Standard 2: Governance and Leadership
The system operates under governance and leadership that promote and support student performance and system effectiveness.
Overall System Rating: 3.5
Standard 2 Narrative
Richland School District Two (Richland Two) is governed by a seven-member elected Board of Trustees (The Board). The Board is responsible for a general operating budget of approximately $260 million, 3,500 employees, more than 27,000 students, and forty-one schools and centers. The Board members are elected to four-year terms and operate within the framework of state laws and regulations and is responsible to the community it represents and serves. All board members attend the SC School Boards Association training (SCSBA). Governing responsibilities of the Board include determining budget priorities and building needs, setting educational standards and goals, and evaluating the District’s leadership and instructional program. In addition, the Board considers formulating and enforcing policies as one of its primary functions. Through the development and adoption of written policies, the Board provides clear direction for district processes, procedures, activities, and overall effectiveness.
The Richland Two Board holds two regularly scheduled meetings each month in which public participation is offered twice within the agenda for each meeting. The Board policy manual is available online for all stakeholders to access as needed. It serves as the guide for policies and procedures. Policies are reviewed and/or amended regularly in response to district needs and legislative decisions in order to remain congruent with goals and objectives (2.1). The Board also utilizes policies that are provided by the SCSBA to assist in the development and revision of policies. In the fall of 2016, Richland School District Two contracted with the SCSBA to audit their policy manual to ensure that all policies and procedures are current and accurate. The Board holds the superintendent responsible for assisting in planning, implementing, and evaluating policy.
The superintendent, or her designee, is responsible for developing written policy proposals for Board deliberation. Proposals for changes in existing policies or new policies are made available to the Board electronically through BoardDocs in advance of their scheduled Board meetings. These proposals are then presented at the Board meeting and Board members are offered the opportunity to ask questions to the superintendent, or her designee, about the presentation. Adoption of new policies or amendments to existing policies requires two readings and a majority vote (2.2). Meetings are recorded live and are available for public viewing on Richland Two’s YouTube channel and a public access channel, R2TV. Meetings are often covered and reported on by local media.
Board members receive orientation and training regarding their roles and responsibilities (2.2). Not only does Richland Two provide this training to newly elected and returning board members, but it also provides a district overview and orientation for those who file to run for a vacant Board seat. New members are required by state law to attend a training program provided by the SCSBA within one year of taking office. SCSBA also offers continuing training to Board members through seminars, workshops, board retreats, and conferences. In addition to these development opportunities and bi-monthly meetings, the Board also attends regularly scheduled work sessions to dive deeper into functional components of operation, planning, and goal-setting (2.2). All board members have been active participants in the SCSBA’s Boardsmanship Institute. The Board and superintendent often use legal counsel to ensure that the district is in compliance with legal mandates. In addition, attorneys attend and present updates to law and high-profile matters at Richland Two’s administrative inservice each July and throughout the year as needed. Thus, all administrators are updated on critical topics of importance and the potential for liability is minimized (2.6).
Upon recommendation from the superintendent, the Board provides for the allocation of human, instructional, financial, and other resources to support the district’s vision, mission, and beliefs (2.3). The district places an emphasis on supporting the instructional program through all available funding avenues to include state and federal monies and grants. Each year all executive staff members representing their respective departments and areas propose new programs/positions and request funds to be allocated for them (2.6). Annual audits are conducted in accordance with generally accepted audit standards. The district maintains a reserve balance adequate to handle any unexpected financial emergency, the required and adequate insurance to protect its financial obligations and stability, and general liability insurance to protect the district and its employees.
Actions to Sustain Areas of Strength
Richland Two has advocates for the district’s vision and continuous improvement efforts. Leadership operates under a code of ethics that is free from conflict of interest and puts the needs of our students at the forefront of decisions concerning roles and responsibilities of staff (2.4). Leaders provide direction and systematically allocate resources to implement curricular and co-curricular programs that enable students to achieve expectations for their learning. Leaders encourage collaboration and shared responsibility for system and school improvement among stakeholders (2.5). To ensure quality communication and consistent collaboration, executive staff meet each week and key leaders meet each month throughout the school year.
Richland Two has clear policies for employees and personnel located in Section B of the policy manual that address School Board Governance and Operations. These policies provide clear guidance for governance effectiveness (2.2). The Board employs Halligan, Mahoney & Williams, P.A., for legal advice on an as needed basis.
