Community outreach central to new superintendent's plan

Jul. 02, 2013 @ 05:00 AM

Being superintendent of a public school district requires much more than just managing the schools and their staff, according to a transition plan new Lee County Schools Superintendent Andy Bryan released Monday.

Bryan's plan, available at www.lee.k12.nc.us, details his goals for his first three months on the job. The word "community" appears 36 times in the 17-page document, and while many of the stated goals do include meeting with his employees, Bryan also frequently states his intention to reach out to others — students and parents, business leaders, bureaucrats, Central Carolina Community College officials, nonprofit groups, religious groups, civic organizations, local media, special interest groups and more — to foster relationships and gather input.

Dr. Lynn Smith, chairman of the Lee County Board of Education, said he's a fan of the plan.

"I think this is just typical of Andy Bryan," Smith said. "It's thorough, it's thoughtful, and he really wants to include the entire community in this document."

Bryan's plan states that making quality instruction available to all children is his primary goal, and he outlines a number of ways to discover what can be done to improve public education in Lee County. He wrote that he will assemble a team of educators to review data, teaching strategies and professional development activities, and that he will also assemble a team of business leaders to provide input on recent graduates they've hired.

"I think feedback from the community is important because they experience our schools on a daily basis, and the quality of our schools equates to quality of life," Bryan said Monday, adding that he thinks the quality of education is directly tied to economic development.

Bryan's plan also promises continued support of technology and innovative classroom programs. Such a strategy earned former Superintendent Jeff Moss praise and awards from regional and statewide education officials but also drew heavy criticism from the Lee County Board of Commissioners, which provides about 20 percent of the district's funding. Commissioners from both political parties have questioned whether money spent on technology should be used to hire more teachers and teaching assistants instead.

Bryan's list of people and groups to meet with doesn't specifically include the county commissioners, but Bryan said Monday that he and Charlie Parks, chairman of the commissioners and also the commissioners' education liaison, are trying to find a time to sit down and talk.

The final few pages of the plan contain Bryan's goals broken down into a checklist, ranging from establishing advisory committees to planning community meetings, sitting down with principals and department directors, frequently updating a blog and podcast, and reviewing approaches to teaching literacy. He said the checklist will be updated as needed; one item now under way is an increased digital presence — Bryan already started a Twitter account (@leecosupt) and published his first blog post.

Other items, Bryan said, will take more time, such as establishing permanent advisory committees of students, parents, teachers and support staff. Smith said Moss tried to do that every year and always ran into trouble, especially with getting parents involved. Bryan said he plans to ask his principals about how to best reach parents, and that applications will be available once those discussions are complete. In the meantime, he said, people who want to provide input can email him at abryan@lee.k12.nc.us.

Bryan, who was hired in April and received a four-year contract worth more than $180,000 per year in salary and benefits in May, spent the last seven years as the district's second-highest-ranking administrator. He was a finalist in the 2008 superintendent search that ultimately netted Moss, who resigned at the end of June to become superintendent in Beaufort County, S.C.

It's unclear if Bryan's previous job of associate superintendent of curriculum and instruction will exist in the future; he said he will discuss whether or not to hire someone or do away with the position at the next school board meeting on Aug. 13.