Dr. Sean Alford mug-sean-alford

Dr. Sean Alford

With the start of the new school year now squarely in our rear-view mirror, I would like to share some thoughts in today’s column centered on – Delivering on the Promise.

Over the past three years, my guest columns have served as a vehicle through which I have done my very best to communicate our organization’s vision, goals and success. From encouraging a focus on unity in our entire school system through an "All Means All" mentality and perspective, to celebrating the passion and great big hearts of our teachers during a successful #WhyITeach campaign, my goal as superintendent has always been to provide our community with a clear vision aimed to move us forward together as an organization and promote positivity in our school district and the Aiken County community.

Today’s focus will be "Delivering on the Promise." When I accepted the position of superintendent in Aiken County in July 2015, I put together an entry plan that highlighted some primary goals. These goals are where I begin this column.

Increase organizational effectiveness and efficiency and ensure high performance and support to schools.

Create opportunities to listen to stakeholders and gain a comprehensive understanding of the district and school community.

Emphasize a focus on the acquisition of employable skills and “solution-driven” service.

During my time as superintendent, we have taken deliberate steps to enhance our efficiency and improve support to our schools. This has included reducing the number of district staff members working at our administrative office and moving those positions back into our schools. Our school leaders and teachers have also participated in leadership development courses designed to enhance their unique strengths as leaders. Our school building projects – those that have been a part of the community’s additional investment through the penny sales tax and school bond referendum, as well as many others – have completed almost exclusively on time and under budget.

We have made an intentional effort to listen to the ideas and concerns of our parents and students, faculty and staff, and community members through hundreds of town hall, teacher forum and advisory council meetings, while also providing many leadership and oversight opportunities to all through open access to community committees and invitations to our teachers to participate in teacher-led curriculum improvement projects. We have taken a number of relevant actions, including revisiting our Student Code of Conduct through a community-led committee, as a direct result of community discussions. We’ve been known to “Amp The Appreciation” for our employees, and our school district now honors more of its employees than it ever has through a number of award programs that recognize certified teachers, as well as bus drivers, secretaries, school food service workers and other classified support staff members.

As an organization, we have worked very hard to expand traditional definitions of student success after high school. In collaboration with the community, we created the Innovision Award-winning AIKEN WORKS program to celebrate the traditional path to success of a four-year college, while also bringing awareness to alternative pathways to success such as a high-paying skilled trade, a two-year college experience or military service. Other programs, such as the Early College program at Midland Valley High School and the Aiken Scholars Academy, allow high-achieving students to obtain post-secondary credits and degrees at no cost to themselves or their parents. Our goal continues to be to provide job creators with “solution-driven” students with employable skills who are capable of performing as valued team members, not just graduates who have reached a minimum academic standard qualifying them to receive a high school diploma.

I would like to say thank you to each and every Aiken County Public Schools faculty member, staff member and student for the hard work and commitment to excellence shown during my tenure as superintendent. Statewide assessment scores will be released this fall and will be a definitive example of the great strides we’ve made together.

Our many Aiken County business and community partners have been amazing in rallying around our schools and supporting them as the beacons of learning and reflections of community they represent.

I thank you, Aiken County, for the opportunity to serve and for your support of our organization and our mission to provide future-ready students to serve our evolving community and world.

#ONETEAM

By Dr. Sean Alford is the superintendent of Aiken County Public Schools.