Monday is the first day of school. What an exciting time for our students and staff.
District administrators have worked tirelessly over the past couple of months, reflecting on the past year and planning for the upcoming one.
I would love to share some of our successes.
For the eighth consecutive year, Richmond County Schools has made positive gains in student achievement. This is the direct result of the hard work of our students and our teachers. We continue to close the gap with the state average in overall proficiency and exceed it in some areas — no easy task when you factor in the challenges we face.
Although the General Assembly passed legislation to lower class sizes in our K through three classrooms, what they failed to acknowledge is the resulting increase in class sizes in four through 12. Low-wealth districts that lack local money to make up the difference are hurt by the legislation. In spite of the larger classes, we continue to grow.
We also saw an increase in our graduation rate. While 81 percent represents a 5 percent increase over the rate of the previous year, there is still a lot of work to be done. We will consider it a true success when all of our students graduate.
We also have improved our attendance rates. Our staff have worked diligently on raising awareness of the “cost” of missing school.
The state defines students who miss more than 10 days of school in a year as being “chronically absent,” and five years ago, 58 percent of our high school students fell into that category. We have cut that number by more than half — a vast improvement but still too high.
One of our greatest achievements was the successful transition of our exceptional-children’s classes into grade-level-appropriate schools. While we knew attending school with their non-disabled peers was the right placement for our children, the overwhelming acceptance and love, as well as the happiness of the children, far exceeded our expectations.
More students than ever are taking advantage of the College and Career Promise opportunity and receiving both high school and college credit for courses they take at Richmond Community College. This fall, we have 260 high school students enrolled in one or more courses at RCC.
None of these accomplishments could have taken place without the incredible support the school district receives from the Richmond County community.
The very successful Stuff the Bus campaign was just the beginning. It seems almost every day that someone comes by the central office with bags of notebooks, pencils and crayons for those students who cannot afford them.
Volunteers from the community come into our schools to read with children.
Men donate their time to serve as mentors for our Bowtie Club boys.
Local churches have provided back- to-school breakfasts, luncheons and snack packs for our returning teachers.
Many of our local businesses support us as well. Dieffenbach GM Superstore donates a car to promote student attendance and, just this week, Evolution Fitness Center provided a yearlong membership to one of our teachers of the year. The countywide teacher of the year won a year’s use of a new car from the Griffin Auto Group.
In spite of the incredible obstacles our teachers face in their classrooms, they persevere, knowing how much the community supports them.
Monday morning, 91 school buses will transport the 7,100 students who attend Richmond County Schools.
You may notice some of the safety measures we have put into place. They may result in a slight inconvenience, but I know you understand that the safety of our students is our top priority.
I want to encourage all our parents to ensure their children are in school regularly. State law requires that students attend school “continuously.”
Talk to your children every day and ask them about school. If you let them know you value their education, they will value it, too.
We look forward to continued collaboration with our community and to a successful school year for our staff, teachers, administrators and students.
Cindy Goodman is superintendent of Richmond County Schools.