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Superintendent reports on schools' progress

Thursday forum gives public an update

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POSTED: May 5, 2014 9:41 a.m.
Photo by Hollie Moore Barnidge/

The Lewis Frasier Middle School choir performs at the forum.

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The Liberty County School System is on the move, and Superintendent Dr. Valya S. Lee is glad the community is on board.
LCSS’ top official hosted a forum Thursday night at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center in Flemington, where she brought attendees up to speed with a State of the District Address that feted schools’ accomplishments, highlighted new programs and initiatives, provided a glance at the operating budget, and touted faculty, staff and students.
Lee expressed pride in the school system and encouraged those in attendance to continue their support of the district, while urging their families, friends and neighbors to do the same.
“We want to make certain that when parents deliver (students) to us every day — whether it’s via the bus, or from their own automobiles, or students walking to school — that we’re proving a safe and supportive learning environment for them,” she said. “We do our best to recruit the best and the brightest as it relates to our staff, and we also want to make certain that you, as our stakeholders, are continuously involved in the learning process. We cannot do it alone, and we do not have all the answers.”
After giving attendees a basic rundown of the system — which includes 14 learning sites (seven elementary, three middle and two high schools; the Liberty College and Career Academy; and the pre-K center) and employs 1,507 administrators, teachers, and certified and classified staffers — the superintendent lauded students for their achievements. The district has 567 students in the gifted/talented program, 480 honors-placement students, 274 Advanced Placement students and 24 students taking AP courses.
In addition, Lee listed the benefits of LCSS’ partnership with the Military Child Education Coalition, through which the district has secured a military-student transition consultant who connects students and parents to in-district personnel to provide transition concierge support; coordinates and supports efforts to solve individual transition-, relocation- and deployment-related challenges; and serves as a navigator to promote smooth school transitions for military-connected students.
She touched briefly on the school system’s finances and budget, which includes projected fiscal year 2014 revenues of $86,717,441. At the end of April, that figure stood at $68,168,617. Expenditures of instructional funds, as of April, were at $4,004 per student, but the FY14 projection is $5,445 per student.
“Your students have the best of the best in Liberty County. I’m pleased to work in a district where I don’t lose sleep at night wondering how we’re going to get things done,” Lee said of LCSS’ finances. “They’re getting the finest education available in this state and, I would venture to say, the nation.”
She added that she and the school board are cautious when it comes to fiscal matters and purchases.
“We let our decision-making be done and driven by data. If it is something that we’re using district funds for, but it’s only serving a small amount of students and not giving us the biggest bang for our buck, we’re going to find a different program that will deliver those same services and much, much more,” Lee said. “We have to be responsible stewards of your taxpayer money.”
The superintendent also announced plans to strengthen the system’s relationships with the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce and other community organizations, such as the Liberty Long Employers Association and area colleges and universities.
“We have a number of higher-educational institutions along the coast — some of the best in the state and the nation,” Lee said. “We’re already in a collaborative with Armstrong (State) University with the STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) program over at Snelson-Golden, and we have a number of their students who are our student teachers. And then, of course, you know we have that collaborate with Savannah Tech with LCCA (Liberty College and Career Academy).”
Technology surfaced throughout the forum as a recurring theme and issue of importance. Lee touched on upcoming improvements and digital initiatives.
“We’re upgrading computer labs from the PCs to the Mac labs, so we will pretty much be an Apple district throughout the district — one of the first in the state,” she said.
Before turning the podium over to LCSS Executive Director of Technology Patti Crane, who unveiled the district’s new app, Lee invited audience members to attend the May 8-9 strategic-planning community-engagement session, where five action teams will review the goals and input forum attendees submitted on paper before leaving the Performing Arts Center.
In other areas of the center, students showed off their artwork and knowledge before and after Lee’s address. In one room, Snelson-Golden students displayed STEM-based projects and information that corresponded with their classroom lessons.
Eighth-grader Lloyd Lafountain explained that he and his classmates recently learned about composting, the scientific method, taking mass measurements and using iPad apps to make STEM fliers and brochures.
“I like STEM because I actually like to go out and get my hands dirty and do stuff,” he said. “I like going outside and recycling and helping the Earth.”


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