On Friday of last week, evil visited Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. On Saturday, authorities put together more of the pieces of the puzzle to explain what happened inside Sandy Hook one day after a gunman opened fire and killed 20 students and 6 adults.
Since that time we have reflected on what this means for us. One news commentator said that the day before the shooting she was at her child's elementary school. As the PTA meeting was ending, the principal said "…thank you for entrusting us with your child…our student." The commentator reflected that those words took on new meaning after the horrific events on Friday. Parents do entrust their children's lives with our teachers and school administrators every school day.
To remember the victims, our flags are flying at half-staff until Tuesday evening. We are wearing green ribbons as requested by the Newtown, Connecticut, community.
Please increase your level of observation, and let's continue to take care of one another and our students as you always have. I have asked Jim Smith, assistant superintendent, to review our emergency operations plan for any adjustments that need to be made. We will seek best practices for providing security in our schools. Besides having preplanning review of the emergency operations plan, we will now have at least three emergency operation drills throughout the year. In post planning, we will review our plans and drills to see if there are modifications that need to be made.
I remain convinced that the best way for deterring this type of action here in our community is for us to take care of one another. Students know more about what other students are thinking than we adults do. As we continue to increase our relationships with students and earn their trust, they will share with us their concerns. We should take their concerns seriously and act on them accordingly. We also know there are adults who have issues and there are people in our community who know who those individuals are. They, too, will share information with us as we increase our relationships and levels of trust with them. The best way to respond is to depend more on one another, to increase our relationships and communication and to respond appropriately.
I have great confidence in you and so do the parents and community of Griffin-Spalding County Schools. Please know your safety and the safety of our students remain at the forethought as we maintain a safe learning environment in GSCS. If you have any concerns or questions or suggestions, don't hesitate to let your supervisor or me know.
|[ << prev ]||[ next >> ]|
Originally published in the January 6, 2012, Communicator.
Happy New Year!
Once again we usher in a new year with great promise and potential. I believe this will be the best year that we've ever had. As we look forward to 2012, we say goodbye to 2011. Even though 2011 was a tough year economically, a lot of good things were accomplished. I hope you take time to reflect on what was good and what can be improved. Simple reflection is good for all of us.
As I reflected, one thought that I had was that the Griffin-Spalding County School System is one where students feel safe. It's a place where caring adults reach out to children and help them learn. You're very good at that. We're lucky that you're here with us.
As I was looking at the Griffin Daily News yesterday (and as I heard on the radio) not all students find school a safe place. There was an article with the headline, "Police killed armed 8th grader in school". This occurred in Brownsville, Texas. The student apparently had something that looked like a weapon, and law enforcement told him to put it down. He did not, and when they believed their lives were at risk, law enforcement officers took action. At least that is how I understand the story.
I share this with you because there have been occasions here in our own school system where individuals have brought weapons to school, and our law enforcement agencies have told me that they are going to do all they can to protect students - but within reason. And I understand that.
We have to continue making our schools, classrooms, playgrounds, and busses places where our students are safe. Students need to know not to bring weapons to schools, and that there are adults at school they can turn to for help.
We need to work harder to make sure that our elementary students understand that, even at that level, they cannot bring weapons to school. Over the years I've seen more and more occasions where students have gone from bringing scissors to bringing butter knives to bringing more serious items. We owe it to our students and their parents to let them know that this is serious business.
If our schools are going to be safe, we must forever be on the lookout to see warning signs. Students need to know they can come to us with their problems. We have to create trusting relationships with our students so we can all be safe.
I close this first-of-the-year message by wishing each and every one of you a very happy and prosperous New Year! It is great to have you back. The weather has changed - and one thing about being in this part of the country is that we get to see four seasons. Let's celebrate what we have with this one.
It is a good time to be in the Griffin-Spalding County School System!
Have a great weekend!
Originally published on Tuesday, December 19, 2011
I received an email last week with a little monograph entitled "Keeping Christmas" that I want to share with you. So often, we (I) get caught up in the moment of "Daring to do Better" that some of the "other things" that make us special get left out. "Keeping Christmas" helps me put things in perspective and I hope you find it helpful also.
by Henry Van Dyke (1852-1933) American author, educator, and clergyman
It is a good thing to observe Christmas day. The mere marking of times and seasons, when men agree to stop work and make merry together, is a wise and wholesome custom. It helps one to feel the supremacy of the common life over the individual life. It reminds a man to set his own little watch, now and then, by the great clock of humanity which runs on sun time.
But there is a better thing than the observance of Christmas day, and that is, keeping Christmas.
Then you can keep Christmas.
Then you can keep Christmas.
Are you willing to believe that love is the strongest thing in the world-stronger than hate, stronger than evil, stronger than death?
Then you can keep Christmas.
And, if you keep it for a day, why not always? But you can never keep it alone.
And please know that my most sincere wish for you, is for you and your family to have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.
Do you know the 1st habit?
Originally published on December 16, 2011
As some you may know, I am a fan of Stephen Covey, who wrote a book called, "The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People". One of the habits is to be proactive.
