“No matter where we are, when we say we’re from Cartersville, they always comment about the great school systems we have here in Cartersville [and] Bartow County, and that’s a great sense of pride for me,” Parnick Jennings Jr., chair of the quarterly luncheon committee, said to the crowd.
Cartersville Superintendent Howard Hinesley spoke on the school system’s strategic plan and how it is being utilized.
“Using our eighth-grade math [scores] as an example, last year our students not only met the [state Criterion Referenced Competency Tests] standard, they exceeded the state standard ... We do not have goals to meet the minimum standard; our goals are to exceed those standards,” Hinesley said.
He said middle school initiatives also include expanding high school credits such as math, science and foreign language.
“One of the major things we’re wanting to do with high school achievement is to ensure that our schools are aligned. We are not a system of schools, we are a school system,” Hinesley said. “We have a pre-K center and four schools. Starting at our pre-K center, 97 percent of the children who have gone through our pre-K program are at or above grade level by the third grade. Most of the children in our pre-K program are on free or reduced lunch, but we’re very proud of the success that we currently enjoy with our pre-K program.
“At the primary school, which is a very large school with over 1,000 students .., we have 17 kindergarten [classrooms]. Each of those kindergartens have an average teacher/student ratio of 16 to 1. Our [primary school staff] ... creates focus classes where we raise teacher/student ratio in some classes with a substantial reduction in other classes so that we can work with students that are academically challenged and help them continue to prepare for their elementary school years.”
He continued, “At our elementary school, we’re very proud that we’ve been recognized for a number of years on the state [level] as being an exemplarily Title I program. Our elementary school students do extremely well and we exceed at the state in our goal at exceeding academically ...
“At the high school level we’ve had a graduation rate over the last three years of 82 percent, we have one of the largest offerings in north Georgia for AP classes and we have been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as being ranked No. 31 of the best high schools in the state of Georgia based on Advanced Placement offerings.”
Bartow County Superintendent John Harper also referenced the county system’s strategic plan.
“This is a living document for us. It sits on my desktop,” Harper said of the plan. “... This is what ... gives us direction for what’s going on inside our school system.”
Harper said two major areas of the plan are organizational growth and school and community relationships, citing the Bartow County College and Career Academy, which has seen an influx of community involvement and a 90 percent graduation rate in its first year
“It’s very exciting for me when it’s graduation time and watching those students move across the stage — that’s our core business and that’s why we work hard when putting together this strategic plan,” he said. “... [When] looking at improving student engagement, ... we know are students are a success when they are ready to leave the academy.”
Harper also spoke of the incorporation of technology to improve student engagement, citing the new Adairsville Middle School.
“We fully implemented a 1-to-1 [student to computer] ratio. If you have no support at home, that laptop allows them access to the teacher, access to the school and they’re ready to go,” he said. “A side note of student engagement in kids having that Macbook Air ... is that the discipline issues have declined significantly. It is our obligation with this technology that it will certainly help them 24/7 as they move through the educational process.”
Beyond speaking on the system’s goals from an administrative and technological perspective, Harper also thanked classroom teachers for providing instruction on a daily basis and for the impact they can make on a student’s life.
“Teachers are at the heart and the backbone of what we do... [Instruction] is what we do day in and day out to help our kids get across that stage for graduation,” Harper said. “There’s a lot of heroes in our classrooms, and at the end of the day, they have been asked to do so many things. I had a teacher that was significant in my life growing up ..., and he was my hero and [the reason] I got into the school business.”