It seems like there just aren’t enough hours in the day for Cheree Dye to spread the news about everything that’s going on in Bartow County schools.
Dye, who became the public relations specialist for the school system in December, works as a liaison with the media, manages all district-level social media efforts, maintains the system’s website and creates promotional materials.
Name: Cheree Dye
Occupational title: Public relations specialist
City of residence: Acworth
Education: Bachelor of Science in communications from Kennesaw State University
What do you enjoy most about your job and why? What is the toughest part and why?
A: Sharing with our community the first-rate learning that is occurring in our system is my absolute favorite aspect of this position. Unless people are directly involved with the schools, many times they do not hear of the impressive strides our system is making. I love to share about our one-to-one conversion, which puts a laptop in the hands of each fourth- through 12th-grader, our rigorous academics and resourceful career training. Also, we have a staff that continually goes above and beyond to support our students.
With 20 schools, nearly 14,000 students and 1,700 employees, finding time to share all our meaningful accomplishments is the most difficult task for me.
What do you see as the most pressing issues facing Bartow County schools and what do you think can be done about them?
A: Certainly the most pressing obstacle for BCS is funding. Since 2003, we have experienced a loss of $72 million in funding while mandated costs continue to rise. Through more than five years of systematic and personnel reductions, BCS has struggled to be as fiscally responsible as possible while continuing to meet and exceed the educational needs of our student population. I believe the outstanding leadership of Superintendent Dr. John Harper and our school board is what enabled us to maintain progress while other systems in our state went bankrupt.
To address the issue, BCS has trimmed nonessential costs and continues to do so. Since 2009, the system has saved $67 million due to self-imposed reductions. For five years, the system operated in a deficit until finally being forced to raise the millage rate last year. The solution we are proposing is to maintain the current millage rate for one more year and assess the situation next July. It is our hope in the coming year, we will be able to balance the budget and then reduce the millage rate.
Concerning student achievement, one of the biggest difficulties we face is absenteeism. Researchers propose that 75 percent of failing grades are related to school attendance. An example from our system is Adairsville High School. They have focused specifically on reducing the failure rate for the past two years and have been highly successful. However, last year, they had roughly 100 students who failed one or more classes. Of those 100, most, if not all, had a high rate of absenteeism.
I am creating several campaigns to reach parents across different platforms like social media and newsletters. I believe helping parents to understand the drastic impact of absenteeism will be effective in increasing student attendance and, therefore, help raise achievement. We must have the support of parents to see an improvement in this important area.
From a public relations standpoint, what has been the biggest issue/controversy/problem you’ve dealt with concerning the Bartow County School System? How did you handle it?
A: The most difficult situations we have faced since I began last December were the untimely deaths of coach Greg Scott of Cass High and Principal Lamar Barnes of Woodland Middle. Occurring one month apart, their deaths caught our district by surprise. Both educators had a profound impact on their schools, and their absence was felt deeply. From a public relations standpoint, I worked with the media to release the appropriate information and, hopefully, conveyed the significance these two men had on our school family.
What do you think is/are the best thing(s) about the Bartow County School System and why?
A: A guest presenter at the recent new teacher orientation commented that every year, the number of new teachers to Bartow County is notably fewer than in many other systems she supports. She told the new teachers it was a good sign that once educators came here, they usually stayed. I see the longevity of our staff and leadership as one of the most outstanding aspects of BCS. Our staff is truly dedicated and emotionally invested in our students and community. It is evidenced in the fact that even though they endured five years with furlough days, they continued in our system. Also, Dr. Harper has been superintendent since 2008, which surpasses many of our previous leaders. This constancy of leadership and staff gives us the ability to set a stable course and truly follow it through to its completion.
Other extraordinary characteristics of BCS include our technology-driven instruction, clean, safe facilities and community collaboration. Through invaluable partnerships with local industry, our College and Career Academy has grown into a vital resource to prepare students for the workplace or college. Finally, the Bartow Education Foundation is literally the only one its kind, of which I am aware, that funds education at such an exceptional level. It awarded $100,000 in teacher grants to support classroom learning in just one of its projects last year.
What kinds of things would you like to be able to do in your position in the next year that you can’t do right now?
A: I would like to increase the promotion of a local collaborative organization, MentorBartow. It works to provide our students with caring adult role models who encourage, motivate and offer guidance. I believe it is such a worthy cause that will not only profit our students but also gratify the mentors who give their time, wisdom and friendship.
What is something people would be surprised to know about you?
A: I suffer from an extraordinary case of wanderlust. Ever since I can remember, I have wanted to explore the world. My fondness for travel has led me to hike in Yosemite, experience the fervor of New York City, snorkel in the clear blue waters of Roatan and travel cross country twice on a Greyhound bus. Now the latter I would not recommend, even under the direst of circumstances.
If you could have one item — anything you want — what would it be and why?
A: Well, if I could only have one item, it would have to be one of those handy teleportation machines from “Star Trek.” It would greatly increase the distance I could venture out on weekends and school holidays. Priceless.
How would you describe yourself in three words?
A: Passionately pursuing life.
What would the title of your autobiography be and why?
A: “Raised on Sweet Tea and Jesus, A Journey of Faith Lost and Found.” The most significant aspect of my life is faith. Growing up in the South, where it seems many people understand faith and respect God, has its benefits. However, I have realized there is a distinct difference in knowing about Jesus and truly knowing the One who came to reveal the loving, redemptive heart of God.
Like everyone else blessed with life on this beautiful, spinning globe of ours, I’ve experienced tragedy and loss that shook me to the core. I found that even in the midst of my doubt and fear, there is an unending river of love, mercy and compassion to bring light to the darkest of places and life to heal the sting of death.
Do you have a bucket list, and if so, what is the one thing you most look forward to accomplishing?
A: One day when I have traveled more of the world, I would like to write a book about my experiences.
What three things would you have to have on a deserted island and why?
A: I am an avid camper and love being outdoors, but a deserted island would not be my cup of tea. Therefore, I would want a satellite phone with a solar charger to get help as quickly as possible and a fire starter to stay alive until I could be rescued. If I really got to push it, I’d like to have an extra set of clothes to ensure I didn’t end up like the people on that ridiculous television show.