This week, our board of education demonstrated that it was being proactive when Pete Graham, Barbara Jo Cook, and James Westbury met with our Georgia general assembly local delegation to discuss our budget situation and how the delegation can support the Griffin-Spalding County School System. The members of the delegation we met with were Representatives John Yates and David Knight, and Senator Ronnie Chance.
Assistant Superintendent and CFO Jim Smith led the round-table discussion. He provided documents that highlighted the state funding synopsis showing legislators our revenue and how funding and austerity reductions have led to a current short fall of $6.4 million. In 2012, our total QBE funding is a little over $39 million. But this amount only represents about 84% of what Georgia should appropriate to the Griffin-Spalding County School System based on the QBE law.
We also shared with the local delegation the measures we've already taken to respond to the funding shortfall. We shared how:
We also shared our board of education's adopted legislative priorities . This was important so they know our perspective. It was open conversation that helped build relationships with our delegation, and I believe it allowed them to better understand the Griffin-Spalding County School System.
After the session was over, some delegation members remained to continue to the conversation. The meeting lasted almost an extra hour. Overall, it was a good conversation with good people trying to do what's best for education in our system.
I commend the board of education for being proactive and for inviting the local delegation to meet with us to share our concerns as well as hear their concerns. The delegation made several good points about the budgeting situation at the state level, where the priorities are, why they are there, and that public education, percentage-wise, has remained one of the largest budget items at about 60% - and we heard that loud and clear.
I think all in the room were able to state their case. I thank Jim Smith and Ryan McLemore for putting together an outstanding presentation.
On another topic, this past August, the board offered me a new contract with an additional 15 days; however, I am not getting paid for these days. This was my choice. After realizing that tough budget decisions are going to have to be made, I voluntarily made this decision.
In regards to work schedule adjustment days, I chose this year, as I have done in past years, to have my pay cut by the same number of days that your days were cut.
There is nothing in my contract about getting a bonus if schools make AYP or anything close to this - no performance incentives whatsoever.
Have a great weekend!
This week, most of the cost reduction teams met to begin their work. Some of the feedback I have received so far about the sessions has been encouraging, but some has been disappointing. So this week I want to address where we are in the process and where we are going.
Some have asked, "What is the process?" We are using the GSCS protocol for team-based improvement . As you review the protocol you will see that our SMART (specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and timely) goal is to reduce the FY 2013 budget by $6.2 million. The five teams that are working are Better Seeking Solutions Teams (BSST). These teams are comprised of individuals who represent you, including administrators, teachers, and classified staff. They are on the second row of the protocol. They are studying the high leverage causes of our budget shortfall that we have control over. They are also going to determine different solutions to the causes. This protocol we're using came from the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement (GLISI).
So, let's address some rumors.
Rumor #1: Gifted program is moving back to elementary schools.
My view: This is the time to reassess our gifted education model. Does it serve our gifted students everyday in the best way possible? How well has it helped our students? Is there a better way to meet each child's need? Is there a more effective funding model for more FTE dollars? Are we letting our current good model get in the way of a great model? I don't know these answers, and the BSST can help answer them.
Rumor #2: Pre-K is moving into the Enrichment Center. That is why Pre-K is on the SPLOST list the Board of Education just approved.
My view: The Board of Education was legally required to act this week if the SPLOST is going to be placed on the ballot in March. We think some improvements to the Enrichment Center will occur because some program will be there. Perhaps gifted. Perhaps Pre-K. We wanted to be upfront with these possible concepts and to allow as much flexibility as possible. If no program is in that building, we will skip the project and use the education SPLOST funds (if approved) on other projects on our Five-Year Facility Plan.
Rumor #3: Moore Elementary and Beaverbrook Elementary are on the list for consolidation. That is why they are not on the education SPLOST project list.
My view: WHAT?!?! We don't have the capacity to close two schools - at least I don't think so. Moore Elementary and Beaverbrook Elementary are included on the Five-Year Facility plan. In addition, I've had employees at other schools tell me that their school will be closed. If the BSSTs recommend consolidation, we will use a justifiable process. These two schools are not on the education SPLOST project list because we anticipate collecting only $25 million over three years. Both of these schools were reroofed recently. Please don't let your fears run wild.
Some BSST members have said, "I don't want to decide anything that will cause people to lose their job." You can't say you want to be included, and then not want to make a recommendation, that you'd rather just be told what to do. We can't have it both ways.
I also think it is unfair to say, "You already know what you're going to do and the BSST are not really going to be listened to for advice." We have worked hard to make this an open process with open communication, but the subject is messy. I am committed to listening to everyone, but we all should remember that this isn't a vote. I am charged to make a recommendation to the Board of Education, and the BSST is the protocol I am using to form my recommendations.
This is a difficult time. Some are calling school board members now. Others are making things up. I understand. The unknown is scary. I ask that you look at what we have done and said over the last two years. When times get tough, we respond by going back to what we know:
But I know my heart. I know our efforts to be open and transparent. I know our efforts to build trust. I know the culture we are trying to build and maintain. That is why we are going through this process in this way.
This is hard. Some will not like all of my recommendations or the Board of Education's decisions. But I am committed to doing what's right. I dare myself to stay true to this, and I dare you to join us.
