In 2013, local school districts saw an expansion of facilties and programs, and leaders in the realm of education have announced their candidacy for various offices. Ranked by the newsroom of The Daily Tribune News, the following stories are listed below, in no particular order, as the top education stories in 2013.
@Bodycopy center bold:<*p(0,0,0,11.5,0,0,g(P,S))>Cartersville High named Best School, announces aeronautical program
U.S. News & World Report in April released its list of Best High Schools in the nation, with Cartersville High School receiving a silver award. With awards on gold, silver and bronze levels, the report based its findings on student achievement during the 2010-2011 school year, ranking CHS 31st in the state and 1,590th in the country out of more than 21,000 schools.
“It was a three-step process to determine our ranking. First of all they determined whether students were performing greater than statistically expected for the average student in the state ... on the reading and math portions of high school proficiency tests,” Principal Steven Butler explained, adding the study factors in the number of, and academic performance of, economically disadvantaged students in the school. “Once we got over that initial hurdle, the second step is to determine whether [the subgroup of] black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged students were performing better than similar students in the state.”
The study did not factor in the subgroup of special needs students.
“[Step three] was using AP participation, in terms of kids being college ready, and this is why it’s kind of confusing — it’s a 2013 award but they use our 2010-2011 school year data,” Butler said. “... They look at [the data] with what’s called a college readiness index and what they do is they take the number of 12th-grade students who took at least one AP test before or during their senior year, and they divide that by the number of 12th graders to get an index, then they factor in how well [students] did on those tests.”
The AP factor was based on how many students received a 3 or higher score on a test. The report bases 25 percent of a school’s score on how many students take an AP course and bases 75 percent of the score on how many students made a 3 or higher on an AP test.
In December, Cartersville schools announced next fall CHS will launch the state of Georgia’s first school partnership program with Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, which seeks to introduce students to careers in aeronautics while also helping them acquire college credit. The Cartersville Board of Education unanimously approved the contract with ERAU.
“The primary focus is to expose kids to the potential of an occupation where there are going to be a lot of opportunities due to the decline in military pilots because of drones and commercial pilot vacancies as well as lots of opportunities as the drone idea takes off,” Cartersville Superintendent Howard Hinesley said of the Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University STEM Academy partnership. “... Beginning next year there will be a ninth-grade study skills class with no college credit focused on how do you study, to take online courses and to take college-level coursework.”
He continued, “In 10th grade, they will take two three-semester-hour classes, and if they’re successful, they’ll get six hours of college credit. In 11th grade, they’ll get six more [hours of college credit] and in 12th grade six more, so when they leave [CHS] and if they’re successful, they’ll leave with 18 credit hours.”
Hinesley said students involved in the program will have to take their physical education and health course during the summer following their ninth-grade year. The system’s communication coordinator and Schools Foundation director Lisa Bell will begin recruiting Cartersville Middle School eighth-graders for the program beginning in the spring 2014 semester.
Students initially targeted for the program should have an interest in math and science, Hinesley said, but students will not be turned away due to academic performance. The courses will be taught by certified ERAU professors.
@Bodycopy center bold:<*p(0,0,0,11.5,0,0,g(P,S))>Barge and Shultz announce runs for office
In September, State Superintendent John Barge announced he plans to run for governor in 2014. Barge is the former director of secondary curriculum for the Bartow County School System and was elected to state superintendent in 2010.
“I’ve been frustrated with the lack of support that’s coming out of the governor’s office for public education. I’ve been frustrated with the questionable ethics that I’ve seen, and, really, when you look at the basis of our platform, it’s education and economic development. It’s really tough to sustain any real economic development when you don’t have a support vision for education in your state, and you don’t run your state ethically,” Barge said.
Also in September, Matt Shultz, a former and current BCBOE member, announced he plans to run for the position of state superintendent.
“We have to give students the best opportunity to be successful. To move forward we have to be great at everything. We have to have amazing traditional schools, we need charter schools that you can open in a community and be held accountable. Some students will thrive in home school and some will do best online,” Shultz said. “By differentiating education, parents are pulled back into the process and it is tailored to meet areas of giftedness in students.”
