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Schools hear parents' concerns
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The Bradwell Institute Marching Band drum line greeted participants to the forum at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center. - photo by Photo by Denise Etheridge

The Liberty County School System hosted a community forum Tuesday to hear concerns from parents and other members of the community.
“We have a mission. We have goals. You fit into that mission. You fit into those goals,” Board of Education Chairwoman Lily Baker told a packed auditorium at the Liberty County Performing Arts Center. Many of those who attended were parents and interested community members. A large portion of the audience consisted of school-system employees — including teachers, para-professionals, counselors and social workers — who have children who attend Liberty County schools.
System administrators handed out agendas, a comment form and a brochure about the federal funding the district receives for various programs. The Bradwell Institute drum line performed as attendees entered the center.
The district’s four assistant superintendents, following an address by Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee and a performance by the Liberty County High School chorus, presented overviews of their individual areas of responsibility. Forum attendees then filed into the center’s media room for break-out discussion sessions.
Dr. Debbie Rodriguez, assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, oversees curriculum and instruction, professional learning, federal programs, testing and assessment, and special programs such as the gifted program, early intervention program, remedial education and career, technical and agricultural education.
Mary Alexander, assistant superintendent for student services, supervises special education, counseling and guidance services, social work, psychological services, military support and safety.
Jason Rogers, assistant superintendent for administrative services, handles budget and finance, human resources, payroll and accounting, employee benefits, school-board policies, legal services, impact aid and technology.
Rogers said the system employs 1,300 and is the second-largest employer in Liberty County. Fort Stewart is the top employer. Fifty-four percent of system staff is considered certified, meaning they are teachers, counselors, principals, assistant principals and administrators. Seventy-seven percent of the system’s certified staffers have advanced degrees, Rogers said. Forty-six percent of district employees are considered classified, which includes administrative assistants, food-service employees, bus drivers and custodians.
The system has an annual operating budget of about $100 million and an $8.1 million budget for capital projects, he said. The district’s operating budget is funded with federal, state and local money. E-SPLOST funds the district’s capital projects, such as building construction and renovation.
John Lyles, assistant superintendent for operations, takes care of the system’s transportation, facilities and maintenance, communications and public relations, food services and athletics.
The break-out sessions allowed participants to pass along to school administrators concerns that they expressed during their discussions.
One group said transportation should be provided for students in after-school remediation services. Another table of forum participants wanted to see the system build better community relations.
Lee said district administrators already partner with local law enforcement, social organizations and the faith-based community.
“Tell us how we can get involved and we’re more than happy to do so,” the superintendent said. “It’s going to take all of us to raise our children and provide them a quality education.”
Another group said special-needs students need more structural support and should be more fully engaged in learning. Lee said special-needs students are mainstreamed in Liberty’s schools, and programs — such as thinking maps — are being procured. Thinking maps are designed to cater to students’ different learning styles, she said.
“A great deal is being done behind the scenes,” Lee said.
Some forum attendees suggested enhancing art and culture in schools, rather than focusing just on sports.
One table discussed parents’ concerns over math instruction.
The father of two 9-year-olds said he needs assistance so he can help his children with their math. He said the new math methods are beyond his understanding.
One mother said she’d like to see students receive more strenuous math instruction so they are prepared for the SAT.  
Other participants discussed ways to get parents more involved in their children’s education, as it pertains to routinely communicating with their children’s teachers.
Lee said parents are encouraged to call faculty, staff and administrators at any time to set up appointments.
“We work for you,” she said.
School administrators plan to hold three more forums throughout the school year.

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