Greenwood County School District 50 trustees spent time during a daylong retreat discussing possible changes to its vision and mission statement.
While several ideas were tossed out during Saturday’s meeting, a single theme emerged: Don’t be scared.
“This is part of the culture change. You cannot be afraid to speak up for fear of retribution,” trustee Clay Sprouse said. “We’re working with a clean slate. Can Greenwood 50 really separate itself from the rest of the pack? Absolutely.”
For Sprouse, the words are an echo of his 2018 run for the seat. On the campaign trail, he frequently remarked upon spiraling morale among the district’s teachers.
“Teachers are scared to death to come to the table and talk about what they honestly need,” he said during an October candidate forum. The following month, Sprouse defeated longtime District 50 chairman Shell Dula.
Trustee Claude Wright on Saturday repeated Sprouse’s claim nearly verbatim during the getaway.
“Teachers are afraid to speak out. They think their jobs are on the line,” he said.
“Because up until now, they have been,” said Hillary Craigo.
Trustees said assuring the district’s long-term success can only come with investment from all corners of the community, from businesses and parent teacher associations to support staff and students themselves.
“We’ve got to make sure that we let those children know we’re not failing them,” trustee Johanna Bishop said. “There’s got to be a way to reach each child because once we do that, all of the numbers are going to go up. That’ll help across the board, but I think we as a whole community are going to have to do what we can to support our kids.”
Superintendent Steve Glenn said his role is to weigh the needs in each school and place the best staff members there to allow for thriving classrooms. Sometimes, he said, that requires relocating teachers from one building to another, but not at the expense of quashing creative ideas and team building.
“In education, we come out with so many new things and they go away and then 10 years later, a new version of it comes back up. There’s not the buy-in there with your vision and mission from educators like there are from businesses, because there’s so much change coming, and that’s something that’s going to take time,” he said. “I think you do have a vision, and I think that vision is very clear, and I think we have to make it stick. As superintendent, I’m very cognizant of the fact you have to build teams and you have to have people you like to work with if you’re going to be as successful as you can possibly be.”
Trustees also spoke about getting more involved on social media platforms such as Facebook and Instagram, creating opportunities for the district to expand its online presence and resonate with younger students.
“We have a vision statement and a mission statement, but there’s nothing wrong with having a motto. And maybe ours is, ‘failure is not an option,’” trustee Ken Cobb said.