County opens new Adairsville Middle, Career Academy
This August, Bartow County schools opened two new facilities: the recently-built Adairsville Middle School and the Bartow County College and Career Academy, housed at the former Cass High School on Grassdale Road.
The new AMS, located next to Adairsville High School, is a 174,182-square-foot, 55-classroom facility with a one-to-one ratio of students to laptop computers. While the school will have textbooks in each classroom, the intent of having laptops with ebooks and digital versions of textbooks, Principal Brian Knuchel said, is to eliminate the need for multiple textbooks.
“Kids love technology and the reason we’re doing this is to increase student engagement,” Knuchel said. “If the kids like what they’re doing, they’re going to pay attention, they’re not going to get in trouble and they’re going to achieve.”
Without the need to carry around textbooks comes a noticeable structural change at the school — no lockers.
“[Students will] get a little satchel to put their laptops in and they’ll carry that satchel with them from class to class,” Knuchel said, adding the school also will offer for sale backpacks fitted for laptops if students prefer a backpack.
Despite the move from textbooks to digital books, AMS Media Specialist Breanna Lee explained the media center this year will offer 1,200 physical copies of new books and 1,500 ebooks, some with full access to teachers and students simultaneously.
The school will host up to 1,000 students and features labs, advanced education facilities, baseball, softball, football and track facilities and a gym.
Also in August, the BCCCA opened its doors to students and faculty. The facility continues to undergo its three phases of renovation to facilitate its half-dozen career pathways of Engineering and Technology; Marketing/Hospitality and Tourism; Health Science/Nursing; Marketing/Sports Entertainment; Public Safety/Law Enforcement; and Health Science/Physical Medicine.
The BCBOE previously approved the fields of study to be offered at the academy based on local business and industry surveys developed and reviewed by the BCCCA’s Needs Assessment committee.
“The community had the vision and we ended up with the facility, and what do you do with the facility that’s about 30 years old, that can continue to serve children well — you put a plan together,” Superintendent John Harper said.
Harper has said the intent of the academy is to provide a non-traditional route to graduation while preparing students to enter the workforce or go to college with existing credit and idea of a future career. He said while some students are more comfortable in a traditional high school setting, the academy provides an alternative.
The renovation of the academy site is made possible through $3.25 million in grants by the Georgia College and Career Academy Project and Technical College System of Georgia. As a charter school, the BCCCA also will receive state and federal education funding.
Bartow County voters in July 2010 approved the district to issue $70 million in general obligation debt to help acquire land for and construct its future facilities, make technology improvements, refurbish existing facilities and purchase school buses. The authorization was a part of the approved continuation of the local education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax.
Chatt Tech North Metro sees library renovation
Although the semester had officially ended, Chattahoochee Technical College’s North Metro Campus opened the campus’ newly renovated 5,277-square-foot library in mid-December.
“When you walk around this media center ..., you’ll see that it’s not only beautiful and its design is modern, but it offers students a wide range [of access],” CTC President Ron Newcomb said. “... Nobody could ever envision how big this campus has grown when it opened in 1989.”
He continued, “When we opened that fall we had 353 students. ... Today we have well over 3,000 students on this campus, so of course it’s natural to grow and reflect those types of changes for the changing interests of students.”
The renovation includes an addition to the existing 2,400 square feet of library space as well as a mezzanine study area. It also includes a circulation desk, librarian office, workroom, computer carrels and two study rooms for small groups.
“I’m really very pleased with the renovations and that’s important,” Librarian Kate Shlikas said, adding one aspect of the renovation she has been looking forward to has been the creation of additional study space. “We now have two small group study rooms and we used to just have one, so we’ve doubled our study space. There’s silent study upstairs in the loft, and there’s 11 study carrels when we used to have five.”
The $834,271 project was paid for via Major Repairs and Renovations funding from the Technical College System of Georgia as well as through tuition funds.
— Daily Tribune News reporters Cheree Dye and Jason Lowrey contributed to this article.