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Ironton schools map out next five years

After three days, 25 people came to an agreement on what Ironton City Schools should be doing for the next 5 years.

Tuesday night, they presented their vision to the public.

"If you don't have a mission or goals, you have no focus," Dean Nance, principal of Ironton High School, said. "You're shooting in the dark. We want all of our teachers and our employees including the cooks and bus drivers aiming at the same goal."

Of the 25-member planning committee that came up with the district's five-year plan, less than half were educators. Nance said this was because the district wanted community input.

The first step in creating the plan was deciding on the committee's beliefs. Then, the committee defined its mission: "The mission of Ironton City Schools, a system dedicated to excellence and community pride, is to provide a quality education assuring every student achieves his/her maximum potential through a challenging curriculum provided by highly qualified, dedicated employees, in a safe environment in partnership with parents and community.

Working with the mission statement, the committee then agreed upon parameters, which were a list of things those involved with the district have stated they will and will not do. With the parameters, the committee decided upon objectives which included graduating 100 percent of the senior class, having all students meet or exceeding state mandated testing goals at all grade levels and having 100 percent of the district's graduates employed, in the military, or in post-graduate studies within six months of graduation.

The final step in the process was naming seven strategies which were: developing and implementing a comprehensive K-12 integrated computer/technology program, an aggressive revenue enhancement program, programs to modernize the district's facilities, in-service programs for all employees and volunteers, a career awareness program for all students, partnership programs to involve parents and community, and plans to create a unified school district community. Action teams, Nance said, will take each strategy and come up with a working plan to implement them and measure their effects in five years. The district hopes to have 20-40 people on each team. Anyone, including students of any age group, is invited to join a team.

The strategies can also be altered, but the mission statement and objectives cannot, Nance said.

"That's the beauty of this," Nance said. "We will have more than a hundred people working on these problems instead of five administrators or just a small group."

Andrew Cronacher, a senior at Ironton High School, and Meghan O'Brien, a junior, were two students on the planning committee.

"We all went in, and we were given name tags and told to call everyone by their first name," Cronacher said. "We were all equal. It was really strange to call Mr. Nance 'Dean.'"

"At first, it was scary, because we came into a room with all of these adults," O'Brien said. "But, by the next day, we were not afraid to address issues we had."

Kay Falls, a first grade teacher at Whitwell Elementary, said she and other members of the committee enjoyed working with the students and having their insight.

"I think they understand that we're not all old fuddie-duddies," she laughed.

"This committee was a group of people with qualified opinions that were strong enough to stand up for those opinions," she continued. "We still came away with a strategic plan in which 25 people agreed on every word. It's the beginning of teamwork in the district which needs to continue."

Monday night, the presentation will be repeated at 6 p.m. at the Ohio University Southern Bowman Auditorium.