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Lee, school officials talk at chamber event
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Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee speaks at the Progress Through People luncheon Thursday at the Performing Arts Center. - photo by Jeremy McAbee

Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee delivered a presentation Thursday at the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce’s monthly Progress Through People luncheon, held at the Performing Arts Center.

Lee gave a brief overview of some of the district’s highlights from the 2013-14 school year, as well as some insight into the board of education’s plans for the current school year.

She also introduced members of her cabinet: Chief Administrative Officer Jason Rogers; Chief Academic Officer Mary Alexander; Chief Information Officer Dr. Patti Crane; Chief Financial Officer Roger Reese; Executive Director for Teaching and Learning Susan Avant; and Director of Evaluation, Assessment and Accountability Dr. Jennifer Walts.

"These people are helping all of us to live out the true mission of our school district," Lee said.

Lee reported that the district received a 100 percent clearance report from the state on all 13 indicators regarding services for special-needs students — a first for Liberty County schools.

She also spoke about the district’s culture and climate, stating that data reflect a need for better communication between administrators, teachers, students and parents. Lee said that whereas before her arrival to LCSS, parents were limited to two site visits per year, parents now will be invited every nine weeks or more, if needed.

"We want parents and the community in our schools — we cannot do it alone," she said.

Avant gave a brief overview of the teaching and learning department, stating that the district is in the process of updating and streamlining its website. She said that a video library for teachers and professional learning resources and testing information now is available online.

Walts, who said her title basically translated to "data analyst," spoke about the incoming Georgia Milestones Assessment System and how it will differ from the Criterion-Referenced Competency and End-of-Course testing systems.

"What we’re doing now in education is asking students to explain why, to communicate their answers clearly," Walts said. "That’s going to make them, ultimately, better employees."

Crane gave the audience an update on the Liberty Learning Experience, LCSS’ district-wide iPad initiative. She said high-school students have had their iPads for about a week, and that middle schools are set to distribute the tablets after Labor Day. Elementary schools will commence iPad rollout in late October/early November.

Lee also took the opportunity to express her displeasure with the Coastal Courier’s reporting of the district’s decision to eliminate the STAR program.

"I’m about transparency," Lee said. "I’m just as open as any book you might get out of the library."

As Lee spoke, Rogers, Alexander and Crane distributed packets containing a copy of a Coastal Courier article titled "School system cuts STAR program," as well as correspondence that was cut-and-pasted from an email interview between Lee and a Courier reporter.

"What you have in your hand is a document, and it’s called ‘What Would You Think?’" Lee explained.

The purpose of the document was to refute points made in the article regarding the STAR program and the district’s actions in dealing with STAR officials.

Lee closed by stating that she intends on staying in Liberty County.

"If anybody tries to pull me back to the Atlanta area, they better have a long, strong rope, because I’m not going anywhere," she said.

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