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Successful first week 'sets the tone' for school district
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The first week of school has come and gone and administrators have dubbed it the "best first week ever."

But it didn’t happen by chance, according to Superintendent Dr. Sallie Brewer.

"We plan for that result by studying what we do each year and planning any needed changes for the following year," she said. "That the school system is a growing system is an indicator in itself. Parents want the high quality education we offer for their children, and they move to Bryan County to get it. When parents make that decision, the reward is that they have many opportunities for participation in the continuing improvement of our system and schools."

Lanier Primary School Principal Patti Newman and Carver Principal Crystal Morales said "it was a great first week."

"Other than a kindergarten student who thought he didn’t have to come back after the first day, most of the students seemed glad to be back," Newman said.

Morales said the day one departure was smoother than last year with Carver's additional road and a turn lane.

"Loading buses and cars at Carver at the same time is a timesaver for parents," she added. "Carver faculty and staff all worked together to make this school opening very successful."

Brewer said the district's planning for this school year are already paying off – in spite of overcoming a few funding hurdles.

"Though Bryan County Schools has weathered $5 million in austerity cuts; though Bryan County Schools hit in 2008-2009 with an additional $2 million reduction in equalization funds because property values increased; and though the state has determined that it will withhold an additional two percent of expected funding this year and an additional three percent next year – the board and system administration have not taken a penny from the classroom," Brewer said. "The allotments to schools are as they have been in the past."

This allotment includes funding from the capital projects budget to complete the replacement Richmond Hill Elementary School during this school year, and to begin construction on a new Richmond Hill Middle School.

In other projects, during the first week of school, a new study committee met to determine short and long range plans for improvements and enhancements of the schools’ extracurricular programs – including athletics, clubs, literary, Odyssey of the Mind and others.

"The committee is comprised of the middle and high school principals and athletic directors, RHHS Assistant Principal Wade Wright, Associate Superintendent John Oliver, Assistant Superintendent Brad Anderson and I," Brewer said. "The committee will deal with the areas of staff, facilities, addition and expansion of programs, and other issues raised by members of the committee."

The committee will work through the school and athletic programs. Input will be taken from all staff members who have responsibilities in all the district’s extracurricular programs and, before the end of this year, Brewer said the plan will be provided for the Board of Education to review.

When considering all that went into the start of the 08-09 year, "every administrator and every teacher in Bryan County Schools did everything within our power to make the opening of school the most successful ever," Brewer said.

Brewer thanked parents and the community for the cooperation the district received.

"The opening was a safe and comfortable experience for our children," she noted. "The first two weeks of the year and the last two weeks of the year are the most difficult. A very successful beginning has set the tone for a successful 2008-2009."

Here are some other updates and/or changes:

- The annual parent survey was distributed during open house events. In exchange for a filling out a survey, parents received a free homework pass for their child.

"The parent advisory committee suggested distributing the surveys in this manner to encourage a higher than usual return rate," she said. "We received 3,881 surveys at a return rate of 55 percent. Not everyone went to open house, but many people did…The top five objectives on the K-5 survey and the top five objectives on the 6-12 survey will be used to set system priorities for planning and budgeting for improvements."

Brewer noted last year’s return rate was only between 20 and 25 percent. Additional information about which objectives will be focused on will be released soon.

- The annual head count of students during the first 10 days of school has continued. On Aug. 8, enrollment was at 6,603. On Aug. 19, it was up to 7,007. "Twenty additional teachers were employed to meet the needs of the projected enrollment," Brewer said. "We retained 92 percent of the 2007-2008 staff, and the new teachers who attended our system orientation are highly qualified and are excited about teaching in Bryan County Schools."

- In School Suspension has been moved from Black Creek to BCMS/BCHS and RHES.

- Parent Connect received 235 new accounts so far this year, bringing it to a total of 2,912 parents. The program was up and running Aug. 8, providing information about students’ grades, assignments, discipline, attendance, clinic visits and more.

- All After School Program slots have been filled for students and recruitment of school staff for the positions, so students on waiting lists may be served, is ongoing.



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