SACS: DeKalb schools “making material progress”
DeKalb County parents may feel more confident in the school system when they drop their students off for the first day of classes. AdvancED President and CEO Mark A. Elgart said in a 12-page report the DeKalb County School District is continuing to make “material progress” in confronting recent challenges and completing required actions mandated by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. The report was conducted by AdvancED, the parent company of SACS.
“Overall, the school system is making great strides in creating steps that focus on serving the needs of the children in the DeKalb County School District,” Elgart said in his review. “Under the leadership of this Superintendent and Board of Education, the school system is progressing in its effort to improve its organizational and instructional effectiveness.”
DeKalb Schools Superintendent Michael Thurmond said he was pleased with the results from AdvancED and SACS.
“We are encouraged that AdvancEd has taken note of the progress we’ve made in stabilizing the system and re-directing our focus on the growth and achievement of our 100,000 students,” said Superintendent Thurmond. “We will continue to build on our momentum, because there is much more work that needs to be done.”
AdvancEd also acknowledged the fiscal progress the school system has made, noting that “as a result of sounder financial management, realistic budget forecasting and more rigid cost controls,” a $14-million deficit in fiscal year 2012 turned into a surplus of $10.8 million just one year later. For fiscal year 2015, the district projects a fund balance of more than $20 million.
According to SACS, “Board meetings are once again focused on the needs and issues impacting the growth and academic success of the students of DeKalb County. The meetings are professional and collegial. Even when board members are not in agreement with each other or have difficult questions for the staff, there is a new atmosphere of respect. This is enabling the Board to govern more effectively and keep its focus on the important issues facing the school system.”
DeKalb School Board Chairman Melvin Johnson said he is confident that the “atmosphere of respect” noted by AdvancEd will remain.
“We will have stringent training protocols in place for new board members to ensure our meetings remain professional and collegial,” Johnson said. “And when we embark on a national search for a new superintendent, we will ensure that the process is open, transparent and focused on finding the best CEO to build on the legacy of Mr. Thurmond and the current board.”
In October 2012, AdvancEd challenged the district to address 11 “required actions” in order to improve its accreditation status, and subsequent directives raised the number to 14. Of those, nine have been completed, with AdvancEd reporting that steady progress is being made on the remaining five.
“While the school system has made tremendous progress in fiscal management, governance, systemic change management, technology, and the implementation of the strategic plan, the dominant factor will be sustainability as leadership changes occur in the coming year,” the AdvancED report said.
A Back-to-School message from Rockdale’s Superintendent
Dear Parents, Students, and Community,
For the past two years, I have been sharing the Vision for the Future of Education in Rockdale County with all investors in public education including parents, educators, community members, government leaders and our students. I have been sharing our framework for personalized learning through increased specialty and choice options, our plan to reinvent the advisement process, and our One to One initiative (one electronic device per student and teacher) which will transform teaching and learning through the use of advanced technology.
We created the Model for Continuous Growth, which you can see inside the front cover, to help you visually understand the comprehensive direction of our vision through our strategic plan. Embedded in this plan are also improvements in technology, school facilities, and enhanced security measures to ensure the safety of our schools. With the recent community support of E- SPLOST IV, we are able to begin to realize the vision for our future...now. On behalf of our students and staff, we thank you.
Four new specialty and choice options were made available for this school year and over 300 students will be attending schools outside their attendance zone this fall. The programs initiated this year include the Performing and Visual Arts Academy at Davis Middle School, the Performing and Visual Arts Academy at Heritage High School, the Institute of Advanced Technology at Rockdale County High School, and the Business and Leadership Academy at Salem High School.
Existing choice programs include the AVID college preparatory program at Sims Elementary, STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) focus at Honey Creek Elementary, IB and advanced learning focus at C.J. Hicks Elementary, and the STEM Academy for Environmental Studies at Memorial Middle School. Several more schools are completing the development of additional choice options which will be available next year and beyond.
