During a Progress through People luncheon Thursday, Liberty County School Superintendent Dr. Valya Lee laid out four goals for the school system.
She was invited to speak to community and business leaders at the monthly Liberty County Chamber of Commerce event.
Lee said the system’s primary goal is to provide quality education for its students. Therefore, efforts must be made to increase student achievement.
The new superintendent briefed her audience on how Georgia was one of more than 40 states to petition for a waiver from the Elementary and Secondary Education Act, which means the school system is no longer under No Child Left Behind. The system now follows the Common Core State Standards initiative, she said. She explained Liberty’s public schools are using the College and Career Ready Performance Index to measure student performance.
Lee said though the system will prepare students for college and a career, some students might be better served by attending a good technical college to prepare for the workforce.
The system scored an 84.3 on the 100-point CCRPI scale, she said.
“For this district to score that high is unbelievable,” Lee said.
The superintendent went on to show how the district’s CCRPI scores at the elementary, middle and high school levels compared with the state. Liberty’s elementary schools scored an 84.3 as compared to the state’s 83.4 score for elementary students, and the system’s high schools scored a 76.3 compared to the state’s 72.6, according to Lee. The county’s public middle schools did not do as well, Lee admitted, with a score of 78.7 compared to the state’s 81.4.
“We have work to do because we can beat the state,” she said.
“Middle school is probably the most challenging area,” Lee added.
The superintendent said middle-schoolers have a difficult transition, as they must develop study skills in preparation for high school and be “more intrinsically motivated” than they were in elementary school. She went on to show the system’s recent Criterion Referenced Competency Test scores and pointed out which subjects, such as mathematics, where students need to improve.
A second goal, Lee said, is to provide students a safe environment conducive to learning. Discipline is part of this, she said. The system is using the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports behavioral program, Lee said. This program helps teachers and schools offer students incentives for good behavior, the superintendent said.
More than 19,000 schools in the U.S. use PBIS, according to the state department of education website.
“PBIS schools apply a multi-tiered approach to prevention, using disciplinary data and principles of behavior analysis to develop school-wide, targeted and individualized interventions and supports to improve school climate for all students,” according to the Georgia DOE.
Conducting fire drills and lockdown training are also a part of school safety, Lee said.
Goal three is to enhance staff development, the superintendent said. Shoring up educators’ skills ensures the most qualified and effective teachers are teaching, Lee said. And mentoring new teachers will help prevent first-year teachers from “feeling isolated,” and better their chances of sticking with a career in education, according to Lee.
“We have 40 new teachers this year,” she said. “And we want to keep them.”
Goal four is the system’s ongoing efforts to integrate technology in the classrooms thereby producing “21st Century learners,” she said. The system already offers virtual learning, Lee said.
The superintendent added that Liberty’s schools have been on the cutting edge by bringing technology into classes. She mentioned how a number of high school students began using iPads and a digital curriculum a year ago. Lee praised Dr. Patti Crane, the executive director of technology and media, for her efforts.
Lee ended by asking community and business leaders to get involved with the schools.
“I always say, so goes the school system, so goes the community,” she said.