A note about the proposed School SPLOST IV (Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax)
During a called board of education meeting on Tuesday, the board approved my recommendation to ask Spalding County voters to vote on a proposed School SPLOST IV, which would continue the 1 penny sales tax for schools currently in effect. It would raise between $25 and $30 million over a three year period and would fund technology improvements and facility renovations and upgrades starting July 2012.
I would like to give you some background on the proposed School SPLOST IV project list. About 15 years ago, we made a commitment to Griffin-Spalding citizens that we would get our facilities up to a better standard and that we would not allow them to deteriorate.
The idea of doing School SPLOST IV started over a year ago as we studied what to do when the current School SPLOST III ends. Discussions last year were that we would like to continue it and a project list needed to be developed. We're now at the point where some of the schools that have been built and/or renovated at that 15-year mark need some updating.
The board of education approved the state-required 5-Year Facility Plan at its June 7, 2011, meeting. Our facility plan was then approved by the state on July 21, 2011. It's our idea of what projects need to be done to get every building to an acceptable level. We also need to respond to changes in technology.
The proposed School SPLOST IV is a small subset of that Five-Year Facility Plan. It covers about $25 million worth of projects that we believe would best help us during this next 3-year period. Some expressed concerns that the School SPLOST IV didn't cover all schools. We understand those concerns and would have liked to include more projects. However, when comparing a 5-year SPLOST to a 3-year School SPLOST based upon our current funding situation, we believed the short one would demonstrate to voters that we're asking for only what is needed to maintain our facilities and to prepare 21st century classrooms.
It was a close board of education vote, and I thank them for allowing us to move forward. I wanted to share these School SPLOST IV details because you are critical to its success, and I believe the more you know about it the more you can tell your families, friends, and others why we need facility and technology upgrades.
I know that without the passage of School SPLOST IV it will be more difficult for us to Dare to do Better. Resources are needed. We need the community to help us. We need you to help.
(Originally published in the Friday, November 18, gscs COMMUNICATOR)
When I became superintendent in 2009, a personal goal I set was for the Griffin-Spalding County School System to become more of a school system and less a system of schools. In conversations with principals and teachers, perception was that we had some schools that were doing well and others that weren't. I wanted us to establish a band of excellence so that no matter where students went to school or where teachers taught, we knew that we were a school system helping one another. That thought has been in the back of my mind for the last two years.
We've made great strides in that effort. We have:
All of those efforts are trying to help us become a more unified school system. This week, it all came together and validated the work that you and I have being doing the last two years. We were able to celebrate the best AYP results that our school system has had since No Child Left Behind was created. 17 of our 18 schools made AYP - 94% - that's a tremendous achievement especially when you consider less than 75% of schools in the state made AYP.
The AYP results are tribute to the hard work you have done. But, it's also an indication of the sharing and learning happening between schools, grade levels, and departments. You've participated in care meetings. You've come together to create common assessments and benchmarks. Truly, you've transformed the way you operate. You've transformed the way you learn and the way you help students achieve. So, I sent a cake to your school to celebrate AYP. I hope you also saw that as part of our effort to say, "We are the Griffin-Spalding County School System".
This week we also had the visit from the AdvancEd SACS-CASI Accreditation Team. They reviewed the work you have performed for the last 5 years, and they saw tremendous growth. Their recommendation is that we be fully reaccredited. We look forward to getting the final report in 30 days. The team-chairman's comments about your use of data and how you've embraced the idea of individualized instruction for our students validated your work in so many ways. When we get the final report and have received accreditation for the next five years, we going to have to celebrate again. So, I guess I owe you another cake!
It was a great feeling to know just how far we've come. Celebrations are good, and we should find opportunities to celebrate whenever we can. These continuing small celebrations are indications that we are on a journey towards continuous improvement and success. I am so proud of you! I hope you enjoyed this week - I did! And, to top it off, it was also American Educator Week.
Please accept my most sincere wishes to have a happy Thanksgiving! I hope you enjoy your Thanksgiving break with families and that you take time to reflect not only on what we've done here, but also how your families have supported you in these endeavors.
Enjoy the break!
(Originally published in the November 11 gscs Communicator)
First, let say that with today is November 11, Veteran's Day, and it's a great day to be an American! On behalf of all of us, I wish to extend a special thank you to all who have served and who are currently serving in our armed forces, you protect us and the provide opportunity for us to enjoy the American way of life. Thank you for your service!
I could take time to talk about our budget situation, but we've talked about that a lot lately. Please know that we're continuing to work hard to bring this process to a conclusion as soon as possible. We understand your concerns about the 170-day calendar, administrative early retirement initiatives, and the possibility of a reduction in force. Please continue to work with us, ask your questions, and help us with solutions.
One reason, I believe, that we're going to come out of this leaner, more effective, more efficient is because of all the people working in our school system. Several months ago I asked principals, "Why do you think our school year 2011 is better than 2010?" Consistently, the principals' answer was, "Our workforce is doing a much better job." You have been provided tools and professional development. You're using it, and you're talking with each other in professional learning communities.
I repeated that conversation with teachers, and they told me, "My students are working harder. They appear to be smarter, and they're coming to me more prepared."
