AUGUSTA, Ga. (WJBF) – Georgia Governor Nathan Deal’s plan to create an Opportunity School District appears on the ballot across the Peach State this election season. If voters approve the plan, 19 Richmond County schools would be taken over by the state. Despite the threat of a state takeover, some Richmond County principals report students are already performing better.
Meadowbrook Elementary School is one of the schools in jeopardy.
“We had just celebrated the fact that we were not on the Opportunity School District list,” Principal Kenneth Johnson, Jr. said after he was appointed to the school two years ago.
Before Meadowbrook students learned their teachers name Johnson had a new task.
“I found out on the first day of school, after the students had come in, after the teachers were in high five-ing kids walking down the hallway, shaking hands with parents that were on the Opportunity School District list as a priority school,” he said.
Johnson saw a slight decrease of less than 3 percent in his school’s College and Career Performance Index.
He stated there was one contributing factor.
“Attendance is one of our primary issues,” stating that the district provided a truancy officer who does daily and weekly monitoring. He said another factor was the new Georgia Milestones.
He’s hoping a new literacy program, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement, will continue to help students.
The 19 Richmond County schools in jeopardy of becoming OSD Schools are:
2) Glenn Hills
3) T.W. Josey
4) Glenn Hills
7) Spirit Creek
9) Diamond Lakes
10) Glenn Hills
14) Jenkins-White Charter
17) Terrace Manor
18) Wheeless Road
19) Wilkinson Gardens
All of these schools scored below 60 on the CCRPI for three consecutive years.
Wilkinson Gardens principal Brenda Taylor is in her second year just like Johnson. She said her school improved 11 points, but moving up a few points took team effort including mentors focusing on literacy because many students were below level in reading. She said a diverse group of mentors came in to read to students.
“In the old days, teachers taught in isolation. They meet five days a week and they talk about curriculum, they develop lesson plans,” she said while also pointing to getting teachers to teach the right thing.
“It took time to get on the list, so it will take time to get off the list,” said Stacey Mabray, Butler High School principal.
Students at Butler improved close to 11 points since Mabray arrived. She said timing is key since the state changed how it grades itself, far removed from No Child Left Behind and Adequate Yearly Progress.
“I think we’re doing the right work with kids. We’ve got to continue to do the right work, but when you change the metric on people you have to give them the opportunity to be able to wrap their minds around the metric and really move forward,” she said.
Out of the 19 schools in jeopardy of OSD, ten increased its CCRPI between 2014 and 2015. Principals said they are still awaiting scores from 2016.
To see the full list of OSD eligible schools, click here.