If two heads are better than one, Bibb County school leaders are taking that concept to the next level by bringing about 4,000 heads together to help solve the district’s ills.
Bibb school officials are using a collaborative approach by engaging employees, local dignitaries, parents and community members in developing a systemwide plan aimed at improving student achievement.
The first of two strategic planning sessions took place Monday at the Macon Coliseum and Wilson Convention Center while students had the day off. School employees met at their schools and took buses to and from the strategic planning sessions.
Engaging so many people in the process gives them ownership in the plan, Superintendent Romain Dallemand said.
“Having everyone in the room makes sure we capture their voices and opinions,” he said.
As it stands, Bibb schools are in need of fundamental change rather than small tweaks to the existing system, Dallemand told the crowd Monday morning.
Among students who entered the ninth grade in Bibb County during the 2007-08 school year, only 44.6 percent earned diplomas four years later.
During the 2010-11 school year, 703 students dropped out of school.
With the smaller student population, Bibb County schools lost out on $4.15 million of state funding that could have funded the salaries of 64 teachers, Dallemand said.
“If we need better results, we need to design a different system,” he said.
The superintendent also pointed to discipline statistics that indicate the need for reform.
During the previous school year, 493 Bibb County students were expelled from school, and 7,914 were suspended.
Monday, participants met in small groups after remarks from Dallemand and educational consultant Anthony Muhammad.
A core team of about 60 employees from several departments in the school system will gather the information collected Monday and group the ideas into themes, which will be presented to the same group during the next strategic planning session Oct. 10 for further discussion. The system’s plan is expected to be announced in January.
Some teachers, such as Jontavius Reed, a fourth- and fifth-grade math teacher at King-Danforth Elementary School, were enthusiastic about playing a part in the process. Not only does he want to see his students succeed, but he also draws inspiration from his own daughter, who will one day attend Bibb County schools.
“It’s something that’s never been done,” Reed said. “It’s part of something awesome.”
Setting the changes in motion will be a challenge, but Bibb teachers will need to support them to move students forward, said Leigh Olsen, the Career Technical and Agricultural Education department head at Howard High School.
“Some (teachers) handle change well. It’s up to the teacher to accept it, or leave it and move on and look for a new job,” Olsen said. “Change is coming -- (you have to) accept it with your whole heart.”
To contact writer Andrea Castillo, call 744-4331.