To the Parents and Staff of Bryan County Schools:
Thank you for working together and for working with the school and system administration to ensure the most productive, successful year experienced by students and staff in Bryan County Schools. We have much for which to be thankful. I am thankful both for what we have and for what we do not have. Both local and national news media keep us up to date with violence in schools. Our administrators do not tolerate behavior which creates an unsafe environment for students and staff. We provide a safe, productive environment for students and staff, and the numbers prove it.
During this school year, our students have won many contests and championships. Our staff members have been recognized for exemplary performance in many ways. Our performance data look good one year at a time and over time. We generally outperform our neighbors and the state on test scores. We lead coastal Georgia in the SAT’s, an affirmation for all staff Pre-K through 12. Over the last five years, we have improved our graduation rate by 17 percent – a record no other system around comes close to achieving. The seven schools up for SACS renewal of accreditation were approved. Dr. Dave O’Neal (State Department of Education), chair of four of the committees, said repeatedly that if any staff member in our schools was unhappy he could take the person to other places and bring him or her back happy.
Our first objective in all areas – academic performance, extracurricular accomplishments, facility improvements, other – is the same: improve every year over the prior year’s record. We have the resources to achieve this objective. Our board funds a budget for local tax dollars which enables us to:
Provide teachers all of the resources they need so that they do not have to spend their own money
Provide two of every three art, music, and physical education teachers K-12
Provide additional counselors to the state-allotted number
Provide school technology specialists to ensure our staff and students have access to the most up-to-date instructional software and hardware
Provide forty-one parapro positions in grades 1-5
Provide a permanent sub/office parapro position at each school
Provide funds for four of our eight nurses to ensure every school has services
Provide funds for half of the cost of the JROTC program at our high schools
Provide the majority of the funding for drivers’ education classes
Provide funds for permitted expenses for extracurricular academic and athletic programs – drivers for trips, supplements for staff
Provide for twenty-five locally paid teachers who provide services such as art, music, physical education, ESOL, elementary and middle school foreign language
Provide local supplements for teachers so that Bryan County can successfully compete with surrounding systems for the highest quality teachers.
Pay two-thirds of the cost of the bus service
All of this has been accomplished in the face of state austerity cuts totaling over five million dollars. That is, funding earned by Bryan County Schools’ student enrollment has been deducted from our funding because of the state budget shortfalls. In addition to austerity reductions, the 2008-2009 state funds will be reduced by an additional two million dollars of "equalization" funding. That loss is a result of Bryan County’s increased wealth as measured by property values.
One of the areas on which we continue to work is improving communication with our parents and staff. (l) A parent advisory committee elected by school councils meets quarterly with the superintendent to resolve issues, change rules and procedures, and plan for continuing improvements. Their contact information is on the website and is in every issue of GOOD NEWS ABOUT BRYAN COUNTY SCHOOLS. (2) A teacher advisory committee is made up of teachers elected by the certified staff of the school. Members bring issues both from certified and classified staff to quarterly meetings with the superintendent. Both advisory groups do surveys of the respective group at least every other year to set priorities for system planning and budgeting. (3) The system and all schools have websites. The system website includes e-mail contacts for board members. (4) Every school has a school council made up of parents, teachers, business leaders, and the principal.
(5) GOOD NEWS ABOUT BRYAN COUNTY SCHOOLS is mailed to all 16,000+ box holders quarterly. (6) There are more than twenty parent support groups which meet as PTSO’s or boosters to support school programs. (7) Two years ago the number one request on the parent survey was to install Parent Connect, an online grade book which a parent may check and find grades, discipline, attendance, clinic, and other information about their child. By request certain student information may be e-mailed to the parent. It is always possible to be involved in the operation and improvement of Bryan County Schools in positive ways.
The school system passed an ESPLOST referendum which will fund a replacement school for BCES in Pembroke and a replacement school for RHMS in Richmond Hill. (The current RHMS would become part of RHHS.) The architect is working on plans for RHMS. The board acquired a parcel of 98.05 acres to provide a site for the construction of RHMS and a future second high school for Richmond Hill. The board acquired land in Pembroke for the replacement BCES and a future middle school across the road from BCHS. (Both teacher/staff and parent surveys ranked continuing to build permanent classrooms instead of purchasing portables as a TOP TEN objective.)
I recommended a local supplement increase for teachers in the 2008-2009 budget submitted to the board. (Both teacher/staff and parent surveys ranked as number one the need to continue to increase local supplements for teachers to enable the system to obtain and retain the most highly qualified teachers.)
Security remains a priority. All schools have sensory alarms. All schools will be fenced to safeguard the system’s resources. Cameras are being added in high traffic areas.
A new RHHS assistant principal position will have major responsibility for supervision of athletics.
The board is considering requests for out of state travel on a case by case basis.
Who gets the credit for the many successes accomplished in Bryan County Schools this year? Almost everyone does. Our certified and support staff members are dedicated to doing what is best for children. Our parents give thousands of hours of volunteer service to our schools and set education as a family priority. Our community acknowledges in the media, in advertisements, and by word-of-mouth that we are THE MAJOR ATTRACTION, and it is acknowledged in many circles. When Colonel Todd Buchs, Garrison Commander at Ft. Stewart, visited our schools, he thanked principals for providing safe schools for military children.
This is my formal, heart-felt invitation to parents and staff to be involved in a positive way in the best resource Bryan County has, our public schools. At open house events in the fall, every teacher will have a brief parent survey to be completed "on the spot" and traded in for a homework pass for each child. Please work with me to make the best even better. Children first – it is the only acceptable motto for our schools!