Wednesday, July 16, 2014

Turning the ship around: WC Schools begin working towards change

J-E News Editor
Last Tuesday night Webster County School District’s administration  officially kicked off the beginning of the school calendar year with a Leadership Summit. The theme for that meeting, and for everything the district does this year, ‘Turning the Ship Around’.

“It’s a huge shift in how we function in this district,” said new Superintendent of Schools, Dr. Rachel Yarbrough. “We must learn from the past, but we will not move this district forward by looking in the rearview.”
Incoming administrators, returning administrators and the Board of Education gathered for a three hour meeting at the Extension Office in Dixon that was half team building exercise and half brain storming session. At the core was the desire to ‘turn the ship around’ and get Webster County Schools headed in a new direction.
Yarbrough said that when she left Webster County to become the superintendent of Crittenden County, she started her stay there with the same exercise.
“Part of helping us get better is listening and gauging the needs of our students and the needs of our district,” Yarbrough stated.
Those in attendance were asked to identify the strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats faced by the district. At the end all of the answers were collected. A year from now those answers will be looked at again to gauge the district’s progress.
School board chairman Jeff Pettit told the gathered crowd that he feels the district is starting to turn the ship around.
“Two years ago when we started the discussions about building a middles school, I challenged the board to take a look at the other middle schools out there,” he said. “I had the opportunity to visit Marshall County, and it was an eye opening experience for me. When I walked in that school, it had an atmosphere of being a place people wanted to be.”
Pettit said that when he returned from Marshall County and visited some of the schools in Webster County, the atmosphere was totally different.
“It was like walking into a funeral home,” Pettit recalled. “Students clearly didn’t want to be there. The teachers didn’t want to be there.”
He hopes the changes the district has and will continue to make will make a big difference in the atmosphere and culture of the county.
“We’ve started the process of turning our schools into something we can be proud of.”
The next step in the process of turning the schools around is a meeting Dr. Yarbrough has scheduled with leaders and elected officials from across the county. These people, she stressed, are integral in bringing the school and the county together as one.

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