Posted: Monday, August 5th 2013 at 10:30pm
Gainesville schools ready for new year
By Marc Eggers Staff
GAINESVILLE – The Gainesville City School Board heard summary reports from the principals at the eight schools under their jurisdiction regarding the strategies each have developed over the summer for the school year that begins on Monday.
The students may have spent June and July relaxing, vacationing, or catching up on their sleep, but the governance councils and leadership teams at Gainesville High, Woods Mill Academy, Gainesville Middle, and the five elementary schools within the city have been busy examining data and test scores from the 2012-2013 school year and preparing state-required School Improvement Plans.
Board Chairwoman Maria Calkins commended the administrators for their work. "I’m so impressed. You all have had a busy summer. You have a plan; you are ready to go!"
Raising test scores was an item mentioned by nearly all the principals as an area for renewed focus, especially the grade school CRCT scores and the secondary schools’ EOCT (end of the course test) scores.
Sometimes raising scores is best achieved by better resource management or higher teacher standards or encouraging more parental involvement. Sometimes the answer to higher scores is more pedestrian, as expressed by Woods Mill Principal Daryl White.
"We have had a difficult time achieving the 95-percent participation rate in all of our EOCTs. So that’s going to be…a serious emphasis for us," White said. "Making sure we get our kids in to take those tests. If need be, go into homes and roll people out of the bed."
Teacher incentives are also a key player in improved learning and inherent higher test scores.
Board member Sammy Smith said that as a member of Governor Nathan Deal’s School Board Advisory Council he recently heard of the Governor’s plan to award a $2000 bonus to exceptional teachers with an additional $5000 going to the teacher’s school.
Smith added that he asked the Governor if he could make the bonus tax-exempt. "He said he would," Smith said grinning broadly.
But learning can be a challenge where discipline problems exist. To help with that situation an enhanced Discipline Matrix will be used by all the schools, creating one common and standardized means of reporting disciplinary problems and the steps taken to remedy the situation.
Priscilla Collins, on assignment to Human Resources, explained the new reporting form and system to the Board. “We needed to become more consistent. We are now more consistent,” Collins said holding up the standardized form the schools will be using.
Collins added that a new facet of the Discipline Matrix includes restitution. "We did restitution as a local action. We hadn’t really done that in the past."
Another area being promoted by the Gainesville City School System is dual enrollment, a program to allow students the opportunity to earn college and high school credit for courses taken at the college level.
Prior to the start of the Board meeting Dr. Ray Perren, President of Lanier Technical College, and Dr. Merrianne Dyer, Superintendent of Gainesville City Schools, signed a one-year renewal agreement between the two schools allowing GHS students to dual enroll at Lanier Tech.
"Dual enrollment has such a positive track record all across the state; it’s a win-win (for everyone involved)," Perrin said.
Dr. Dyer responded by saying, “It (dual enrollment) is a possibility that will change the lives of the majority of our students. It’s the future of our community that needs the labor force. We appreciate the opportunity.”
Chairwoman Calkins said her son had participated in the dual enrollment program the previous year.
"What I appreciate is how easy you made it," Calkins said. "I was a little intimidated. A high school student being on a college campus…and there was no intimidation. It was very friendly and welcoming."
"We worked to significantly increase the number of the students that are dually enrolled, and we’ll likely increase that more," Dyer said.
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