By: Summer Kelley, Staff Reporter
Maintaining a positive attitude is one of the key tips given by school counselors to help students during testing week. It appears the board of education has taken a positive attitude to heart as negative news continues to bombard school systems across the United States.
Principals from each of Dade County’s four schools were given three minutes each to present positive things about their individual school at Monday night’s monthly school board meeting. Leading the group was Dade Middle School Principal Karen DeMarche, who had several pieces of good news to report including the announcement that Dade Middle School eighth graders once again scored first in Georgia on their state writing tests. An improvement from 95 percent to 98 percent passing was seen with the writing tests and the county went from having three students with perfect scores on the test to five students with perfect scores.
DeMarche also reported that Dade Middle received a resolution from the Georgia house recognizing the school’s work with Project Synergy and it was presented by Rep. Martin Scott. Last year a similar resolution was passed with Jeff Mullis in the state senate.
A third positive announcement from Dade Middle School was the new cooperative effort with the other three schools in the system to help reduce power bills next year after the middle school spearheaded a “black out” day during Earth Day this year.
Josh Ingle from Dade County High School gave a pictorial presentation featuring students who participated in this year’s Future Business Leaders of America (FBLA) competition at the state level, several of whom won distinctive awards. Ingle also said that teachers Tonya Gatlin and Lori Moore have worked hard to help Dade County achieve its industrial certification and just received word on Monday that the system had passed and now has an industrially certified program.
Several pictures of the Agriculture Department’s greenhouse appeared on screen as Ingle informed board members that the ferns in front of their seats were theirs to keep and had been grown in the school’s greenhouse. Plants, flowers and various vegetables are currently available for sale at the school’s greenhouse to help raise funds for the agriculture department. The plants have been raised and cared for by students and Ingle said the resulting products in the greenhouse are very professional looking.
Continuing in the agriculture vein, Ingle informed board members of a new program spearheaded by science teacher Jesse Potts. The environmental garden Potts has started is a cross curricular project that has just started at the high school and Potts is working on some small grants to help get the program going. The project will last through next fall. Other student projects shown by Ingle included buildings built by students in Coach Wells’ construction class.
Ingle ended his presentation by saying that the system was awaiting news on a grant recently applied for through the state education department and would let board members know as soon as the status of the grant application was known.
Dade Elementary School Principal Cherie Swader spoke next and said the elementary school had recently sent a group of gifted students to participate in Odyssey of the Mind where students have to come up with creative solutions for problems. Swader said the students did very well and the teachers who work with them do so on their own time on voluntary basis. Swader also reported that two Dade Elementary students won the county oratorical contest, with one student moving on to compete regionally, and students at the Dade Elementary had started this year’s Great Race – a math program where students compete at memorizing math facts like addition, subtraction and times tables.
Dade Elementary also received all meets and exceeds on their Bright from the Start Pre-K Evaluation last week and has been a Title I Distinguished School for nine years running.
In closing, Swader pointed out that it was not necessarily what has been achieved that is great about Dade Elementary but it is the teachers and staff who give extra time and effort to help students. “What makes Dade Elementary great is not what you hear about,” Swader said. “But, what you see when you come to Dade Elementary School and want you to come and see what makes us great.”
The last principal to present was Davis Elementary Principal Mike Rich. Rich said that Davis had a goal of getting 83 percent of parents to participate in parent/teacher conferences and participation for the recent set of conferences had been 85.4 percent, exceeding the schools’ goal. Kindergarten had the highest participation with the parents of 19 out of 20 students attending conferences. Davis’ high parent involvement is also seen in attendance at PTO meetings. At the April 15, PTO meeting over 188 parents, grandparents and others attended. Involvement by students in a recent service project, the St. Jude’s Math-a-thon, raised over $1,000 for St. Jude’s. Rich said the service project was near and dear to the school since Davis had a St. Jude’s child at the school.
Rich concluded his list of positive things about Davis with the information that he is a member of the National Association of Elementary School Principals (NAESP) and a chapter of the National Elementary Honor Society has been chartered through the NAESP at Davis. The first meeting and induction of students will take place on May 5 at 9 a.m. and written invitations will be sent out. The Honor Society will be open to fourth and fifth graders.
Superintendent Patty Priest had a piece of news for the school system that may potentially mean another positive mark for Dade County schools. Priest said she had seen a parallel between Dade’s work on the school improvement grants and a Race to the Top program being discussed at the state level. Priest has approached administrators involved with the Race to the Top program about Dade County’s being a pilot school since work with the program so closely resembles many things Dade County is already doing or working on. Priest said she was still learning more about the Race to the Top program and will give updates on her progress. If Dade schools were selected as part of the pilot schools, it could mean additional funds for next school year.
In other business:
Board members approved declaring several old pieces of technology equipment as surplus and having them hauled away and recycled by companies certified to do so. The company destroys data on the hard drive and certifies that none of this information becomes public.
Board members approved a low fuel bid by Mansfield Oil.
Board members tentatively approved a contract with the YMCA for providing half day activities after children are done with literacy time in the morning at the schools. The literacy activities will be provided through the Even Start grant and other details regarding the YMCA program are still in the planning stage. Board of Education members are waiting on approval of the YMCA contract from school attorneys before moving forward.
Board members discussed a policy change to GBRE. All athletic coaches in the school system will be required to hold a bus driver’s license by six months of employment as an athletic coach. The license must have a P and S endorsement (Passenger and School Bus). The requirement of athletic coaches to have their bus license is to help cut down on the difficulty obtaining bus drivers for away games.
Board members approved a reduction of student days by getting rid of one weather make-up day that had been added to the end of the school year. By law, school boards are allowed up to four days they do not have to make up due to acts of God, shortage of vital materials and other major reasons. Dade County accrued six weather days this year, three of which were used as reduction in annual work schedule days, two were weather make-up days and the last will not be made up at all.
Board members approved the retirement of Brenda Childress from Dade Elementary and Dan Blevins from Transportation. The retirement of Dr. Pat Taylor was also approved and effective as of April 1, 2010. Board members also approved a leave of absence for Christy Hurley, the hiring of Christina Daniel and Joyce Boyd as substitute teachers, the resignation of Tanja Barton, the hiring of substitute bus driver Becky Smith and cafeteria personnel Rhonda Morris, Amy Clark and Cathy Canterbury.