I am so honored to have been chosen as a recipient for the Leadership Rockdale Class of 2016. Leadership Rockdale (LR) provides a platform for emerging leaders who are committed to learning about community issues, creating meaningful connections and conversations, and discovering opportunities where they can make a positive impact in Rockdale County.
Every school system has its own story to tell. The context in which teaching and learning takes place influences the processes and procedures by which the school system makes decisions around curriculum, instruction, and assessment. The context also impacts the way a school system stays faithful to its vision. Many factors contribute to the overall narrative, such as an identification of stakeholders, a description of stakeholder engagement, the trends and issues affecting the school system, and the kinds of programs and services that a school system implements to support student learning.
Education Day was the absolute best! The purpose of Education Day is to get leaders engaged in the education system in Rockdale County. The group included employees from Davis Middle School, Lorraine Elementary, Heritage High School, Rockdale Career Academy (RCA), Open/Virtual Campus, and Peachtree Academy. The Rockdale County Chamber of Commerce’s 2016 LR class visited several stops in the school system on Tuesday, November 17, 2015 as part of Education Day.
The Rockdale County School District is located in Conyers, Georgia and Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) has 16,200 children enrolled in 22 schools and programs for the 2015-16 school year. RCPS is comprised of 11 elementary schools, four middle schools, three high schools, and a variety of specialty schools and programs. New programs in the past three years are the Memorial Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) Academy for Environmental Studies, Honey Creek Elementary STEM Program, Advancement Via Individual Determination (AVID) at Sims Elementary, Microsoft IT Academies at each high school, C.J. Hicks Elementary International Baccalaureate candidate school, and the Rockdale Institute for Advanced Technology.
All of the 18 “traditional” schools are Title I eligible. The free and reduced meal rate in RCPS is currently 69% with some schools as high as 90%, up from 63% in 2009.
RCPS is proud of its strengths and accomplishments. The greatest strength within the district is related to a purposeful transformation that has focused on increased student achievement for all students. The district has been a leader in transitioning to a standards-based instructional model. Upon implementation of Georgia Performance Standards, RCPS partnered with the Georgia Department of Education to ensure the successful adoption of standards. Instructional personnel have received extensive training to provide the knowledge and support for implementing the model.
Teachers analyze and unpack standards for thorough understanding of expectations and develop curriculum maps to ensure all skills are taught to mastery. Assessments of learning have become integral to the planning process. Teachers also learn to effectively disaggregate data and use results from multiple data sources to drive instruction within the framework of the RCPS Cycle for Results. The development and scoring of common assessments have provided a uniform level of acceptability for student work. The integration of Common Core Georgia Performance Standards will follow similar tactics.
We toured various schools and learned as much as the students we met. During this full day of learning, we were truly enriched by the topic of education. Public education is the cornerstone of a free society. However, the Rockdale community embraces all educational opportunities – public and private – available to our students and families.
Education in Rockdale is a life-long learning process. Key educational issues that were discussed were: Unique learning opportunities, support services for students and families, and current trends in education.
We began our day with breakfast at Davis Middle School. I don’t ever remember school breakfast being as delicious as the assorted fruit, loaded grits, tasty strawberry smoothies, and a wide variety of pastries we could choose from. Students at Davis Middle School are very lucky!
Superintendent Rich Autry gave our class a presentation about the goals of Rockdale County. Mr. Autry’s sole purpose as superintendent is to ensure that all students are provided the highest quality educational opportunities necessary to become successful, productive citizens of this community and beyond. Mr. Autry definitely proved to our leadership class that RCPS is doing some remarkable things for the students and families.
The students at Davis Middle School enlightened the LR Class with a variety of presentations that showcased their talents in the Arts. At Davis, the students believe in self-expression! The Davis Academy has developed the Fine Arts as an exciting and diverse program for students in every grade. The faculty teach fine arts theory, history and technique, and encourage the development of talent and creativity. Davis students regularly win arts-related awards, honors and competitions. Their program consists of art, music and theater.
Dr. David Ray Principal, at Lorraine Elementary School, took us on a wonderful tour of the school and showcased all of the students art work. The mission of Lorraine Elementary School, a learning community where excellence is expected of all and students aspire to succeed, is to ensure that a strong academic foundation provides the opportunity for each child to perform at his/her highest potential with a challenging curricula; highly qualified, experienced staff; parent/teacher/student collaboration; and differentiated instruction.
The students at Heritage High School showcased their talent and performed several scenes from the musical drama “Les Miserables”. The Academy for Performing and Visual Arts at Heritage High School was founded in 2014 for students with exceptional talent in the arts. Its goal is to develop and nurture talented young artists for successful vocations, avocations, and advocacy in the arts through extensive training programs and classes in dance, drama or technical theater, instrumental music, visual arts, and vocal music while maintaining high academic achievement. The Academy for Performing and Visual Arts faculty views academics and the arts as equally important and is committed to developing lifelong learners and arts advocates.
It’s lunch time! The RCA Culinary Program prepared a scrumptious lunch for our LR Class. The students truly have a remarkable gift/love for cooking. The RCA Culinary Program graduates go straight into jobs or apprenticeships, and others continue on to post-secondary institutions. Students can also earn their junior culinary certification, which provides college credits.
All of the students receive extensive hands-on instruction, especially in advanced classes where students are in the kitchen labs almost daily. It gives them an opportunity to prepare foods using recipes, improve their cooking techniques, and learn about the artistry of displaying food. They also get real-world experience by catering and providing in-house buffet dinners.
RCPS continues to pilot the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System (TKES) to improve and assess teacher effectiveness by
- Optimizing student learning and growth,
- Improving the quality of instruction through accountability for classroom performance,
- Providing a basis for instructional improvement through performance appraisal and professional growth, and
- Implementing a performance evaluation system that promotes collaboration between the teacher and evaluator.
RCPS has developed a framework for K-12 specialty and Choice options. For the first time ever, RCPS implemented four new Choice options for the 2013-14 school year. Thus far, three elementary schools and one middle school offer Choice specialty programs, with plans to roll out additional Choice options over the next 3 to 5 years. In addition, Rockdale Virtual Campus expanded its offerings to enable a high school student to fulfill all graduation requirements through online courses, and welcomed its first full-time students last spring.
RCPS has gained state and national recognition for student achievement throughout the district. Accolades include being named AP Honor Schools by the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and Performance Awards from the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement. In addition, the Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology was named the first STEM Certified high school in Georgia. All of the eligible Rockdale County public schools are Title I Distinguished Schools and some have been designated Georgia Schools of Excellence in recent years. Academic teams and clubs throughout the district have won regional, state and national championships, as have many of our athletic teams and clubs.
Superior ratings in band, chorus, and drama further illustrate Rockdale’s commitment to student success. Test scores are an important indicator of a school system’s success in addressing core academics. Each year, students from Rockdale’s high schools receive scholarships or appointments to top universities throughout the United States.
Overall, Rockdale County has many brilliant minds and upon seeing all the educational opportunities within its borders, I’m certain that it will continue to cultivate the brightest scholars in Georgia.