Students are working hard. Teachers are working hard. The results are clear in our AYP report - we're 17 to 1! It is a good year!
As you know our SACS visit starts this Sunday and concludes on Wednesday. In anticipation of this visit, as well as preparing for our next SACS visit, we sent a team to a conference to learn what AdvancEd is currently doing and how accreditation visits will work. We just wanted to be sure that we hadn't missed anything.
Two Griffin-Spalding County School System principals presented at this SACS conference in Atlanta.
Other principals have been featured speakers at conferences, too.
All of these principals, as well as others, are providing great leadership in our schools. An excellent indication is that good leadership is being recognized outside of your own building and school system. I think this a story not well known, which is why I wanted to share it with you today.
We have a lot of folks to be proud of - and we are! We thank each of you for working hard and doing what you do for our children. Please have confidence that your leadership team will continue to work with you to help find the best solution for moving forward.
Why? Because that's the Griffin-Spalding County School System way. Daring to do Better! Have a great Veteran's Day and a great weekend!
(Originally published in the November 4, 2011, Communicator.)
There's much irony that on the day our school system received the official word that our record for schools making AYP was 17 & 1, the Griffin Daily News published the article "Griffin vs. Whitewater: Rocky vs. Apollo" (November 2, 2011).
17 & 1 is a winning season. 17 of 18 schools met the highest-ever academic performance in Math and English/Language Arts on state tests. I am proud of the work you are doing. I am proud of our students and their achievements.
It is because we are achieving that I have responded to the article in the Griffin Daily News with a letter to the editor. I hope the Griffin Daily will publish it soon. Let's keep telling our community about our successes! We are Daring to Do Better!
Submitted to the Griffin Daily News on
Thursday, November 3, 2011.
Ronald Reagan said it best with, "There you go again."
That's how I felt reading the Griffin Daily News's sports article, "Griffin vs. Whitewater: Rocky vs. Apollo". The analogy made was that Griffin was Rocky, and Whitewater was Apollo Creed. Griffin has nothing, Apollo Creed has everything.
As I read I thought, "There you go again." It reminded me of an article earlier this year where Anne Street and Atkinson elementaries were cited as "Low Performing Schools" because of one science score in one certain grade. I thought that was unfair. The principals responded with excellent letters that Griffin Daily News gets credit for publishing.
When I saw this article I felt: You don't get it, and you're still living in the past.
You think Griffin is a mill town? Wrong. You think Griffin High is dirt poor? Wrong. You think Griffin High doesn't have dedicated coaching staff? Wrong. You don't think they have weight equipment? Wrong. You don't think that Griffin High is a good school? Wrong.
I believe that the article about Anne Street, Atkinson, and now this article about Griffin High continues to hold Griffin back.
There is this culture that says we're still a mill town, our school system is not achieving, and our students can't perform. All wrong. We need to stand up and say so.
Want to talk about our record like it's a football record? We're 17-1. 17 schools made AYP (Annual Yearly Progress). I'll take a 17-1 record anywhere. That's the highest that we've ever had since AYP was created. Our schools did well!
The graduation rate at both Spalding High School and Griffin High School are record highs. The graduation rate for the system is the highest documented. We should be proud!
It's time we stop allowing others to say ours is not a good school system. We are a good system! Schools are performing; students are achieving and they going to some of the nation's best colleges. They're getting good jobs.
Are we perfect? No. Do we have more work to do? Yes.
It's time to recognize that it's 2011 - not the 60's or 70's.
Griffin is an educational center with the Griffin-Spalding County School System, Southern Crescent Technical College, the UGA Griffin Campus, and nearby Gordon College.
We are Daring to Do Better, and it's time that's recognized. We are Griffin! We are Spalding! We are Griffin-Spalding!
Curtis L. Jones, Jr., Superintendent, Griffin-Spalding County School System
(Originally published in the October 28, 2011, Communicator.)
Despite our bleak revenue and budget situation, we must look toward our future to remain a mission-driven standards-based organization. Three different events this week made that very clear to me.
Whole Board of Education Training
Our Whole Board Training was this week at Griffin RESA. It was unique because we were joined by the Henry, Lamar, Newton, Pike and Upson boards of education. This was the first time that we, as a Griffin RESA, had our school boards in the same room going through training. And so the instruction from Griffin RESA as well as Phil Hartley, a well renowned school board attorney, was enlightening for all. We came out of it better.
A common understanding was developed of what individual evaluation standards look like, what you should be looking for, and how to better communicate with the person being evaluated. The attendees told me they were extremely satisfied and impressed with Tawnie Taylor, the DOE trainer. She will return next week to complete another two days of training with the rest of our administrators. Training will then continue in January and February when the pilot of Teacher Keys goes into effect. From what I saw yesterday, Teacher Keys and Race to the Top implementation are starting to come together.
I am convinced that if our system is going to continue to improve, it's going to happen because of the development of our human capital. While Teacher Keys is time consuming, it will help us grow from evaluations. I'm very excited about it.
AdvancEd - SACS
It was a great week for growth. That's what we have to keep in the back of our minds that as we go through these tough budget days. Things will get better, and when they do, we need to be prepared to Dare to Do Better, and we are!
Have a great weekend!