By expanding communication opportunities, Richland Two solicits the needed collaboration with essential partners such as, Richland County Council, Midlands Technical College, Richland Library, and the Greater Columbia Chamber of Commerce for the continued improvement of the district, the schools, and the overall community. Several members of school/district leadership volunteer their time and service with local groups such as Rotary and Lions Clubs. In addition, the superintendent holds regular meetings with multiple stakeholder groups, such as the Business Education Alliance, Kitchen Cabinet, and Faculty Advisory Committee, to share information about the district as well as to solicit feedback and input on future initiatives. Richland Two’s Student or Parent page on its website has a wealth of information made available to our stakeholders to include student handbooks, partnerships, and volunteer opportunities. One parent commented in the AdvancED Stakeholder Survey, “I appreciate the effort made by administrators to communicate with parents and make it easier for parents to be involved with the school(s).” (2.5).
The superintendent releases a motivational message each year connected to her Four Squares vision — Learning, Character, Community, and Joy. In addition, she and Board members spend the first two to three days of each school year visiting every school (see pictures) to wish everyone a happy return and to reinforce the vision. The superintendent also hosts an annual State of the District event to provide an annual update on the most recent recognitions of the students, faculty, and schools throughout the district as well as to share her vision for the goals and initiatives for the near future. Stakeholders and business partners throughout Richland Two come together with Richland Two staff for an engaging evening (2.5).
The Board and district leadership recognize that education today requires far more than world-class knowledge. In order for our students to be “college and career ready,” learning and knowledge must be accompanied by world-class skills and life and career characteristics found within the Profile of the South Carolina Graduate. In addition, the superintendent utilizes achievement data to identify areas of success and needed improvement as well as to formulate strategic improvement efforts (2.6).
“Data Era 5” was launched in the fall of 2015 as an initiative that systematically uses achievement and stakeholder data to identify areas in need of advancement and improvement (2.6). Principals were trained on how this new initiative should work at the district level as well as at the school level. Each principal developed a Data Era 5 plan after meeting with the Chief Instructional Officer and her team members for review. Together, they crafted a plan for addressing the specific areas for improvement and will include how the academic support team will assist in these efforts at each school site. While the approach is consistent throughout the district, schools have the autonomy to identify their most significant concerns and how they plan to address them. This system-wide approach is important for us to ensure consistency but we also value the individual planning efforts of each school. A variety of philosophies and approaches exist throughout Richland Two as each school’s leadership team plans how to best meet the needs of their student population (2.3). One teacher commented in the AdvancED Stakeholder Survey, “I enjoy collaborating with the people I work with on a regular basis to improve the lessons I teach &[and] reach each child where they need to be reached. I enjoy the support from administration when it comes to needing input on decisions I am making in the classroom.”
As Richland Two continues to grow at a rapid pace, the superintendent recognizes that leadership development is critically important for sustained success and progress. Several programs exist that not only prepare individuals for moving into leadership positions but also to demonstrate leadership from the position they are in: Leading Up, R2 Innovates, Teachers of Promise, Administrator Development Series, and the Assistant Principal Academy (2.4).
Areas in Need of Improvement
Richland Two needs to continue to clearly identify and monitor district goals that align with student learning, and link those goals with school actions. Leadership must strategically invite and involve stakeholders for identifying these goals and monitoring strategies and results. Overall, Richland Two must continue to focus on building school and district leaders’ understanding of instructional leadership and their ability to apply that leadership with teachers and students. It is clear with our focus and movement into Data Era 5, the district must model what is being asked of our schools.
Actions to Improve Areas of Need
Through new systems, applied professional learning, coaching, and targeted leadership development, the district will achieve outcomes-oriented continuous improvement. We will continue to build a system that strongly links school goals with the district vision, goals, and outcomes. Stakeholders will play a vital role in developing goals as well as providing input into school and district improvement strategies as evidenced through our recent strategic planning work.
Second, because leadership support and development across all levels is central to continuous improvement, Richland Two, with the support of the South Carolina Department of Education, is building an annual innovative professional learning cycle which begins with a Summer Leadership Institute followed by a year-long applied learning series. The applied learning series is structured with two important components: 1) monthly professional learning modules where principals apply module tasks in their schools, and 2) coaching and accountability for those tasks by assistant superintendents who supervise schools and principals. Each year, the Summer Leadership Institute and applied professional learning series will be focused on an aspect of instructional leadership vital to improved district outcomes. For the 2017–2018 school year, the district’s focus, beginning with its Summer 2017 Leadership Institute, will be improvement of principals’ ability to identify, analyze, coach, and support their teachers on data use for learning improvement.