New CSD superintendent shares 90-day review

City Schools of Decatur’s newest superintendent had a busy schedule over the past three months, and she recently shared what she’s been up to, what she’s learned, and how her first 90 days on the job will shape her steps and goals for the school district moving forward.

Dr. Gyimah Whitaker presented her observations at a recent City Schools of Decatur (CSD) Board of Education meeting, held Oct. 10. “Like every effective leader, I am a learner,” said Whitaker, who took on the role of CSD superintendent in July.

Whitaker said part of her agenda for her first 90 days in her new role was speaking with as many students, teachers, staff, and community members as possible. She said she achieved this goal by visiting each CSD school, having one-on-one meetings with each CSD board of education member, and hosting a series of in-person and virtual meetings that the public was invited to attend.

“These sessions highlighted opportunities for growth,” said Whitaker. “In every quadrant of this district, there seems to be a consensus on communication, salaries and compensation, equity, services for students with special needs, the grading structure and the need for a safe and inclusive environment where every student can thrive.”

Closing overall achievement gaps, especially in literacy, as well as more open communication between CSD officials and staff and the public, is needed to reach this consensus, said Whitaker.

“Meeting these goals will involve staff revisiting schools and reviewing the alignment of curriculum, plus adding assessments, professional development opportunities and more central office support,” said Whitaker.

Designing and implementing an at-risk reporting system to intervene as a student begins to struggle, will also be a priority, said Whitaker.

“Implementing interventions is not the sole responsibility of one person at a school,” she said. “It is a team effort where all staff who teach that student utilizes evidence-based interventions and receives the support to do so.”

Whitaker also said to foster more professional CSD communications with the community, a chief communication officer was hired and additional advisory councils for schools have been organized. More videos, graphics, newsletters, and social media posts relating to CSD will also be implemented, according to Whitaker.

After the superintendent’s presentation, members of the CSD board of education thanked Whitaker for her “transparency.”

“Everything you’ve presented has a focus on better student outcomes and we thank you for that,” said one board of education member. “We all have the same goal of our students being the best and brightest they can be.”

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