Less than two months into her tenure as superintendent of Warren County Schools, Dr. Mary Young continues her efforts to seek community input by meeting with local officials, organizations, educators, faith-based groups and individuals as the first step in developing a plan to improve the school system.
She assumed her duties as superintendent in July. Since that time, Young has viewed her role like that of a doctor conducting a physical on a patient before writing a prescription.
“I’m doing a physical on the district, what we are doing well and what we need to focus on,” Young said.
She described meeting with local government officials, economic development, law enforcement, community and faith-based groups, principals and other school administrators and teachers. Most recently, Young met with the Warren County NAACP and Haliwa-Saponi Tribal Council.
“How can we connect (with the community) and form partnerships? The school system is part of the community,” she said.
Young said that riding school buses with students has been a vital part of learning more about the local community.
“I want to see where students live,” she said. “Some areas are more urban and some more rural.”
Young said that building connections with the schools that make up the district is important. She has visited classrooms at a number of schools and wants to continue to spend time at the schools each week for the rest of the school year.
“I want students to understand, ‘I care about your learning,’ and for teachers, ‘I care about what you are teaching,’” Young said.
She added that she also wants to meet other people vital to the school system, including cafeteria workers, transportation and maintenance personnel.
“Everyone matters. You can’t have school without cafeteria workers, you need to eat; or transportation, you need to get to school,” she said.
Young noted that she also views her role as superintendent as that of chief role model demonstrating the type of investment all personnel should make to the education of local youth. She said that if she sees a piece of trash in a school building, she picks it up.
Young commended the department heads at the school system’s central office, saying that with fewer employees than in much larger school districts, they perform the same volume of work and offer the same services.
Over the next few months, Young plans to use what she has learned by talking with local educators and the community, and by reviewing data such as test scores to develop a strategic plan for school system improvement. In addition, she wants to build partnerships with local businesses, government officials, the faith-based community and others.
She noted that she also wants to expand the number of community advisory committees which meet with the superintendent on a regular basis. To the current list of parent, teacher and student committees, Young plans to develop such advisory committees as business/government/media and faith-based.
She described initiatives that would provide opportunities for all members of the community to provide their input. Young plans to begin “Real Talk,” a chance for individuals to meet with her one-on-one, and “Critical Conversations with the Community,” public forums in neighborhoods around the county and other feedback sessions.
Young encouraged local residents to volunteer in the schools, and for community groups and churches to adopt-a-school to help local students.
She challenged local residents who might talk about problems they have experienced within the school district to become partners with Warren County Schools to help find solutions.
Young would like to see Warren County as a place where youth who leave the area to obtain college degrees can return to begin their careers, and where available resources make the community attractive for teachers to remain for many years.
However, she emphasized that school system-community partnerships are essential in taking the first steps in achieving those goals.
“The community must work together in partnership (with the school system) to improve the schools. We can’t live in silos,” Young said.
In a timeline which she recently discussed with the board of education, Young stated that she will develop a preliminary strategic plan for school system improvement this fall. After further review and determination of how the plan will impact the 2020-21 budget, the plan will be publicly presented in late winter, and an implementation plan will be developed in the spring.