BY KARISSA MILLER
When Jeff James began working as superintendent of Iredell-Statesville Schools on July 1, he provided the Board of Education and the community with a plan for the first 100 days of his administration.
The plan outlined three important questions:
• What is the district doing well?
• What are some of the barriers that prevent I-SS from doing better?
• What should are the district’s priorities?
On Monday night, James made a special presentation for students, parents, staff and the school board to outline what he has learned during his first 100 days in office.
The strategies included in his transition plan are guided by five goals, several objectives and significant activities.
Goal 1: Build and enhance meaningful relationships in the community and with the school board
James said that he has met with around 250 people and is still meeting with several people in the community, including city council members, parents and students. He also highlighted some specific examples, including:
• Board of Education: Provided professional development opportunities and also brought in Dream Builders to help with relationship-building efforts.
• Faith-based Partners: Met with local pastors and religious leaders in the community.
• Principals: Individual meetings with each school leader.
• District Leadership Team: Individual meeting with each district leader.
• Collaboration with Stakeholders: Met with NAACP, Mitchell Community College, NC legislators and other business professionals.
Goal 2: Develop effective and positive board/superintendent relationships
James said he’s tried to meet with each board member personally. He also mentioned that he sends out a Friday update and talks to each board member typically once a week.
The superintendent also said he tries to reply to parents within 15 to 20 minutes of receiving an email.
“We might not always give them the answer they want, but we will give them an answer,” James said.
When he was interviewing for the position, the board told James that they want him to make every decision based on what’s best for kids. He said he uses that as his guide to decision making.
Goal 3: Expand a framework for increasing student achievement for all students while also preparing all students to be career and college ready
The district is hiring additional teaching assistants to work in low-performing schools next year, James said.
The superintendent is also working on meeting with lawmakers to discuss effective literacy strategies.
Other work in this area includes:
• Evaluation and Alignment: Curriculum, Articulation and Standards
• Professional Development: EC, Mathematics, Literacy, STEM and more.
• Partnerships: Dr. Bill Daggett, Dr. Mike Bosse, Dream Builders and Dr. Doug Eury (coaching at at-risk schools).
• Reviewing School Improvement Plans
• Curriculum Support (Instructional Facilitators, Content Coaches, Graduation Intervention Program).
• Focus on Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).
Goal 4: Evaluate the organizational structure and determine immediate vs. long-term needs of each department
James has worked to reduce the central office budget by not filling positions for some administrative positions when they become vacant due to retirement.
Starting on July 1, James will have cut $500,000 out of central office expenes, James said. The money will be put back into the budget and used in the classroom or other areas where there is a need, he said.
James is looking at other options for restructuring and staffing.
Goal 5: Develop Board of Education Annual Goals that fulfill the mission and vision of the I-SS school board
A new strategic plan is in the works, James said.
Some of the features will include:
• Alignment of Mission, Vision, Strategic Goals to District.
• Increase Classified and Certified Salaries.
• Local Salary Study to align job classifications.
• Plan for Low performing schools.
• Financial Transparency.