Bartow County’s voice will be heard on another state education council.
Frank Bennett of Euharlee is one of eight new members appointed by Georgia School Superintendent Richard Woods to his 2015-16 Parent Advisory Council.
The PAC has 30 members, all parents who were nominated by their local school districts, and new members are selected each year by a committee of Georgia Department of Education representatives based on the applicants’ responses to questions on engaging parents to ensure student success.
“Parents are a child’s first teacher, and they are no less influential once that child enters school,” Woods said in a press release. “It is essential that we partner with parents to ensure we’re providing the best possible education for every child. My Parent Advisory Council allows me to hear those parent voices and incorporate their feedback into my decision-making.”
Bennett, who was nominated by South Central Middle School Principal Sunita Holloway, said he was “actually surprised” that he was chosen for the two-year term.
“It was my understanding that only a few were selected,” he said. “But when I received the welcome packet [during fall break], I contacted Mrs. Holloway. She was overjoyed to have a representative from her school on this council. I personally think I was chosen because the selection committee felt sorry for me when they saw all six of my kids listed on the application.”
The pastor of Lake Point Church in Emerson and his wife, Suzanne, have six kids in three Bartow County schools: Madison, a senior, and Landon, a freshman, at Woodland High; Logan, a sixth-grader at South Central; and Lawson, a fifth-grader, Marion, a fourth-grader, and Lincoln, a third-grader, at Emerson Elementary.
Bennett, 45, was thrilled at the prospect of representing the county on a council that provides “a voice from parents to the state Superintendent Richard Woods,” he said.
“I told Mrs. Holloway that it would be an honor to just submit the application to serve our fine district and school,” he said. “There are many exciting and positive developments springing up in the south part of the county. I love the collaboration happening to improve many systems, especially our schools. I'm a huge fan of these teachers, students and administrators. We truly have amazing teachers in our schools. As a former educator, I empathize with the struggles of the teachers and students. But if we all roll up our sleeves, we can make educating our students into an enjoyable and rewarding experience.”
Holloway, who was “thrilled” that Bennett was selected, said he will “represent our district well.”
“[Bennett] ... met with me during the first week of school this year to discuss ways to support the school and get the community involved in the work we are doing at SCMS,” she wrote in the application. “He is a friendly, proactive leader who truly desires what is best for the students at SCMS. In addition, he is great at building a team and communicating with parents and staff members. Other parents value his leadership.”
As members of the council, parents will meet with Woods three times during the school year to discuss the state’s public education system, with a goal of improving parent and family engagement in the student learning experience to foster academic success for students, particularly in Georgia’s Title I schools.
Bennett has a couple of goals of his own that he hopes to achieve while serving on the council.
“First, I want to represent Bartow County and South Central Middle School in the most professional manner,” he said. “I want to be a voice for our district. Second, I want to do everything possible to get parents involved in the learning process with their children. Our schools are already doing this on multiple levels. But there are probably other methods we can [try to] accomplish this goal.”
Members, who serve as advisers and ambassadors for their schools, will gain information and provide feedback on new educational policies and projects that affect students and families at the meetings then return to their districts to share what they’ve learned with their superintendents and school boards.
The council had a “great” first meeting Monday at the Georgia Department of Education in Atlanta, where the eight new members “spent a lot of time asking [Woods] questions” so they could get caught up with the members who were in the second year of their term, Bennett said.
“He really enjoys hearing from the parents and seeking solutions,” he said. “We discussed the Georgia Milestones Assessment System, as it relates to teacher pay. He is not a huge fan of this system as it currently operates. We discussed advancements in technology but also the need for students to develop their handwriting. Mr. Woods desires to streamline procedures and make things simple so that educating students can be the main focus. There is a strong desire to bring back paraprofessional assistants in the kindergarten classrooms. We also discussed how many districts across our state are implementing the PBIS — Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports. Many districts are seeing great results from this behavior-modification method. Bartow County currently does not implement this system. However, with six children in the district, I have seen results of a positive behavior-modification method from our schools.”
The parents also began working on the upcoming 2016 Georgia Family Engagement Conference scheduled for Feb. 4-6 in Athens, which they will plan and operate, Bennett said.
The new member learned several things from his first meeting.
“I learned that those who serve to improve our educational system at the state level truly want our input,” he said. “There is also a state Student Advisory Council [which has two Cass Middle School students on it]. But I was also reminded that most of the leadership to make positive changes in our educational systems happens at the local level.”
The council will meet with Woods again on Jan. 11, 2016, and May 16, 2016.