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Laser Focused on Academic Achievement: Floyd County Schools

"Our objective is not to be good, but to be great!"

The Floyd County School system is laser-focused on academic achievement. Superintendent Dr. Glenn White said the pain the system has experienced with the need to close four elementary schools has been vindicated, at least in part, but the system continues to experience success in the classroom.

The graduation rate has been climbing in recent years, and the Class of ’21 rate was 94.1%, but White and the Floyd County Board of Education won’t be satisfied until it reaches 100%.

“Our objective is not to be good, but to be great,” White said. He believes the future is looking brighter every day. The superintendent points to that 94.1% rate that comes in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic that forced the system to shift to remote learning, which White said is not nearly as effective as face-to-face in-person classroom instruction.

Superintendent White said the data from Milestones, end of course and end of grade tests are all improving steadily.

If there is a silver lining to the pandemic, it is the massive amount of money, nearly $30 million, that the federal government has pumped into the schools through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES) and the American Rescue Plan Act.

“We’ve invested in instructional coaches to ensure that our students are caught up,” White said. The instructional coaches will be in all of the schools. Some of the schools in lower-income areas have had additional instructional coaches in the past, but now the system is devoting the lion’s share of its federal aid money to enhancing classroom instruction.

Late in October, the system announced that teachers would receive a $1,000 supplement to their November check from the CARES Act money.

Each year 15 Floyd County students compete to represent the school system at the Governor’s Honors program. This special summer program is for students who have shown special interest in fields of study ranging from biology and chemistry to communicative arts and social studies.

The school system also features a dual enrollment program which allows eligible students to take college classes while still enrolled in high school. These classes count for both high school and college credit. Generally, high school students who complete dual enrollment classes take fewer classes in college and save money on total college costs. Floyd County Schools currently has approximately 376 students enrolled in 159 unique dual enrollment courses, some also doubling as AP courses, saving parents over a million dollars in future college tuition this year alone. These courses are being taken online and on FCS and local college campuses.

A new instructional framework is being implemented across the system as well. That framework involves the creation of learning targets that relate specifically to individual lesson plans.

“We expect to see some high academic gains in the next couple of years,” White said.

Another key objective for the system as it looks to the future is the desire to create a connection to school for that increasingly small percentage of students who are not graduating with the rest of their classmates.

“If they didn’t participate in athletics, if they weren’t in the band, if they didn’t do some sort of extracurricular activity of some kind, chorus, drama, whatever, then we tend to lose those kids,” White said. “If you connect to a kid, have a relationship with them, generally speaking, more than likely that child is going to graduate from school.”

The connection needs to start in pre-K and continue throughout the youngster’s school career.

The number of children in the Floyd County School System has declined over the last five to eight years. The 2021-2022 eighth and ninth graders are healthy in numbers, but when you look down through the elementary schools, the numbers are falling off.

By 2026, White suspects the system will fall below 8,000. At one point, not too many years ago, enrollment was over 10,000. That has forced the Board of Education to make tough decisions to close Midway and McHenry Elementary Schools. In addition, Glenwood and Cave Spring will close next year.

Those decisions were not made lightly. White is acutely aware of the importance of community but believes the decisions have been made in the best interest of the entire school system over the long term.

“The most expensive schools to run are high schools, but I do not favor closing any high school,” White said. He fully understands that generations of families have come through the schools across the Pepperell, Coosa, Model, and Armuchee school districts.

“We’re going to have to look at more decisions as far as the number of schools we have,” White said.

The system has made some adjustments to maximize the use of facilities, including a decision to house students from grades 7-12 at Armuchee High School. Armuchee Elementary will house pre-K through second grade. The current Armuchee Middle will house grades 3-6.

Alto Park, Garden Lakes, Johnson, and Model Elementary Schools will be pre-K through fourth grade.

The Pepperell district will see pre-K-first grade at Pepperell Primary. Pepperell Elementary School will be grades 2-4. Coosa, Pepperell, and Model Middle Schools will house grades 5-7.

White and the school board are also hoping to increase teacher pay. “We ought to be able to compete with everybody across Northwest Georgia. My goal would be to be THE top paying school system across Northwest Georgia,” White said. However, tough decisions like school closures are going to continue to confront system leadership.

“We’ve got to take the money we’ve got and invest it in our staff, in our teachers and in our students instead of investing money in a roof or HVAC system and invest it in people which in my opinion are more important than buildings.”

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