(Originally published in the October 21, 2011, Communicator.)
On Thursday, October 20, I met with system employees from five different schools at Kennedy Road Middle School. This was the first of four meetings where we're taking an opportunity to discuss the budget for Fiscal Year 2013. I thank the 145 employees for taking the time out of their schedule to meet with me. I thank Kennedy Road for preparing a setting conducive to open conversation.
Whenever we meet there is learning that occurs on both sides. I learned something pretty valuable yesterday, and that is the confusion surrounding the 170 day proposed school calendar. So let me explain the calendar in a different way.
Normally, teachers have a 190-day contract which is divided into two parts:
So in a typical 190 day schedule you would have maybe 5 days for pre-planning, 2 days of professional learning, and 3 days of post planning, and 180 days for student instruction.
The 170 Day School Calendar
We've called it a 170-day calendar because we wanted to communicate with parents that students would be coming to school for 170 days. The confusion that I helped to create was not letting employees know about those other 10 days.
So, the bottom line is that the calendar is 180 days for teachers. During the presentation, we saw how many days people would be working during FY13/School Year 2012-2013.
The 8 Hour Work Day
Because of the way the calendar is laid out and the way the day is structured, the workday is still 8-hours. We're having to move things around a little bit to work through the mechanics to get more student instructional time, but we're keeping the 8 hour work day for employees intact.
I hope I've clarified some of the major issues. It became clear to me yesterday that the 170-Day 2012-2013 calendar was a point of confusion. We have more employee information sessions planned, and I hope that you take time to come so I may share with you my thoughts and also address your questions and concerns.
I've said this before, and I do believe it, "In the middle of every difficulty, there are opportunities." These opportunities are there for us to recognize and to capitalize on.
I am optimistic about our future and what we can do to continue to improve student achievement in the Griffin-Spalding County School System. It's an honor to see you work hard to make this work. I thank you for joining with us as we continue this journey for increased student achievement. We're Daring to Do Better!
Have a great weekend!
(Originally published in the October 17, 2011, Communicator.)
If you were on fall break last week, I truly hope it was restful and fun for you.
On Friday of fall break week, principals, assistant principals and central office department heads met in a Symposium in the Learning Center. Then the next day, Saturday, October 15, the board of education and cabinet members met for the board's fall retreat in our board meeting room.
In addition to the talking about the strategic plan, we discussed the FY13 budget and options to meet the projected $6 million shortfall.
As you know the 170 day school calendar for 2012-2013 is one way we have proposed to meet at least $3 million of the shortfall. That proposal, if accepted by the board, includes 10 work-adjustment days for all employees. (The 170-day proposed calendar takes those days into account so there are no additional work adjustment days planned at this time.)
We have been gathering ideas for the additional $3 million in cuts since the principals' meeting on September 15. At that time all principals and department heads - 40 people in all - met in small groups and brainstormed ideas to consider to meet the shortfall. The ideas they presented that day were again presented to principals and assistant principals at our Friday Symposium and to the board of education on Saturday.
I would caution you that these are only ideas at this time. The board told me to put "everything on the table." Just because an idea is on the list does not mean it will be implemented. Just because an idea is not on the list does not mean it won't be implemented.
I have set up a series of meetings to be able to talk to you face to face to present information and answer your questions.
Please take the opportunity to attend one of these meetings to talk to me. If you cannot attend the one set up for your school, please attend another. [More information is below in next article.]
The next step is to set up exploratory committees to look at these ideas. Jim Smith our Chief Financial Officer/Assistant Superintendent will arrange the meetings. I urge you to volunteer to serve on a committee.
Our goal is to have the FY13 plan to meet the shortfall in place by January 2012. In the meantime, we will have to research the ideas.
Is this easy? No. Is it necessary? Yes. We are now having to do what neighboring school systems did three to four years ago to cut the budget. . . . . . . . . . As I said in my October 7 Communicator column, "We're making tough decisions now about next year, and the tough decisions are not over - more are to come." I want to include you in these decisions.
Please come to one of these meetings. I want to talk with you.
For some more background information, please check out these previous communications:
(Originally published in the October 7, 2011 Communicator.)
For a school system, the first quarter of a school year includes the months of July, August, and September. So, we just completed the first quarter of this school year and it was pretty good.
We've also had some challenges which you responded to in an outstanding way. In addition, in the next few weeks we hope to officially hear about AYP for all of our schools. We believe that 2010-11 will have been the best year for AYP in the history of our school system. Our students and teachers are demonstrating once again what an outstanding school system we truly have.
As we complete this first quarter, we're also planning for next school year.
During October we will communicate with stakeholders, receive input, and then make a recommendation to the board of education so we can enter November knowing what our calendar is for next year.
The 170 day calendar extends the school day by adding minutes each day to get the equivalent of 180 days for students. It also includes the 10 professional learning days that we haven't been able to fully utilize over the last few years. But this is not an ideal situation primarily because it increases the number of work schedule adjustment days from 6 days to 10. And that hurts all of us. Four of our five board members spoke to this during the last board meeting. It's a tough decision, but it's one they recognized had to be made. No one is happy about it.
