Schools host Isakson aide
By Stephanie Johns
Morgan County Charter School System hosted Barton Lowrey, a field representative with U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson, last Friday.
Lowrey shared that public education is a passion of the senator’s: the senator’s three children as well as the senator himself attended public schools.
He noted that Isakson does Skype sessions with history and political science classes.
These sessions last between 20 and 30 minutes, he said. Isakson talks about what he does and then takes questions.
During his visit Lowrey heard about the five schools in the system – primary, elementary, middle, high, and CrossRoads – prior to visiting them.
Dr. Ralph Bennett, school system superintendent, told Lowrey about how the schools raise the bar and that they have two keystones as a charter system: one, they have higher accountability, and two, they have higher involvement.
Dr. Betsy Short, primary school principal, talked about how they personalize instruction to benefit students.
“We don’t just tell them information,” she said. “We show them how to apply that information.”
Kay McLeod, elementary school assistant principal, said they are developing a K-5 literacy plan with the primary school.
“We look at what students are doing,” she said. “The level of involvement is important.”
Lydia Norburg, middle school principal, said that they have a high teacher retention rate.
“Teachers are invested in the community and in the kids,” she said.
She noted that this investment leads to continuity in that the community is in turn invested in the schools.
Norburg added that there is alignment between the schools.
In addition to academics, Norburg said they also offer several additional opportunities for students to find their niche, from clubs to the new agricultural program.
Dr. Jim Malanowski, high school principal, spoke about the Latin program they are building at that school as well as about their participation in mock Congress and Georgia Youth Assembly.
Dr. Jannie Broadnax, CrossRoads co-principal, said they house displaced students from the middle and high schools.
“Our program is successful,” she said. “Students reassess what they’ve done and get back on track.”
Bennett added that prior to the program at CrossRoads, students would have been suspended, which inadvertently contributed to the dropout rate.
As to system finances, Bennett said that about 90 percent of their budget is personnel so that area has been hardest hit by budget cuts.
“The board’s been focused and conservative with money,” he said, adding that property values have dropped about 30 percent in the last few years.
Bennett said it has become a challenge to offer the same level of programming with fewer and fewer resources.
BOE member Dave Belton said they have a “very, very, very good system.”
“Public schools are worth defending,” he said.
He added that they are not afraid of competing with other schools.
“We just want that competition to be on even ground,” he said. “Educating the populace is less expensive than the alternative.”
Some of those alternatives, as identified by Belton, include prisons, the welfare and healthcare systems.
Printed in the January 24, 2013 edition.