2022 GSBA Leading Edge Award

NCSS Earns GSBA Leading Edge Award
Posted on 03/09/2023
GSBA Leading Edge Award presentationThe Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) recently presented Newton County School System (NCSS) officials with a Leading Edge Award for the district’s work in supporting the development of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs).

According to NCSS chief strategy and support services officer Dr. Shelia Thomas, “the school system’s strategic plan includes ensuring that each school becomes a high-performing professional learning community. The strategic planning process involved engagement with the community and various stakeholder groups through action and planning teams and was officially adopted by the Newton County Board of Education.”

Dr. Michael Barr, NCSS chief operations officer, said that in November 2021, “district and school leaders began working together to create a plan to support PLC development. These leaders formed a guiding coalition to lead this change effort.” John Kotter, a leading change expert, identifies a guiding coalition as critical to successful change initiatives. By working together to generate new ideas, build support, and implement change, guiding coalitions can help organizations navigate complex change processes and achieve successful outcomes. In addition to the district guiding coalition, each school has formed a guiding coalition to help ensure systemic success.

Barr explained, “The district guiding coalition has established sixteen subcommittees that are working to eliminate barriers to success. A few of the subcommittee’s focus areas include implementation planning, identifying essential learning standards, developing an assessment plan, effectively using data, monitoring, and celebrations. The district guiding coalition is also working to develop a district PLC handbook that will be a valuable resource for teachers and others involved in this effort.”

“We are currently working to build staff capacity in preparation for our first year of full implementation,” said Thomas. “This is the building phase. This year coalition members have spent time developing a common language and collective commitments. They’ve worked to provide teacher and leader training and establish a culture that will support the work of PLCs.”

Barr emphasized the importance of PLCs. “In PLCs, the focus is on improving adult professional practices to enhance student learning outcomes. By aligning the efforts of collaborative teams to the right work, we can ensure that students master essential standards and receive extra help as needed. PLCs create opportunities for teachers to collaborate and learn from one another, which supports ongoing professional growth and development. Ultimately, by promoting high levels of learning for all students and facilitating teacher collaboration, PLCs play a crucial role in improving the quality of education.”

The district has partnered with Solution Tree, a professional development company and publisher of educational material for K–12 educators, to support this project. The company provides a comprehensive approach to implementing PLCs, including training, coaching, and ongoing support.

Thomas added, “With this strategic focus on PLCs, student achievement will improve, and at the end of year three, Newton County Schools can be recognized by Solution Tree as a Model PLC District with Model PLC Schools.”

“We are excited about our PLC initiative,” said Samantha Fuhrey, superintendent of the Newton County School System. “It’s important work, and our team is motivated and up to the challenge. We thank GSBA for recognizing our PLC program. Our vision is to ensure that every student is well-rounded and prepared for the future, and strengthening our PLC program will pay huge dividends as we advance. I can’t wait to see the results at the end of the three years!”.