When families consider moving to Wicomico County, one deciding factor is the quality of the school system and education their children will receive.
“It critically important, especially for young families or couples considering having children, or who do have children. I hear that all the time,” Dr. Donna Hanlin, superintendent of schools, said.
“I have a plan. I have a vision and I have a plan and I am methodical about going about making our school system a system of excellence,” said Hanlin, who recently released the report Achieve! 1.0, a document that outlines her goals.
“We have a lot of room for growth. From all the conversations I have had with people, they believe there are good things happening in our school system but we need to continue to improve,” said Hanlin, who took over as superintendent on July 1 last year. She succeeded Dr. John Fredericksen, who retired.
The report, online at the board of education Website, lists the superintendent’s core values, followed by three sections – Listening and Learning: July to September 2016; Visioning: October to December 2016; and Leading: January to June 2017.
Listening and learning were accomplished, she wrote in the report, “through school facilities tours, attendance at school system and community events and interviews and meetings or focus group sessions with key internal and external stakeholders.”
“Ultimately, this phase was designed to lead to a coalition of support” for schools, she wrote.
She gained insights into the strengths and needs of the school system, while establishing relationships.
Objectives in the first section of the report are establishing a strong relationship with the board of education, building relationships with community stakeholders, ensuring high levels of achievement for every student and implementing safety, climate, attendance and discipline in schools.
In the Visioning section, Hanlin wrote that she identified trends and themes and determined the school system will aspire to be one of respect, transparency and collegiality; dedicated to meeting needs of each student; and one the community believes in.
“Our goal is to make sure that every student graduates from high school well prepared to enter college or the world of work. This will require an innovative mindset and hard work from all of us to ensure that Wicomico County students are equipped with a strong educational foundation and a 21st century skillset that will serve them in the future,” Hanlin wrote.
The climate in schools has improved due to that culture of trust and empowerment, Hanlin said, stressing the importance of allowing teachers to take risks, following decades of strict accountability measures from federal mandates like No Child Left Behind.
“What happened as a result of that is, there’s been, ‘You can’t take that risk; we can’t take that risk,’ instead of allowing teachers to be creative,” she said.
“At the last faculty representative meeting, where the board and I meet, I heard consistently that the school climate is better. I’m not saying we don’t have challenges or conduct issues in our schools. One of the things I think is so important is, we have to have a Code of Conduct, then be consistent in enforcing that Code of Conduct. We want students to be in school. We don’t want them suspended and out of school, but we have to hold them accountable for their behaviors,” she said.
She has been encouraged by applicants for two senior-level administrative positions who have told her, “I really want to come and work with you.”
Achieve! 1.0 is on the Board of Education website, at www.wcboe.org, under the leadership heading.
Copies will be in schools and distributed to local organizations including the Salisbury Area Chamber of Commerce, Greater Salisbury Committee and Rotary clubs. Hanlin will also discuss it when she speaks in the community.
“I heard from a lot of focus teams and community groups that interviewed me when I first came. In the conversations we had, and we continue to have, I am hearing that we’ve got to do a better job of engaging consistently with high-quality instruction. I think we’re doing that but I want us to even reach higher,” Hanlin said.
“It’s been a very busy time, but it’s been great. I am so energized by the work we’re doing here. I am extremely optimistic.”
Reach Susan Canfora at firstname.lastname@example.org.