We're on our own except for local tax dollars and state tax dollars. Something has to happen, and it's incumbent upon all of us to let our legislators know our priorities. They have a tough job - they have to balance the state budget, but I believe public education is a top priority for the state, and we should not shortchange our future.
We're making tough decisions now about next year, and the tough decisions are not over - more are to come.
(Originally published in the September 30, 2011 Communicator)
I'm getting old. Well - I've been old. I am old. But professionally, I am realizing that I'm getting older because two individuals I have great respect for are retiring from the Griffin-Spalding County School System this week.
Quimby and I go back to the days when I was the Griffin High School principal. He was my assistant principal for instruction. I remember:
My focus was from the military motto: Mission First, People Always. I was able to focus on the mission of increasing the graduation rate, but it was Quimby and Kay Moore who helped me stay focused on the idea that People Always is what made the mission successful.
I was happy that Quimby became the principal of Griffin High School. He continued to develop his unique talent of building relationships with employees as well as students. A caring man, Quimby was able to take the idea of Mission First, People Always to the level of People Always, Mission First.
Having completing his assignment at Griffin High, Quimby moved on to start the A. Z. Kelsey Academy project, where Griffin-Spalding could give the most at-risk students one last chance. Because the program had no defined boundaries, Quimby designed the model. He recruited the staff, shaped the curriculum, and built the school from the ground up.
Our initial idea was that AZKA would be a 6th - 12th grade school which would be open from 9 in the morning until 9 at night. While the school's hours of operation never went that way, Quimby did. He doesn't know that I know, but he spent many nights at AZKA working to make it successful.
In the mornings, you would find Quimby standing at the door greeting students. Sometimes students brought their problems from home, just like they do in all schools, but Quimby was the right person for A. Z. Kelsey Academy. We're fortunate he served there for these many years.
So it's with sadness I realize that today is Quimby's last day with us. He is a true professional and a friend who will be missed. Enjoy retirement, Quimby.
This is also my opportunity to reflect on his decision to retire. His decision is a message to me. I have to try to understand and comprehend it. Across the nation people are getting to the point where the idea of doing more with less is just becoming more and more difficult.
No Child Left Behind was supposed to be the silver bullet that was going to improve education. It's not the silver bullet we thought it was. Now we have new a national and state administration with brand new ideas about how to improve public education. It seems everybody has an idea, and that just gets old.
I will continue to think about Dr. Melton's retirement and the lessons I can learn from it. There are lessons for all of us in his decision. Times are getting difficult. Hard decisions are going to be made as we look at moving forward.
Our school system won't have these two individuals on an active basis anymore, but I know they will continue to support us and public education, and for that I thank both of them.
And for the rest of us, let's remember these two individuals as some of the pioneers that helped us Dare to do Better! Have a good weekend!
(originally published in the Sept. 23. 2011, Communicator)
On Wednesday, the Georgia Department of Education held a statewide meeting to inform stakeholders about implementation of the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards. As I watched their presentation, I was impressed because of the amount of work, knowledge, and expertise demonstrated as they discussed where we had been, where we are, and where we are going with implementing the common core.
My view is that the Georgia Department of Education has looked at lessons learned from the rollout of the Georgia Performance Standards some years ago, and they are trying to make this rollout much better.
I am encouraged and excited about where we are at this point. That said, I am anxious as I think about new performance standards being in place next year and wondering how it's going to be impacted by the new accountability system. But I am encouraged because we're going to be learning the standards before we are evaluated or assessed on how well we are teaching them to students.
We're all in this together. I hope you have the same thoughts. If not, I ask that you share your concerns with your principals, curriculum department, or with me so we can get them to the Georgia Department of Education. Besides, if you have a concern, someone else probably has it too - they just haven't spoken. So, please share.
At the end of the day, I am confident that we will implement the Common Core Georgia Performance Standards in an outstanding manner, and our students and system will be better because of it. Have a great weekend!
(Originally published in the Sept. 16, 2011 Communicator)
This week began with some excitement for the Griffin-Spalding County School System.
Very early on Monday morning, we received a call from 911 with a report of a bomb threat at our high school. We conducted emergency actions at Griffin High School, Spalding High School, as well as A. Z. Kelsey Academy. It was an interesting way to start the week, but as I've said before, in the middle of every difficulty is opportunity.
We learned from this experience is that planning and preparation helps us through emergencies. In this particular case, we did very well in responding to the threat. Kudos goes to Griffin High School, Spalding High School, and A. Z. Kelsey Academy for implementing the emergency action operations for bomb threats and kudos also goes to the Central Office Emergency Operations Teams. In the past, we've had bomb threats where we've had to respond to one school, but I think this is the first time we've had to respond to multiple schools.
Congratulations to Jim Smith, Donna Parks, and the others in the Central Office who had just conducted a table top exercise to prepare for multiple simultaneous emergencies. So, while we were in the process of deploying one team to Spalding High School, we were able to send the second team in a very smooth, efficient, and effective manner to Griffin High. The crisis action team asked A. Z. Kelsey Academy to conduct a search as well.
Representatives from all of the involved schools and agencies attended our after-action review. We determined the following:
Overall, the cooperation between the school system, the Spalding County Sheriff's Department, the City of Griffin Police Department, and the individual schools was outstanding.
