The Walker County Board of Education is developing a game plan for the years ahead.
A strategic planning session was held by the school system on March 19 to work toward a five-year plan that will strengthen education for county students.
The session brought together representatives from local organizations, municipal and business leaders, educators, administrators and others to create points of emphasis that will be used to create an ultimate vision for Walker County Schools.
Superintendent Dr. Joel Hagood says he promised taxpayers during his campaign that such a plan would be implemented.
"The Walker County School System has operated now for several years without the benefit of a strategic plan to serve as a guide for growth and development," Hagood said. "This collaboration of stakeholders from all districts and various organizations representing Walker County served as our strategic 'steering committee' in taking the first steps to develop a strategic plan from which to operate in moving our school system forward."
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Dennis Willingham provided further insight to the strategic planning session. He said around 20 people broke into small groups to share what they felt were important areas of focus.
"Each group was given the task of brainstorming to come up with key ideas to set our vision and our mission," Willingham said.
He said the five goals identified were ensuring that students show growth in all assessed areas, that every child has access to a high quality foundation education, that every student graduates from high school and is college and career ready, schools have effective instruction and leadership, and every child attends a safe and well-maintained facility.
"It was time well spent," Walker Area Community Foundation President Paul Kennedy said. "I had an opportunity to get more detailed information about the Walker County Schools system, their struggles and their dreams.
"It was especially good for me to have some face-to-face time with community leaders, and especially school administrators, to learn from them what one of our largest educators and employers is doing for the welfare of the students and the future of our community. I left very hopeful for our community's future."
Parrish Mayor Heather Hall also attended the session. She said one of the things that surprised her the most was how the approach has changed in making youth college and career ready.
"For a very long time, things were geared towards a college degree and getting these kids ready for college, and now we're needing to get these kids ready for college or a career in general," she said, speaking to the importance of students developing trade skills. "I'm excited to see that the Walker County Board of Education is really going to start focusing on career tech."
She said the Town of Parrish, which still has a thriving elementary school, stands by the school board.
"We'll do whatever they ask us to do," she said. "We have always worked with the Walker County Board of Education, and we will continue to do so."
Chamber of Commerce of Walker County President Linda Lewis reflected on her time at the session, and said she is proud the chamber is able to offer Youth Leadership Walker County, Junior Ambassadors and Groundhog Job Shadow Day programs to benefit all students in Walker County.
"There were very good educators and community leaders there," she said of the session. "I think it was very informative, and I think everybody should have a five-year strategic plan."
Willingham said all of the notes from the session will later be discussed by a subcommittee to finalize a plan moving forward that is to the best benefit of students. Data sources, such as academic and financial, will also be considered.
Hagood said he is proud everyone came together for the common good of the school system.
"We took a critical view of what is our purpose as a school system (mission), where do we want to go as a school system for the future (vision), and then how should we behave or what are the values we should embrace throughout the journey," Hagood said. "This work will continue now with the development of our goals and a five-year plan."
According to Hagood, the plan will continue to be developed over the summer and be implemented at the beginning of the 2019-20 school year in August.