Following the consent items at the Dec. 8 meeting, School Superintendent Dr. Mike Newton discussed the dropout report for the Ninth Grade Academy and Jones County High School. Newton said the new focus of the achievement academy would be to target students at risk of dropping out. He said an open campus program can reach the needs of these students and provide them with an alternate route to a high school diploma.
A Race to the Top webinar was recently held for Georgia superintendents, and Newton explained the program to board members. The program is federally funded and will provide grants to selected states.
“Jones County is in an excellent position to receive funds because we are doing a lot of these things already,” the superintendent said.
He said resources are available, and the state’s application for the program is due in January. Georgia is eligible for $200 - $400 million over four years, which is allocated one-half to local systems and the other half to the state.
“We responded right away that we are interested. This could be an important avenue of revenue,” Newton said.
The federal program is designed to provide competitive grants to states that demonstrate three competencies: creation of the conditions necessary for comprehensive education innovation and reform, implementation of ambitious plans in four education reform areas, and achieving significant improvement in student achievement outcomes, including: substantial gains in student achievement, improving high school graduation rates, and ensuring that students are prepared for success in college and careers.
The four key reform areas are great teachers and leaders, standards and assessments, turning around the lowest-achieving schools, and data systems to support instruction.
According to Newton, the state board of education has done an excellent job putting together the framework, and Georgia is considered competitive for the funds. He said a statewide evaluation will be a tool for teachers and principals.
“This is a non-partisan issue. If you look at the whole picture, it’s what we are doing now,” he said.
Board member Deloras Moon said the emphasis of the program is to keep control at the local level, but it has a higher stakes level of accountability.
Newton and Board Chairman Ted Stone were extended an invitation to meet with Gov. Sonny Perdue Dec. 14 to hear more about the program.
“We have the opportunity to be on the cutting edge, and I believe this program provides us an opportunity that can really benefit Jones County Schools,” Newton said.
Board members voted to adopt the GAKA reduction in force policy revision presented by Personnel Director Susan Eilers at last month’s meeting. She said the goal of the revision is to improve operational effectiveness.
The final item on the agenda was the chairman’s report. Stone first talked about the upcoming meeting with state legislators Dec. 22. The meeting will be held at Tri-County EMC at 5 p.m. and the Board of Commissioners, Gray mayor and council, and the sheriff have all been invited to attend.
Stone said he has had good response from elected officials.
“We’ve been doing this for a while. Now we are bringing the whole county into it. This is not an open session, but anyone is invited to come and listen,” he noted.
Stone said the Georgia School Board Association will be meeting in Jones County April 20. The meeting will be at Jones County High, and the time will be announced at a later date.
The chairman gave a report of the recent GSBA conference and said attendance was much better than expected. He said more than 600 educators attended, and the crowd was so large exhibitors had to be turned away.
Stone said the breakout sessions were interesting, and Moon gave a brief overview of one of the sessions she attended about technology.
Newton commented that technology can be overwhelming.
“But we are trying to prepare kids for a world we were not prepared for,” he said.
Stone concluded by stating that Georgia is at the top of improvement.
“We are headed in the right direction,” he said.