GUILFORD COUNTY, N.C. (WGHP) — After meeting with more than 8,000 students, parents, teachers and community members, the Guilford County Schools superintendent is taking what she’s heard and putting it into action.

On Tuesday night, Dr. Whitney Oakley announced the district’s new strategic direction.

There are four areas district leaders will focus on:

  • accelerating learning
  • recruiting, retaining and rewarding top talent
  • strengthening health, wellness and safety in schools
  • preparing students for the world

Dr. Oakley said there’s a lot of work ahead, but she believes addressing these issues will benefit the entire county.

“Our new strategic direction is not just GCS’ strategic direction or the superintendent’s strategic direction,” Dr. Oakley said. “It’s the strategic direction of our community because public education belongs to all of us.”

Dr. Oakley shared with parents, staff members and students her plan to move Guilford County Schools forward. Hundreds of people sat in the Steven Tanger Center for the Performing Arts in Downtown Greensboro Tuesday night.

“I thought it was very well planned out,” said Caren Montgomery, a GCS parent. “It included just about everything that we needed.”

The first part of the plan is to make sure students get back up to grade level post-pandemic.

“We cannot address learning recovery and transform learning outcomes for students without our people,” Dr. Oakley said.

That’s why part of Dr. Oakley’s direction includes giving staff livable wages and creating an environment where they feel appreciated. Many educators in the crowd agreed.

“Historically, that’s been important, but it’s time to do something really significant about it,” said Ann Kyle, a teacher at Alderman Elementary School.

Another investment is in technology. Over the next year, GCS will add 5,000 cameras and put Evolv touchless scanners in all 21 middle schools across the district to make campuses safer.

“I have also experienced my daughters having that scare, and it shakes you up,” Montgomery said. “I think that is a very important idea.”

District leaders will put $15 million toward mental health resources over the next five years and expand telehealth options. All of these pieces will benefit the end goal of making students successful.

“North Carolina is the number one in business, but we must prepare our students to compete in a global economy,” Dr. Oakley said.

She ended her presentation with a call to action.

“We need your help to make Guilford County Schools the best place to learn, work and grow,” she said. “Strong schools make strong communities. We can do it together.”

There are several construction projects underway to create better physical learning environments for students and staff.

Dr. Oakley said she wants these new schools to be places where students can explore various career paths, making sure they have all the tools needed to get jobs upon graduation.