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Superintendent Watlington Presents Renewal Plans to State Board of Education

Dr. Tony B. Watlington, Sr., superintendent of Rowan-Salisbury Schools, presented the district’s Renewal plan to the North Carolina State Board of Education on Wednesday, September 1, 2021.

The purpose of the presentation was to update the State Board of Education on Rowan-Salisbury Schools’ Renewal vision and requirements, including where we are now, where we want to be as the first and only Renewal school district and what our next steps will be.

House Bill 986 was signed into law in June 2018. This bill enables RSS to use Renewal flexibility in curriculum, budget, personnel and our school calendar to align our efforts with what the research says improves academic performance for students.

Watlington shared details of RSS Renewal flexibilities guided by the RSS Directional System, which puts engaged learners at the core of our work to enhance students’ academic skills, interpersonal skills, and unique life goals so all RSS students are enrolled, enlisted or employed when they graduate.

Watlington updated the State Board on the work the district is doing to develop a local accountability model that is more formative assessment-driven rather than a one-day, end-of-grade or end-of-course test. Formative assessments monitor student learning throughout the year and provide teachers with ongoing feedback to help them improve their teaching and students’ learning through the identification of instructional strategies most effectively meeting student needs.

The innovative work RSS is engaged in with Renewal is because of the high level of teacher and school leader support.

“Rowan-Salisbury Schools is a leader in teacher and school-based involvement and support through Teacher-Led Design Teams (TLDT). The State Board of Education was particularly interested in what we will do next,” Watlington said. “As a part of our strategic planning process, we will continue to think through other flexibilities the district should be involved in, as we consider next steps based on what the research and our data tell us to guide our thinking moving forward.”

Watlington also shared a celebration of the district’s increase in graduation rate over time while Rowan-Salisbury School System’s dropout rate has continued to decrease. Moreover, RSS is extremely proud of the progress of our Career and Technical Education (CTE) concentrators.

RSS is fourth in the state for students who complete at least two CTE courses in a single career pathway throughout high school. RSS plans to further develop Renewal flexibilities and the new local accountability model while educating the whole child. The district is focused on decreasing state-identified low-performing schools while increasing school growth. A focal point continues to be increasing CTE industry credentials earned and increasing parent and community understanding, support and partnerships. RSS will continue working on these priorities through the ongoing strategic planning process and will monitor progress regularly with the local Rowan County Board of Education and annually with the State Board of Education.

The State Board of Education was complimentary and supportive of the work RSS is doing, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic when RSS was one of a handful of school districts nationwide that received a federal Teacher and School Leaders (TSL) grant.

The TSL grant was established by the Elementary and Secondary Education Act of 1965 and was reauthorized in 2015 by the Every Student Succeeds Act. The purpose of the TSL grant is to primarily serve educators in high-need schools who raise student academic achievement and close the achievement gap between high- and low-performing students. Focus areas of the grant are the recruitment and retention of highly qualified educators by implementing work aimed at human capital management and a structured performance-based compensation system.

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