Community input helps shape educational strategies for Valdosta City Schools

May 1—VALDOSTA — Valdosta City Schools partnered with the Georgia School Board Association's (GSBA) Strategic Planning Division to tailor the district's educational improvement strategies to meet local needs. The GSBA process provides facilitators who are experienced in garnering stakeholder input to guide the system's strategic vision.

The school system invited community stakeholders, from parents to community business representatives and non-profit organizations, to provide input into the steps needed to transform the district's future through strategic planning. The group met on April 30 in the VHS cafeteria. The participants were divided into smaller work groups, and they listed strengths, areas for growth, challenges, and opportunities for Valdosta City Schools.

Lynita Jackson, the Georgia School Board Association's Strategic Planning Services and Vision Project Manager and facilitator of the process, emphasized the importance of community feedback in school district improvement.

"This feedback will be one of the pieces of information that will be looked at to determine: What should be our goal? What should we be focused on?" She continued, "The perception is that the board and the superintendent just create the plan; however, having feedback from the parents, the stakeholders, and the business community allows their voices to be heard."

GSBA's work supports school systems so that they may stay closely aligned with their strategic plans to get more done and the right things done that will positively impact student outcomes. The process is student-focused, and the information used to create the system's strategic plan (a five-year document) is based on data.

After putting all their thoughts on paper, attendees reviewed the strengths, weaknesses, challenges, and opportunities they had listed.

The top three areas for improvement included parent involvement and engagement, teacher retention, and marketing the school system's positives to the community and state. The group identified extracurricular activities, a caring administration and staff, and the system's STEM Academy as strengths of the Valdosta City School System. The group decided that attendance issues, social media usage, and illegal activities were some of the hardest obstacles.

After a review of the feedback provided by each group, the session concluded that there are opportunities for the system to grow in the areas of college and career academy programming, student internship possibilities, and the expansion of partnerships with community partners like the Boys and Girls Club and Moody Air Force Base.

The following steps in the process include a review of the system's mission and vision, a deep analysis of the school system's data, and the fine-tuning of goals for the strategic plan. The Valdosta City School system wants more data and input from the community and asked for participation in its VCS Stakeholder Input Survey, which can be found on Valdosta City Schools main webpage. The survey will be accessible for the next two weeks.