Please pardon our progress as construction projects funded by E-SPLOST are underway at Edwards and Conyers middle schools to provide additional space to accommodate future specialty programs in health and medical sciences and technology engineering respectively, as well as upgrade the outdated theatre and cafeteria spaces.
School safety and security remains our top priority and we continue to seek ways to provide the highest level of security in our buildings while maintaining a welcoming atmosphere. This summer we installed controlled access entrances at many of our schools and will continue to aggressively implement our plan until all schools have controlled access. Controlled access may be in the form of a buzz-in door entry or a new wall directing visitors into the office and not allowing free access to the rest of the building.
We ask that you assist with our enhanced security measures by adhering to the visitor sign-in and -out requirements at your school. We are providing additional personnel at our secondary schools to work in conjunction with our School Resource Officers to assist with emergency preparedness, school safety plans and training, and enforcement of the Student Discipline Code of Conduct.
As always, we encourage parents and community members to become engaged in our schools. Research clearly shows that children do better in school when parents are involved and take an active role in their child’s education. We also believe that volunteers and mentors can make a profound difference in a child’s life and hope you will consider finding a way to share a little bit of yourself in our schools.
As superintendent, I pledge to work cooperatively with you as we continue to build an education system in which ALL children have the opportunity to learn, be successful, and graduate high school with an advantage in higher learning and in the work force. It is amazing to consider that RCPS graduated 1,061 seniors in May 2014. These students were offered a total of $19.6 million in scholarships. I am proud to be superintendent of a school district in a community that values the impact of how education can change lives and generations. It’s going to be another great year at RCPS!
Richard Autry,Superintendent Rockdale County Public Schools
Shiloh High School tapped for International Bachelorette program
Students at Shiloh High School will start classes with a new opportunity. The Gwinnett County high school recently became Gwinnett’s first school to be approved for an International Baccalaureate Career-Related Certificate Programme, or IBCC.
The IBCC Programme is designed to help students become self-confident, internationally minded, while incorporating the vision and educational principles of the program, as they become engaged in their chosen career-related studies.
“The IBCC Programme aims to provide students with both an academic and practical foundation to support both their rigorous academia and specialized training in their career-pathway,” said Shiloh Principal Eric Parker. “IBCC combines highly regarded and internationally-recognized IB Diploma Programme courses with an approved career-related study and a unique IBCC core, which includes approaches to learning, community and service, language development, and a reflective project.”
Shiloh High’s first class of IBCC will begin its studies when school starts in August. At completion of the IBCC Programme, these students will earn an IBCCcertificate and a possible college credit in their coursework.
For more information, contact Jamilya Mayo, Shiloh High’s IBCC Coordinator, at 770-736-4359 or visit http://shilohhighib.onmycalendar.com.
Exousia Lighthouse sets Back To School Bash
Exosia Lighthouse International Christian Ministries, 2562 Bond St., Lithonia, will host a “Back To School Bash” on Saturday, Aug. 16, 2 – 6 p.m.
School supplies, including paper, pencils, pens, markers, rulers and other materials will be given as supplies last. Along with supplies, attendees can enjoy free hot dogs and drinks, and fire truck demonstrations. 770-695-0167.
New Hope Christian’s Youth Ministry ready for Back to School rally
New Hope Christian Ministries’ Youth Department will host a Back to School Rally on Saturday, July 26, 10 a.m. – 1 p.m.
The church will have educators on site to address any questions or concerns related to students who are transitioning from elementary to middle school, middle school to high school or even those who are entering school for the very first time.
This event is being sponsored by General Electric, which is donating book bags as well as basic school supplies. In addition to book bags and school supplies, guests will receive a small gift on behalf of the church’s pastor, Richard A. Leaphart.
The church is located at 1738 Fairview Road, Stockbridge. For more information, call Sabrina Allen Scott at 678-368-3929.