I thank you for maintaining a safe learning environment for our students. Your knowledge of the emergency operations plans is important. Once the crisis starts, it's key that we know where to go and to get there in a timely manner. So while this was very early in the school year and very early in the week, congratulations to all, and thank you, very, very much.
Have a great weekend!
(Originally published in the September 9, 2011, Communicator)
On Tuesday night, the Board of Education recognized the 2011-2012 Teachers of the Year at a reception and at the board meeting. Our "TOTYs" got a framed certificate and a VISA gift card thanks to the generosity of the Southern Federal Credit Union, sponsor of the TOTY program, and other donors.
This year's Teachers of the Year are a truly awesome group, and I look forward to their being their school's representative on my Instructional Advisory Committee. These teachers are definitely leaders among us - and I applaud them for being named by their peers as Teacher of the Year.
Teachers of the Year
Anne Street Elementary
2nd & 3rd Grade Math
Joined GSCS in 2003
Joined GSCS in 2008
Joined GSCS in 2001
Cowan Road Elementary
Joined GSCS in 2006
Joined GSCS in 1990
Futral Road Elementary
K-5 Special Education, Reading & Math
Joined GSCS in 2005
Jackson Road Elementary
Joined GSCS in 2004
Jordan Hill Elementary
Joined GSCS in 2005
Joined GSCS in 1981 & 1996
Moreland Road Elementary
Joined GSCS in 1997
Joined GSCS in 1997
Carver Road Middle
8th Grade Math
Joined GSCS in 2008
Cowan Road Middle
8th Grade Science
Joined GSCS in 1986 & 2008
Kennedy Road Middle
8th Grade Science
Joined GSCS in 2007
Rehoboth Road Middle
Joined GSCS in 1991
Griffin High School
Joined GSCS in 1997
Spalding High School
9 - 12 in Math
Joined GSCS in 2001 & 2006
A. Z. Kelsey Academy
Joined GSCS in 2008
Taylor Street Achievement Center
Joined GSCS in 1996
Middle Grades, All Subjects
Joined Mainstay in 1991
Congratulations to our System Teacher of the System finalists
On Wednesday afternoon, last year's TOTYs met to determine this year's finalists in a blind selection process. I'm quite proud to announce our three finalists for the 2011-2012 Griffin-Spalding County School System:
These three finalists will be recognized and featured at the October 4th Board of Education meeting. I'm so very proud of the three of you, and I thank you for setting such a great example for all of us to follow!
A note about Parent University
On another note, we hosted our first Parent University this week. You may have seen the flyer in last week's Communicator and the status posting on Facebook. Robin Dykes, the Griffin RESA School Improvement Specialist spoke about developmental milestones related to literacy, as well as the many ways parents can make a difference at home. Her words of wisdom included, "Parents and students should be united. It's about the children - not the grown-ups!" Sadly, parent attendance was low.
Our next Parent University will be on November 3rd, and it will be the school to career fair for middle and high school students and their families. Let's start talking this up now so that our students' parents will know about it and attend. You'll see advertising for it in the next few weeks.
(originally published in the September 2, 2011 Communicator)
We're off to a great start. The month of August was simply outstanding! I am amazed when I think about all the accomplishments you've made during this past month.
Just think about it. In August, you:
That's a lot; but it's what a reliable organization does.
When we first heard about Thinking Maps, I was impressed, and I believed that it would be a good initiative for us. You have taken this idea and run with it, and our students are responding in different ways.
Second, we conducted a joint superintendent advisory council where I met with school representatives, students, parents and teachers. There are independent advisory councils for all three groups. We developed topics we'd like to discuss this school year. You should be proud of your representatives on these advisory councils. Please talk to them about we are and where we're going. I'm very excited that they are sharing their perspectives.
And finally, congratulations to Spalding High School Coach Nick Davis for winning his first Spalding High ballgame yesterday.
(originally published in the Agust 27, 2011 Communicator)
We are truly off to a great start this school year! It appears you went home over the summer, enjoyed your vacation time and came back ready to make this the best year the Griffin-Spalding County School System has ever had, and I thank you for that.
(originally published in the August 22, 2011, Communicator)
Earlier this week I had the privilege to meet with U.S. Representative Lynn Westmoreland at the Lamar County Board of Education office. Several local superintendents attended, and we're thankful to Dr. Bill Truby, Lamar County School System Superintendent, for setting it up.
As you know, public education funding from the federal government has come to us in the form of ARRA and jobs stimulus dollars. These dollars have helped us over the last three years deal with the economy's downturn. Now we, along with the state of Georgia, are at a funding cliff for federal dollars. So we asked Representative Westmoreland for bipartisan support of education from the US Congress. We also expressed our concerns on some of the compliance issues and strings attached to federal dollars. We believe we could better increase student achievement if we had more flexibility.
We shared with him our concerns about reauthorization of No Child Left Behind. He was receptive, and asked that we give him something in writing that articulates what we think. He also asked for three or four good ideas that should be included in the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind, and to give examples of what those ideas would look like.
