The life of school board members includes an endless string of meetings on millage rates, school policies, personnel issues and on and on and on.
So it’s a nice and welcome change for them when a meeting features a milestone event for one of their students.
The Cartersville City School Board had such an occasion Monday night when Logan Austin Bearden, a hospital homebound student for six years, received his diploma from Cartersville High School after completing all the graduation requirements.
“I want you to know this is the most exciting thing we ever do, and I cry every time we do it,” board President Kelley Dial said. “We’re happy to give Logan his diploma, and he has his very own graduation ceremony. That’s why these are so special.”
As Dial presented Logan, 21 — wearing his Hurricane Purple gown but not caring much for the cap — with his diploma, the crowd of 19 friends and family members who came to support him, including his mom, Debbie, and his dad, Keith, celebrated his once-in-a-lifetime achievement with thunderous applause and cheers.
“Just by the amount of people here tonight, it’s obvious just how much support there is, and I just want to say we’re proud of you, Logan,” Superintendent Dr. Marc Feuerbach said. “We appreciate your family, appreciate all of you and everyone else who’s important to his life over the years.”
Logan’s mom said she is “very proud for Logan to be able to graduate.”
“I feel proud and honored,” she said. “Logan is the greatest blessing of my life. Just to see him in that cap and gown — words could never express how proud I am of him.”
Logan has autism, pachygyria, cerebral palsy and seizure disorder as well as an extreme suppressed immune system, his mom said.
“A common cold can be life-threatening for Logan,” she said. “Logan has been life-flighted five times and on life support four times.”
Logan’s medically fragile condition made attending school to get the education he needed one of his “greatest challenges,” Bearden said.
“The Cartersville School System made this possible for him by providing him with the hospital homebound program for the last six years,” she said. “Logan had two instructors coming out every day, three hours per day. They even came out during the summer months so Logan would have no regression in the skills they were teaching him.”
She added he had several different instructors who taught him over the years, “but Megan Jenkins has been consistent for the last three years.”
Director of Special Programs Dr. Susan Tolbert said one of the school system’s priorities is "Making it Personal,” which means it welcomes each student “where they are, and as a staff, we design plans based on students' needs in order to move them forward in both their academics and independence.”
“We could not be more proud of the persistence of our HHB students who complete their education while faced with medical setbacks and a multitude of other barriers,” she said. “To see our students finish strong and to receive a diploma is the ultimate reward for our staff who serve them.”
Bearden said she will “forever be grateful” to the school, school system and Tolbert for the services they provided for her son.
“It has been the best six years imaginable, every day having two-on-one instructors in our home, teaching Logan skills needed for his future,” she said. “They prepared him for his volunteer job that he has at our church, Oakland Heights Baptist, where he goes once a week to fold the weekly programs or stuff envelopes and do the skills that Cartersville High prepared him for.”
According to Tolbert, HHB services are designed to provide a continuity of educational services between the classroom, home or hospital for Georgia’s public school students whose physical or psychiatric medical needs do not allow them to attend school for a limited period of time.
HHB instruction may be used to supplement the classroom program for students with health conditions that may interfere with regular school attendance, such as dialysis or radiation/chemotherapy.
Students must anticipate being absent from school a minimum of 10 consecutive or intermittent school days due to their condition, and their inability to attend school must be certified by the licensed physician or licensed psychiatrist who is treating them for the diagnosis presented.
Tolbert said each student’s HHB plan varies, based on his or her specific needs.
“The school team designs the most appropriate plan, including who will serve, the hours per week and how many weeks are needed based on outside medical information obtained during the application process,” she said. “There is also a transition component of the HHB plan for students when they are ready to return to school.”
The number of Cartersville students who are served by HHB “varies throughout the school year,” Tolbert said.
“For our size system, we usually have between three [and] 10 students being served for a variety of reasons,” she said.