The Liberty County School System hosted a community forum on Nov. 27 to address the concerns of the parents and community. Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry, Chief Academic Officer Patti Crane and other essential school personnel attended to provide a district update and answer questions.
In recent weeks, bullying has been an issue of concern for some parents, having brought the issue to the attention of both the school and the school board. Perry, in a conversation with the Coastal Courier, said that there is a no tolerance policy for bullying, but sometimes finding the source can be difficult.
“It is not always a simple or easy thing to address,” Perry said. “The parents expect us to find out. They can always contact me, if they feel the problem wasn’t addressed thoroughly. However, I will say that we tell all of our principals that bullying isn’t tolerated.”
The bullying, according to parent Barbra Nicholas, has ranged from her daughter being targeted at Lewis Frasier Middle School to threatening text messages on her daughter’s cellphone.
“The school isn’t doing anything, they say they can’t discipline the students, only move my child to a different class, which doesn’t help because they’re all in the same classes,” Nicholas said. Nicholas lost her son to suicide, and says her daughter gets teased and ridiculed because of that.
However, because of past behavioral records, Nicholas continued, there isn’t much that can be done.
Social media bullying is a much harder beast to contain, Perry continued, stating that finding the origins of the post or posts in question can’t always be proved.
“We can’t tackle social media bullying in the same way, because it’s hard to know who posted what or where it originally came from,” he said.
LCSS presented the state of the district report, which covered everything from enrollment numbers, CCRPI (College and Career Readiness Index) scores, school climate ratings to PBIS (Positive Behavior Intervention Supports) and dual enrollment.
“This is a night to share our successes and improvements,” Crane said. “We welcome and encourage questions.”
“We know the support of the community is there, and we are serious about educating every child, and we want you to trust us,” Perry said.
The report began with 2018 enrollment numbers, hovering at 10,110 students, Interim Chief Operations Officer Jason Rogers said. The number of students who receive a free or reduced lunch stands at 68 percent.
The CCRPI scores had been redesigned this past year, Executive Director of Technology and Charter Innovations Melissa Roberts said. LCSS ranked number seven out of 18 districts in the RESA area, she continued.
All school also received either a four or five star school climate rating, Perry said. The rating is determined by data from the Georgia Student Health Survey 2.0, the Georgia School Personnel Survey, the Georgia Parent Survey, student discipline data, and attendance records for students, teachers, staff and administrators.
“The school climate star rating provides school-level data on the following components: school climate, student discipline, safe and substance-free learning environments and attendance,” Perry said.
Executive Director for Student Services Dr. Kathy Moody said the currently, all 12 schools participate in PBIS.
“As of 2018-19, the percentage of students who currently have zero to one discipline referrals is 97 percent,” Moody said. “That means only three percent of students have more than one discipline referral.”
Currently, dual enrollment offers over 62 courses for students at multiple partner locations, Executive Director of Special Programs Sonja Duncan said.
“I tried to find an easy way to put this,” she said. “Dual enrollment is twice the credit, half the time, and zero tuition.” 205 students are currently enrolled, and have earned upwards of 2,201 college credits, Duncan added.
“Liberty County had 94 students earn technical college certificates,” Duncan said to a round of applause. “Outdoing our neighbors in Effingham County with 22 certificates, Bryan County with 16 certificates, and Savannah with two.”
Partners include the Liberty College and Career Academy, Savannah Technical College, Georgia Southern University-Armstrong Campus, and Central Georgia Technical College.
At the end of the report, Dr. Perry and Dr. Crane opened the floor to questions. Before they began, Dr. Perry took a moment to re-thank the parents and community for attending and to reiterate the importance of their participation and opinion in running the district.
“We strive for Excellence in Everything we do,” Perry said. “Our responsibility it to take every child and give them the skills and nourishment they need to be good citizens.”
Questions raised included potential privatized security, which Rogers responded to. Because of previously established relationships with both the Hinesville Police Department and Liberty County Sheriff’s Department, the need for privatized security hasn’t been expressly considered, he said. Although, LCSS has considered obtaining security for afterschool activities at the Horizons Learning Center.
Another question was how LCSS addresses safety online with school provided iPads. LCSS has a filter in place to block inappropriate sites and social media from being used, Crane said. Crane stressed that if the filter does not seem to be working, to please address the issue with the student’s teacher, so that it can be fixed, because LCSS takes security seriously.
“We would also like to provide opportunities at school and at the academic level for parent involvement,” Crane said. “The schools provide nights for participation and for them to see what’s happening.”