Bryan County Schools Superintendent Dr. Paul Brooksher spoke Thursday about the current state of the school system at the Rotary Club of Richmond Hill’s weekly meeting at the Richmond Hill City Center.
The McAllister Elementary School will be open in August of 2015, according to Brooksher, and will be built to hold 1,000 students.
With the addition of this McAllister Elementary, which will house grades K-5 and be located near the County Administrative Complex and Henderson Park, the school system faces the new challenge of creating attendance zones, or districts, for the specific lower-level schools — Richmond Hill Primary; G.W. Carver Elementary; and Richmond Hill Elementary, he explained.
Currently Fort Stewart serves as a pseudo attendance line between North and South Bryan, and with only one school offering each grade level, the county has never had to create attendance zones before, he said.
“A new building does not equal a better school,” Brooksher said, adding that what makes Bryan County schools truly great is the quality of its teachers.
McAllister will be the first K-5 school in Bryan County, but Brooksher said he is confident in this structure based on his past experiences.
He also commented on the challenges that the Bryan County Schools system currently face, including the county being split by a military institution, for example, which means the school system has to duplicate services, like transportation depots.
“Which gets expensive,” he said.
Bryan County Schools will continue to grow, he said.
“Growing is a challenge, but a good one to have” Brooksher said. “We’d rather be opening schools then closing them.”
There are currently 8,290 students enrolled in the Bryan County Schools system from pre-kindergarten to 12th grade and a conservative estimate for the number of students enrolled in 2023-24 is 9,411.
Brooksher was also happy about the new leadership in the school system. He explained the rigorous process one undergoes to become a leader in the Bryan County School System, which involves a three-hour written component and a three-hour face interview.
In the past 19 months four principals, nine assistant principals, an assistant superintendent, a director of human resources, a director of special education and an account have been hired into leadership positions.
In addition, teachers rushed to sign up for professional learning opportunities offered this summer, he said.
“Our summer offerings focus on the mission of investing for excellence and success in system employees to improving student learning and enhance staff skills by offering high-quality professional development programs for all system employees,” Brooksher said.
“We are working with many staff members to address courses where the interest exceeded the availability of offerings in a particular area. At present, we have facilitated 961 registrants with their requests. We are excited with the participation and look forward to a summer full of learning.”
Furthermore, the Board of Education was able to give a one-time payment that equaled 3 percent of their annualized salary to all employees last year.
Brooksher explained the new state evaluation system for teachers called TKES, Teacher Keys Effectiveness System. The scoring of the new system will be based on the growth of a teacher’s specific class instead of comparing different classes’ scores to one another.
Furthermore, CRCT’s will be replaced with a new assessment, GMAP for grades 3-11. The change was made so there would be a more seamless testing assessment throughout a student’s school career, according to Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Brad Anderson.
Anderson said the new test is more rigorous, with higher expectations, and that this could lead to a decrease in test scores.
However, the school board plans to have open meetings with parents to help inform them on the changes, he said.
When asked about Common Core standards, Anderson said that they aren’t bad and that there is a lot of misinformation going around about what they mean.
He said Common Core focuses on more analytical reading and getting students to read and write at higher levels, noting that the school system takes the standards and customizes them to the community and its particular needs.