You've lived and worked with No Child Left Behind, and you have ideas. Please share them with me. You can put them on our Facebook page or you can email me directly. I would like to have a dialogue with you so I can share this information with him and with others.
And I close this week with two observations. First, thank you to those of you who have gone to our Facebook page. I do believe that it opens up a new communication channel for us. It's been very exciting to see some of the comments that have been posted there. So, thank you!
I also want to commend Denise Burrell for her presentation at the Kiwanis Club this week. She did an outstanding job sharing with them the same presentation you saw at the Education Celebration in the Griffin Auditorium. It was well received, and it was positively featured in Thursday's Griffin Daily News.
So, congratulations, Denise, on another outstanding presentation and for all of us, it's a lesson that the community is there to support us. We just have to let them know what the good stories are. So let's share. I dare you. Have a great weekend!
(Originally published in the August 12, 2011 Communicator)
This week, the first of the school year, is a special one.
It was a special week for all of us in different ways. Monday was Opening Day. Wednesday was my birthday. On this birthday I'm thankful for my family, my wife, my health, and also my position as superintendent of the Griffin-Spalding County School System. It's indeed a pleasure, an honor and a privilege to serve and I thank you for your support as we continue to improve education in Griffin-Spalding.
Opening Day during the first week of school is also special for so many students. Parents were happy, students were happy, teachers were smiling, and indeed it was a great first day!
On Tuesday, the second day of school, I visited at Jackson Road Elementary. I saw these little children and they all held their hands up and said to me, "Look!" From my vantage point, all I saw were little hands. I replied, "What am I looking for?" The teacher said, "You have to come back into the classroom."
Inside the lights were out. The students' hands started to glow. The teacher explained, "We're learning about germs, and why it is important to our wash hands."
The students could see their hands glowing, and therefore showing "the germs". The teacher continued, "We're getting ready to go to the restroom to see how well we wash our hands." So I followed the students down the hall. They went in, washed their hands, and came back out. They were so excited!
I could see the spark in their eyes and their excitement because they had learned something new. I know many elementary schools, in fact probably all elementary schools, go through the process of helping students learn personal hygiene and school routines and procedures. That's what we do during the first week of school. But it's so exciting for the children!
As I reflect on my birthday and this first week of school, I commend you on an outstanding Opening Week. Last year was great. This year will be greater. I'm looking forward to seeing how you help us Dare to Do Better once again! Enjoy your weekend!
(originally published in the Friday, August 5, 2011, Communicator.)
Seeing all of you together at the Education Celebration in the Griffin Auditorium was fantastic!
The entire effort by Norcom, Inc. to put together the Education Celebration and the Kids in Need Free Store for Teachers at SHS was incredible. The school supplies and the great volunteer support put into place at Spalding High School were amazing. Thank you, Norcom!
The next day we did something totally new! We met with the classified staff in the Taylor Street Auditorium for a beginning of school year gathering. And they enjoyed it! As Dr. Barge reminded us the day before, all adults in the building make a difference. That afternoon we conducted one of our most successful open houses! We met with many students and parents who were happy to be returning. I made it to many schools, and everywhere I went there were high numbers of visitors.
The professionalism and teamwork I witnessed was impressive. Teachers were saying the same thing to parents showing consistency and reliability - thus starting the school year right. It's just been a great week!
Now, there are always some challenges. We did meet with some parents whose transfer requests were not approved. Many of them believe some schools are better than others. That's just an opportunity for us to continue to close achievement gaps so we can continue to say every GSCS school is excellent. I personally believe they are. You do a great job, and the results speak for themselves.
So, we still have some challenges ahead, and that is what this year is about. It's an opportunity for all to dare to do better and I am excited for the opportunity!
Enjoy your weekend. Monday is opening day!
You've been missed! I'm looking forward to seeing you next week at the 5th Annual Education Celebration on Wednesday. Many activities have occurred over the summer, and I hope that one of them has been you finding time to rest, relax, and get ready for the new school year.
Let's welcome our new teachers
I ask that we all continue to share with them our school system's values and culture so they can hit the ground running and have a great year.
Southern Crescent Technical College
Open House is a beginning.
I ask you to focus during open house to make this an enjoyable experience for all of our parents and students.
Open House sets the tone for the school year and for what we will achieve. Our students will achieve a lot this year. How do I know? I know because last year's CRCT, EOCT, and GHSGT results are in. AYP status has been determined. By all measures, we are better this year than we were last year. Everyone can be proud!
Test scores don't tell everything, but they say a lot. The hard work, dedication, and focus you put in last year paid off. On behalf of our board of education and the citizens of our community, I say, "Thank you, thank you, thank you."
And I'll see you next week!
(this message was originally published in the June 3, 2011, Communicator)
As I visited schools this week, I witnessed many summer activities. Custodians are cleaning rooms, floors are being stripped and waxed, broken furniture is being removed, repaired, and replaced. I've also seen professional learning communities throughout the school system. Teachers and administrators are meeting to discuss this year's results. Changes are being made to school improvement plans so we will be better prepared for our next school year.
This will be my last 2010-2011 communicator message. During the summer, messages from our staff members will be featured. They'll share what we're doing to prepare for next school year.
|[ << prev ]||[ next >> ]|