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Carroll Board of Education halts strategic plan process to get public input

The Carroll County Board of Education is postponing the process of designing a new strategic plan.

During a discussion Wednesday night, the board members decided that while they wanted to decrease the amount of objectives in the final plan, they wanted to make sure they received comment from the public.

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There are multiple stakeholders that the plan will affect, including students, teachers, nonprofits, businesses, the commissioners and Carroll County Public Schools staff, said board President Devon Rothschild.

Superintendent Stephen Guthrie suggested the board use the Citizens Advisory Council that is already in place. Board members agreed, with Virginia Harrison suggesting that they use focus groups to get input.

Before going to the public, the board plans to have an idea of the objectives they are considering, Board member Donna Sivigny said, adding they should also include a glossary of terms.

"You don't want to go out with a blank page," she said.

Rothschild and Sivigny agreed that it would probably be best to let the public give feedback on the bigger plans like the mission statement instead of the smaller details.

"Have we missed something? How would you rank us in what we're doing well, not doing well?" Sivigny said.

After the meeting, Rothschild said that they plan to start collecting public input in the fall and have the process completed in the spring.

There's no set amount for the number of objectives the board will set, but she said a smaller amount is the goal.

"I think 10 is reasonable, but it might be eight or 12," Rothschild said.

The strategic plan will be more effective if they simplify, said board member Marsha Herbert.

"I think the public needs to know we're trying to improve, improve and improve," she said.

The board started to discuss the individual strategic goals that they did or did not like. Harrison highlighted the measure of success that looks at scores students receive on the standardized PARCC tests.

The measure of success is to have 80 percent of graduates earning the Maryland State College and Career Readiness determination through their PARCC scores, AP scores or SAT scores, according to a draft version of the strategic plan.

Rothschild said during the meeting that they wanted goals that could be measured to show if they were moving forward. With the 80 percent goal, numbers could be explained away once it was broken down into individualized groups of students, which didn't make it a good measure, Sivigny said.

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Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Steven Johnson pointed out that the numbers are better measured looking at the group of white, majority students and the minority groups over groups like special education, which has more individualized students.

While the county's PARCC data looks good overall, when it's broken down by groups of students the county tends to be in the middle when compared to other counties, Rothschild said.

A good measure could be drawn from making the majority group students improve, which could influence the minority groups to do better as well, she said.

"To me I think we need to set a standard where we say we need to improve our white students, our majority students. We need our majority students to perform better," Rothschild said.

Rothschild also suggested that they look at a measure of when kids should be able to read, which is not currently included as a measure of success.

Before ending the meeting, Rothschild asked the staff for their input going forward. After the meeting she said that while the board ultimately will decide on the plan, "the board really values the input of the staff."

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