Demopolis schools review strategic plan progress

Proudly reviewing the accomplishments of the Demopolis City Schools’ Strategic Plan, Superintendent Al Griffin brought some 20 stakeholders up to date on what has been done and what is left to do.

Meeting Thursday morning in the School Board office, the group consisted of many of the members of the original Strategic Plan Executive Committee, which devised the plan during the 2010-2011 school year.

One of the requirements built into the 39-page plan is that is be reviewed, which was the reason for the meeting. Griffin went over 23 major accomplishments since the plan was implemented but said many other things have been done as well.

He especially praised the “drastic improvements” in AYP results. He said he would put up the scores and accomplishments of the DCS system “again any in the state of Alabama.”

While he conceded that there have been some complaints about actions taken by his office or the school board, Griffin said, “Every decision was made in the best interest of the students.”

Ticking off what the school system has managed to do, Griffin said sound fiscal management is allowing some programs that had been cut to be brought back, including art and choral music. Major capital improvements are ongoing, thanks to good money management and to the grants the system has received.

“Career tech is back,” he said. For that reason Demopolis schools is starting programs to begin training students for careers that don’t require a college degree.

This year teachers will begin planning for a Financial and Insurance Service Academy, sponsored by the National Accounting Foundation. The program will have an insurance focus but include a financial aspect as well.

This fall also will be the planning semester to begin a precision machining and welding program in the old New Era facility. Several hundred thousand dollars of equipment is in place, include 15 to 20 lathes and milling machines. The school system cannot apply for funding to run the program if it already is underway, which is one reason why it won’t begin until the spring.

Griffin said he hopes to begin a Hospitality Academy in the 2014-2015 school year.

He also pointed to the strengthening of the Dual Enrollment and enhanced Advanced Placement programs in partnership with the University of West Alabama, which now include math and sciences.

“I’ve spent the last three years putting out fires,” said Griffin. Now he will be able to begin implementing some of the programs that have been put on hold.

One of the activities he hopes to start is a greater recognition system for teachers and more extensive professional development. The school system is working with UWA to enable teachers to earn their next higher degree at half the usual cost.

Griffin said he needs input from those attending the meeting and from the city to get more parents, volunteers and community partners involved in schools. It is the one area in which the Strategic Plan has fallen short. Public relations and community education are areas that need work, he continued.

Griffin said the plan will continue to undergo periodic review until the 2015-2016 school year, when another one will be written.