"I'd like to applaud this board for seeing a need in our community and taking some steps and actions to address it because this has been something that has been a dream of mine for so many years," said Janet Queen of Georgia Power, who also serves as chairperson of the advisory council for the Bartow College and Career Academy. "... From a Georgia Power Southern Company standpoint, this is a step toward maintaining our work force here, because what we see now is most of the work we're looking at is a technical, specialized field that we are training for at Plant Bowen now and to be able to train these students and have them come out of this program in a job-ready capacity, that's huge for us."
She added, "... This is what Georgia Power Southern Company is looking for. We want to be a partner."
Director of Curriculum and Testing Paul Sabin said the college and career academy, slated to open in fall 2013, is expected to gain charter status that will operate under the local school board.
This differs under the controversial charter amendment voters will decide upon in November that would allow state officials to create charter schools over the objection of local district.
"What we're really trying to focus on is having an impact, a positive impact on Bartow County, on the economic development, and an avenue for our students when they come out of high school, they come out with a plan, if not already postsecondary credit when they come out of that school," Sabin said.
He said, beyond academics, the academy will have a focus on areas that employers consider to be "soft skills," such as leadership, accountability, personal responsibility and providing facilitation for students who are self-starters.
"Every time we attend a meeting and talk to the community, businesses leaders and industry, these are some of the top things they are looking for in employees they want to hire," Sabin said. "... One of the most challenging [areas] we need to work on, but what the business folks are saying we need is critical thinking, decision making, problem solving and creative reasoning ... and of course technology has got to play a role in this."
Director of Elementary Curriculum Buffy Williams explained, in detail, plans to use $3.9 million in Striving Reader Comprehensive Literacy Grant funds toward improving literacy.
"We need to stay focused on the fact that we're improving outcomes in the area of literacy," Williams said. "We need to make sure we give every student the opportunity to become successful, that we use data to steer our instruction, that literacy is at the forefront of what we're trying to improve and with that we're going to use technology to drive that entire focus."
The three-year grant calls that from April to June the school system will get 20 percent of the grant's funding and, in late June, present to the state the system's one-year plan for the grant that will be awarded in July.
Initially, the first round of grant money will be used toward Clear Creek, Cloverleaf, Emerson, Kingston and White Elementary schools as well as South Central and Cass Middle schools and Cass High School. The money will go toward the purchase of Apple computers for teachers and students.
In some cases, this will mean a one-to-one ratio for students to computers, meaning the students will be equipped with a laptop to be used throughout the school day.
The Daily Tribune News will provide a detailed report on how the money will be specifically used at the individual schools throughout the county at a later time.