School board proposes new mission, recognizes teachers

alopez@macon.comOctober 17, 2013 

The Bibb County school district received criticisms of leadership at the Board of Education level during a painful accreditation process this year.

At Thursday’s board committee and regular meetings, held at Southwest High School, members provided evidence that the board continues to move forward from the negative report.

One of the reforms proposed and discussed by interim Superintendent Steve Smith and his team on the board was the broadening of the school district mission and vision. The current mission is that “each student demonstrates strength of character and is college ready.”

The proposed mission is loftier, to “develop a highly trained staff, working in partnership with an engaged community, dedicated to educating each student for excelling in a 21st century global society.”

Taking concrete steps towards the proposed mission, Sylvia Hooker, deputy superintendent, presented strategies available in the district to improve graduation rates, and provided information on the implementation of district benchmarks across elementary, middle and high school curriculums.

Hooker explained that the benchmarks will be determined by a team of the best teachers in the district, based on data on student achievement. The benchmarks will allow for consistency in subject area goals from school to school.

“Principals are enthralled,” Hooker said.

The strategies available to the district to improve graduation rates range from credit recovery and grade repair, which give students who failed courses second chances, to student tutoring, teachers as advisers, graduation coaches, and Read 180, a system to raise up struggling readers.

Teachers of the year

The board recognized 42 elementary, middle, and high school instructors as teachers of the year. The teachers walked across the Southwest High School auditorium stage, shaking the hands of board members, to loud applause from a packed house. An especially loud roar erupted for Southwest teacher, Dominique Lane.

A full list of the teachers recognized is available on the Bibb County School District website.

A single teacher of the year for 2014 will be named at a banquet on Nov. 7, at the University Center at Mercer University.

Technology and virtual school

Mike Hall, executive director of technology services, presented to the board what he knows about Georgia Virtual School, which is a state program that allows students to take online courses taught by Georgia-certified teachers.

He said that a few schools in Bibb County use the program and enroll their students in courses. “Virtual schools are not for everyone,” he acknowledged. “Some students are just not disciplined enough.”

Hall also updated the board on steps taken to improve technology available at schools.

“Bandwidth is king,” he said, referring to the need to increase the capacity of the district’s Internet connections, “especially as schools implement using streaming video in their classrooms.”

Hall disclosed to the board his plan for using networking consultants to improve the Internet capabilities of schools, as well as for administering network security, so that student use is filtered for appropriate usage.

Action items passed

Among the proposals voted on by the board, an architectural firm was selected for the renovation of Miller Middle School. The next step, which entails receiving bids for construction, passed a board vote as well.

For natural gas service, the board passed to accept the lowest quoted rate from the available suppliers.

A draft for a design of Heard Elementary was presented to board members, but was not voted on.

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