In an unusually scheduled meeting Tuesday evening, the Bulloch County Board of Education will begin looking at how to deal with schools filling to capacity as enrollment grows.
A little later this year, the board and administrators will seek input to update or replace the school system’s strategic plan so that it envisions the five years from 2020 forward. During the board’s March 14 meeting, Superintendent Charles Wilson talked about that topic in greater detail before noting that next week’s board work session will be devoted to capacity and enrollment.
The second regular, public BOE meeting each month is always a “work session,” but this one has been moved back to Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., instead of the usual Thursday, to accommodate members’ schedules.
Certain schools in Bulloch County’s 15-campus system still have some capacity for more students. But with the way the district is set up, it could fall behind in capacity for growth, Wilson cautioned.
“It’s only going to get worse if we don’t start talking about it, and the best way to start talking about it is to set the tone and the basis for the conversation,” he told the board.
Wilson, school system Chief Operations Officer Paul Webb and Data Support Director Dr. Noralee Edwards have been working on a presentation about this topic for Tuesday.
“We have some capacity in this district that we’re not balancing and utilizing effectively, so it’s really a matter of making sure that the board has the right information,” Wilson said in a phone interview Friday.
As of an Oct. 2, 2018, report to the Georgia Department of Education, the Bulloch County system had a full-time-equivalent enrollment of 10,646 students at schools ranging in size from Stilson Elementary School with 391 students to Statesboro High School with 1,662 students. Reports are required in October and March, but the March number has yet to appear on the state website.
Asked how soon Bulloch County will need to begin expanding or building schools again, Wilson said he doesn’t know and that he wants to avoid assumptions and take a careful look at the data.
“That’s the point of this, to grab for us all as much of the facts as we can so that we can figure out what we know, together, and what to do next, together,” he said.
Strategic plan update
The Bulloch County Schools’ strategic plan, about which he gave a slide presentation during the March 14 meeting, isn’t a plan for facilities. Instead, it’s the document that includes a vision statement, mission statement, “belief and core values,” followed by general goals and more specific objectives for the school system.
Created after a series of public input meetings in 2013, the current plan was revised by the board in February 2015 and again in January 2016.
In that plan, the vision statement is: “By 2020, we will become a school system that prepares our students to be contributing members of society, based upon their interests and abilities, and the opportunity to pursue the colleges and careers of their choice.”
Underneath that, the three big goals have been college and career readiness, stakeholder and community support and resource optimization.
One of the nine more specific objectives does deal with developing “a plan for necessary facilities and infrastructure upgrades.” Other objectives range from making annual gains in the schools’ scores on Georgia’s College and Career Ready Performance Index to implementing a diversity recruitment plan to attract more diverse applicants for teaching jobs.
To add safety?
But school safety, a major concern last year and this, was not addressed in the circa 2015 strategic plan.
“We need to identify these existing priorities that have surfaced since our last revision,” Wilson said to the board. “A good example of this is this school safety discussion that has come up, particularly some of these specific efforts in our safety plan that we’ve been looking at.”
The timeline he suggested would have the board begin discussing the five-year strategic plan May 14, the day of members’ annual “whole board training” led by a Georgia School Boards Association consultant. Held at the local board office, this is a daytime special session.
His timeline suggested that the board could review the vision, mission and belief statements and core values in May. Then, from June through August the board and staff members would identify new and existing priorities to include in the revised plan, and the plan reaching beyond 2020 could be approved by the board in December 2019.
But this timeline assumes that the board will want to update and revise the existing plan, not start over, Wilson said. So, whether to do an update or more extensive rewrite may be the first decision, he said after the previous meeting.
Tuesday’s agenda also lists a closed session followed by possible action on personnel recommendations. The board has yet to hire a new Statesboro High School principal to succeed Dr. Ken LeCain, who is retiring at the end of the school year. Wilson has said that he will make a recommendation for an SHS principal by April 11.
Herald reporter Al Hackle may be reached at (912) 489-9458.