Strategic Plan For County Schools In Early Stages

SNOW HILL — As part of an ongoing plan to understand the status of public schools in Worcester County and use that knowledge to better develop a strategic plan, Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jerry Wilson shared information he has gathered over the summer from the community with the Board of Education this week.

The “entry results” were collected by Wilson through a series of more than 50 interviews with parents, teachers, staff and other community leaders. Wilson, who replaced long-time Superintendent Dr. Jon Andes in July, told the school board that his goal going into the interviews was to get an impression of how schools are viewed by the people who are impacted by them. The news, he continued, was good, though there is room for improvement.

“I learned a tremendous amount about people as well as the school system,” said Wilson.

The first thing that he asked about during interviews was why the community thinks Worcester schools have been so successful on the Maryland State Assessment (MSA), on which the county has consistently scored at or near the top for the last several years. Common answers that Wilson heard include small class sizes, dedicated teachers, staff and leadership, community support and high expectations, among other things.

“There is a very positive belief in the school system,” he said.

When researching why the community has pride in the schools, Wilson was able to generate an even larger list that included everything from evident team spirit to scholarships to “community minded leadership.”

“They spoke about the fact that there are strong community resources to support our schools,” he said, also noting that “people really buy into the school system in Worcester County public schools.”

Examining the “culture of the school system,” Wilson received similar responses. According to his report, the community considers teachers to be role models, enjoys the positive energy and family orientation of the system and considers the entire network a “structured system with high expectations.”

Overall, Wilson, an education veteran with experience in several school systems across the country, said he was impressed.

“This is a very tight-knit community,” he said.

For the first time in any school system he’s helmed, Wilson said that none of the 50-plus interviews were negative, which didn’t surprise him but was “unusual.”

Even with the overwhelming show of positive impressions, however, Wilson said that the community did zero in on some potential improvements.

“We don’t think we’re leaders in technology,” he said.

In areas like broadband access and the availability of devices, Wilson told the board that the community has noticed a lag. Other trouble spots include diversity in teachers, the school’s relationship with the County Commissioners, supporting the minority community, funding salary schedules, and thinking beyond immediate needs, among others.

“We want to think about these kids’ kids,” said Wilson.

A relative layman compared to most on the Board of Education, many of which have decades of experience in Worcester, Wilson did ask the board to look at the results of his interviews “through fresh eyes.”

“Sometimes looking through fresh eyes you might see something different,” he suggested.

Any improvements that can be made, added Wilson, will be done “a little bit at a time.” The next steps he’s outlined from here will be studying the results and using them to help with “constructing a strategic direction” for Worcester’s public schools.