Schools chief to help county craft vision

By Chris Kieffer/NEMS Daily Journal

TUPELO – Mississippi’s top education official will work with Lee County School District leaders next week as they plan the district’s future vision.
Tom Burnham, the state’s superintendent of education, will be the facilitator for the school district’s administrative retreat Monday and Tuesday at Lee County’s Central Office.
That retreat will focus on refining the district’s mission statement, vision and strategic plan. Burnham, who will retire on June 30, was invited after the person originally scheduled to lead the event had to cancel and asked his longtime colleague, Burnham, if he could help.
Burnham will lead the attendees through a discussion of the school district’s strengths and weaknesses, Lee County Superintendent Jimmy Weeks said. He’ll also discuss the Common Core State Standards, new national curriculum objectives that will guide what Mississippi teaches beginning in 2014.
“You have the state superintendent coming in to help lead you in these efforts, with the experience he is bringing and his knowledge of the Common Core, how do you get better than that?” Weeks said.
The retreat will be attended by all principals, assistant principals, department heads and central office leaders.
Weeks began preparing for it shortly after he took office in January. About four weeks into his term, he had one-on-one meetings with all administrators asking what the school district does well, what it can improve and what it needs to stop doing. He also asked those interviewed what concerned them about the district.
Those answers will be used to guide this week’s discussion.
“We can take that information and develop three to five points that are the most important and need to be worked on immediately,” Weeks said.
Among the biggest priorities to emerge from the initial interviews were needs to improve communication and streamline programs, he said.
“I want administrators to have input into the direction we take,” Weeks said. “I think this is the best way to do that.
“Whether it is my first year or I’ve been doing this a long time, having a plan to follow helps provide a checks system. It helps us to stay focused.”
Lee County Schools created a strategic plan four years ago, Weeks said, noting the plan has not been updated the past two years.
“We may start fresh or we may use some things from the original plan,” he said. “Based on things people said, it may be time for a fresh start. As time goes on, the needs change and what becomes important changes, so it could be time for a fresh start.”
The district’s administrators also will convene on July 23 to discuss issues related to special education.
chris.kieffer@journalinc.com