The Liberty County School System will keep its accreditation.
AdvancED, a nonprofit, nonpartisan accreditation organization that reviews public school systems across the nation, had a review team evaluate the Liberty County district from March 6 through Wednesday. The team members interviewed administrators, staff, parents, residents and students. They also observed classrooms. The preliminary findings were shared at a called Board of Education meeting Wednesday.
Cheryl Allread, the lead evaluator, discussed the preliminary results, giving recommendations and highlighting the system’s strengths.
In 2013, AdvancED introduced the Index of Education Quality, which measures performance based teaching and learning, use of resources and leadership. This was the first time LCSS received an IEQ score.
On a 400-point scale, Liberty County scored 266.26. The national AdvancEd Network average was 278.34 in 2015. Allread said the network average will change June 30 after this year's round of evaluations is finished.
She said Liberty’s is a “reputable” score.
“If I were a board member, superintendent, staff member here, a parent, and I was associated with this school system and got that score, I would be extremely pleased and proud,” she said. “I think it’s an excellent score with all that you have going on and your resources.”
Allread said the district’s themes were: a caring culture for students, effective resource management, well-maintained facilities and technology equipment, strong communication efforts, a superintendent who is a catalyst for improvement and a multitude of options for students.
“Powerful practices,” are areas in which the system is doing well, better than other districts in the area.
The first powerful practice is “… a caring culture that is based on shared values and beliefs and supported by multiple communication efforts.” Allread said interviews with groups were mainly positive.
“There were two overriding things that came out of parent interviews,” Allread said. “The system is very strong with communication, and the system is very strong with caring culture, especially with transients coming in and out. They felt warm and welcomed.”
The second powerful practice was resource management, including planning. Allread said the system uses its resources wisely.
On the other end of the scale were “improvement priority” areas. The county has two years to improve in these areas. If improvement is shown, the district’s rating will be changed.
There are four improvement priorities. First is the need for more training for board of education members and school governance teams. Allread said team members do not have a clear understanding of their roles. Members are unsure about their terms and feel they vote only on field trips and fundraisers. She said they need more training and support.
“That was actually substantiated through interviews and reviewing board minutes, and all the surveyed data we had,” Allread said.
Board meeting minutes showed that board members were trying to handle problems that were not within their area of responsibility, she said. Allread recommended the board use training from the Georgia School Board Association or other organizations.
The second improvement priority is to find a better way to get information about individual students to teachers. Allread said the district accumulates a lot of student data, but apparently is not using the information to impact instruction.
Having a system to support student learning and analyze data was the third improvement priority. Allread said the district needs a protocol that spells out what is supposed to happen during planning sessions. She added that grading must be the same in all schools.
The last priority was for each student to build a long-term relationship with an adult advocate. Allread commended the district’s remediation services and support for at-risk students, but said all students need advocates.
The review team interviewed 324 people, including Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee, six board members, 50 district and school administrators, 132 teachers and staff, 16 parents, 15 residents and business representatives and 104 students.
A final report will be issued within 30 days.
Allread thanked the system for the professionalism shown to the team and said she was “doubly impressed with the students.”
Lee thanked the review team. She said the district will address areas that need improvement.
BoE Chairwoman Lily Baker thanked the staff who prepared for the team visit.