also be four employee sessions each year, with a certified and non-certified employee from each school in attendance.
He will also be forming a student advisory coalition with 12 students from both Cumberland County High School and Stone Memorial High School and four to six from The Phoenix School. Those students will meet throughout the year for leadership activities and to offer input to the director.
Monday will be the county-wide teacher inservice, and Andrews will be the speaker for the annual training day.
"I felt, and the executive staff agreed, it was appropriate the new superintendent speak to all the staff. I'm looking forward to that," Andrews said.
He's hired his executive team, Assistant Director of Curriculum Instruction and Accountability Rebecca Wood, Assistant Director of Human Resources and Administration Susan Huneycutt and Chief Financial Officer Robert Scarbrough. With that team in place, Andrews said he will finalize an organizational chart for the school system. He's also compiling a job responsibility reference list.
He's also working with the executive staff to prepare an annual plan, which he said would be prepared in advance of the start of school in future years, but that additional time was needed this year. He also wants to go beyond the state-required strategic plan and incorporate ideas and suggestions from the community.
"We feel strongly the community needs to be a part of the strategic plan," Andrews said.
The board will meet together in its annual work session, though the date has not yet been set for that meeting. The board will discuss long-range planning, possible building projects and other areas of interest.
Andrews also noted he intends to offer a leadership class for staff members that would like to grow as leaders in the school system. He's also working with all supervisors at Central Services and school principals to develop professional growth plans, which will include a detailed plan of action for each school leader.
Andrews praised two guidance counselors in the school system, Bridgett Smith and Laura Kidwell, for bringing a procedure for dealing with grief within the school system.
"This is a general guide for dealing with tragedies in schools," Andrews explained. "They felt, as a team, we needed a guide for schools."
The procedure is only a guide, with flexibility offered to meet the unique situations schools may face.
"We decided not to make it a policy because it's not a policy. A policy locks you in," Andrews said.
He asked the board's "blessing" on the procedure, though no official action was necessary as it is not a policy addition or change.
The procedure includes do's and do not's, age-appropriate activity suggestions, the role of the principal, guidance counselor and teacher and provides resources for schools.