Liberty County School System Superintendent Dr. Franklin Perry and other administrators addressed the state of the schools at a Progress through People luncheon Aug. 23, sponsored by the Liberty County Chamber of Commerce.
Executive Director of Student Services Kathy Moody presented first, addressing important statistics about the school system’s staff and students. As of Aug. 23, enrollment rose to 10,094, up from a count on Aug. 13. The numbers have steadily risen since 2015, where enrollment remained under 10,000, according to Moody.
“We’re continuing to enroll students every day,” Moody said.
LCSS has more than 761 certified staff members, and 705 classified staff, she said. Of those certified staff, 204 have bachelor’s degrees, 364 have master’s degrees, 151 have specialist degrees, and 42 have doctorates, Moody continued.
“We are very proud of our teacher retention,” she said. “These are teachers that stay with us year after year. We are above the state at 86.72 percent with our teachers, and the state is at 83.92 percent.”
LCSS serves 22.98 percent of military connected students in Liberty County, Moody said. This time last year, LCSS hired a military coordinator, Melaniann Pass, to help build a strong military partnership with Fort Stewart.
“Miss Pass serves as the key communicator of information related to school affairs,” she said. “She is also in charge of our student ambassador program.”
The program tasks young men and women in the high schools to assist with helping military connected students have an easier transition into the schools, Moody explained. These students give them tours, talk to them and help make adjustment easier.
LCSS Deputy Superintendent Dr. Zheadric Barbra discussed the operations of LCSS, and what they’ve completed with the E-SPLOST money distributed each month.
E-SPLOST brings in an estimated $650,000 a month for LCSS, Barbra said. Currently, the system is in the middle of renovating Bradwell Institute’s gym. The estimated completion date from the architects, Barbra said, is either March or April—a delay from the original February prediction.
Completed projects include purchasing seven air-conditioned buses, upgrades to technology and related infrastructures, iPads for all students, updated tennis courts at both high schools, lighting projects at Bradwell’s baseball field, and employee time and attendance upgrades, Barbra continued.
“Future projects include audio and cameras in the classroom,” he said. “We’re currently participating in a pilot where we will have installed cameras in some of our classrooms.”
The implementation of audio and video cameras in the classrooms is not to watch teachers, Barbra emphasized, but serves a purpose in different ways. It will allow the teacher to record a lesson being taught, absent students can review the lessons the next day, and the lesson can also be shared with other teachers, he continued.
“From a safety standpoint, if a dramatic incident were to occur in that classroom, a teacher can press a button,” Barbra said. “It will automatically alert law enforcement and the school administrators instantly. They’re going to be able to see what’s going on in that classroom.”
Right now, the audio and cameras are being pilot tested, but the goal is to make it happen throughout the district, he said.
Safety-wise, all school sites operate with Georgia Emergency Management approved safety plans, and drills are conducted at least once per month, Barbra said. There are plans to pilot a rapid response notification system, and the district is forming partnerships with law enforcement for training, he concluded.
As a district, LCSS has plenty to celebrate, according to Assistant Superintendent of Teaching and Learning Susan Avant.
Right now, the district has nine current Reach Georgia scholars, and are adding three more, she said, for a total of 12. Liberty Elementary was recently named a Georgia certified STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) school, and Snelson Golden Middle School recently received a $250,000 Georgia CTAE (Career, Technical and Agricultural Education) coding grant, Avant added.
“We recently received a grant called Project Lead the Way,” Avant said. “It’s an $84,000 9-12 engineering grant that will build a partnership and strengthen our engineering program. The grant is for Bradwell, Liberty County High and the Liberty County Career Academy. The basis of PLTW is to get that engineering pathway to improve student success.”
Sept. 17 is NASA Day for LCSS, where select students will get to participate in a live conversation with astronauts on the International Space Station, Avant said. It’s a great opportunity for students, and there will be a video of the program on the website afterwards for the community to access, she said.
Dual enrollment has increased since the 2017-2018 school year, Avant continued. There are over 40 courses offered, with more than 182 students currently enrolled. Last year, students earned 1,914 college credits, and saved their parents nearly $180,000 in tuition fees, she said.
The dual enrollment courses are no cost to the students, and transportation is provided to either the LCCA or Savannah Technical College.
Concerning the education and progress of students, System Testing Coordinator John Ryan praised the results of the Georgia Milestone Assessments from 2017-2018.
According to Ryan, grades three through five improved in six of eight subject areas. They also averaged higher in four out of eight subject areas than the state and regional education service agencies (RESA).
The middle schools saw growth in five of eight grade subject areas, and there was 8th grade improvement in three of four areas, Ryan said. The high schools gained in algebra, economics, 9th grade Literature, and showed significant gains in physical science.
In closing, Perry praised the accomplishments of the district, saying how blessed he is to be the superintendent of LCSS.
“I hope that you will agree that we all have something to celebrate,” Perry said.