What are you looking forward to most for the 2015-16 school year?
I look forward to the opportunity to continue to serve our students and community and work alongside our Board of Education to improve outcomes for all students. I greatly enjoy visiting schools to talk to our students and staff — their ideas are energizing and boundless. I look forward to recognizing the accomplishments of our students and staff at our Newton County Board of Education meetings and other functions throughout the year. The pinnacle of each year is witnessing our students walk across the stage during commencement ceremonies-it is the culmination of 13 or 14 years of hard work and dedication on the part of students, parents, and the NCSS staff.
Are there any changes to the upcoming year that parents and or students should know about?
We consistently focus on increasing student achievement through more effective teaching; therefore, parents and students should expect to be met with high expectations and more rigorous coursework. During the 14-15 school year, the State Department of Education waived promotion and retention requirements for students in grades three, five, and eight as well as the incorporation of End-of-Course grades as twenty percent of the students’ final grades due to the uncertainties that are associated with implementing a new assessment model. The waiver has ended and this year, students in grades three, five, and eight will be required to post a passing score on the Georgia Milestones End-of-Grade assessments. High School students’ End-of-Course assessments will be calculated as 20% of the students’ final grades. Speaking of assessments, the state has offered flexibility in the administration of Student Learning Objectives assessments, commonly known as SLOs, for the 15-16 school year. The Newton County School System is taking advantage of this one year of flexibility because it means fewer tests for our students. Additionally, our math teachers have elected to return to the more traditional mathematics plan in our high schools; beginning with 2015-2016 freshman class, the first course in the math sequence will be Algebra I followed by Geometry, Algebra II and a Fourth Math Option. Finally, with the Board’s recent approval of the Investing in Educational Excellence flexibility model (now Strategic Waiver System), we’ll be hard at work completing the application for implementation in the 16-17 school year.
What are you most proud of as superintendent in your first two years?
I am most proud of our students’ increased achievement and accomplishments (there are too many to name). Our school system team has accomplished a great deal over the last two years — it’s almost too difficult to identify just a few things. Our schools have focused clearly on instruction and increasing expectations of our students, and as a result, student outcomes continue to improve. We have dedicated ourselves to developing a “college-going atmosphere” beginning with our Pre-K students so that all students are prepared to make choices about their futures beyond the high school setting. I am proud of our fiscal management as the Board has been able to begin to re-establish benefits and salaries that were impacted during the recession. I am pleased that our middle school program has included options for students to earn high school credit so that when they get to high school their course options are much more expansive. Finally, I am proud that our high schools have been recognized by the College Board as having exemplary Advanced Placement Programs.
What would you like to have seen more improvement in since 2013?
We are in a continuous state of improvement-constantly evaluating progress and taking corrective action as needed. Our test scores are improving, but we won’t be satisfied until all of our students reach proficient or better with all assessments. High performing school systems are marked by increased parental involvement and community support; we can never have enough parent engagement and community support.