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DECATUR — With its new members seated and officers chosen, the Decatur Board of Education is ready to focus on some chief priorities: workforce readiness and continuing to stay on schedule with the sweeping strategic plan announced last year.

Beth Nolan was unanimously elected president, formerly held by Dan Oakes, who will now serve as a board member. Nolan had been vice president, a role now held by Courtney Carson. 

"The goal is to continue the momentum we've had going for the last couple of years and congeal as a seven-person unit with our new members," Nolan said.

New to the board are Decatur attorney Regan Lewis and Andrew Taylor, economic development officer for the Economic Development Corp. of Decatur and Macon County. The pair, along with Oakes, took their oath of office Tuesday, officially replacing former members Brian Hodges and Sherri Perkins who both decided not to seek re-election. The other two seats are held by Kendall Briscoe and Beth Creighton, who were elected in 2017.

The new board will be tasked with continuing to carry out the district's strategic plan, a comprehensive, five-year plan. By taking a whole-student approach, re-imagining the use of facilities and pursuing other goals, Decatur leaders aim to make it a "destination district" for families. 

Oakes said the board will have their hands full with the workload of the consolidation of schools over the next four years. Schools currently undergoing consolidation include Thomas Jefferson Middle School and Stephen Decatur Middle School. The plan ultimately calls for reducing the number of district buildings from 22 to 17, ensuring that all buildings have air conditioning and expanding the capacity for some popular programs, such as Dennis School and the district's Montessori programs. 

“Our immediate future is all set and looking good, but it will be time soon to start looking at what the sixth and seventh years might look like,” Oakes said.

Lewis said she hopes the board can continue to prioritize the strategic plan schedule and minimize any potential delays.

“I think prioritizing the schedule is a focus for me, but also to continue to engage with the community and hear their concerns and where they would like to see change,” she said.

Taylor, whose job involves working with and recruiting businesses, said his primary focus will be on students’ workforce readiness. Employers expect to hire people with problem-solving skills, and Taylor said he wants DPS students to be well-versed in those areas.

“I want to make sure our students are prepared to pursue a four-year degree or enter the workforce after leaving DPS,” he said.

Carson said he is confident in the board continuing to keep the strategic plan on track and doing so as a team.

"We will continue to go through with the strategic plan, but also continue providing healthy education for students and ensuring the taxpayers dime is well spent," he said. 

Contact Analisa Trofimuk at (217) 421-7985. Follow her on Twitter: @AnalisaTro

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