The past two years have been a time of change and growth in the Clarke County School District. Our students have shown progress in almost every area of academic study. Working with a group of community members and district leaders, we created a two-year strategic plan that has guided our work over the past year. Every part of our work, from the way we clean our buildings to how we implement instruction, is aligned with our strategic priorities of academic growth, social-emotional growth, organizational effectiveness, fiscal health, professional capacity and educational equity.
Because we took the time to lay the groundwork and establish these systems, change has started to show. Academic achievement has increased slightly, as evidenced by our indicators of College and Career Success and Georgia Milestones data, which we will be able to share later this summer. Our students demonstrate tremendous social-emotional capacity, and our work toward equity, while challenging, moves forward. Through the implementation of AVID, our students are learning the tools that will help them be college and career ready, with the use of collaborative and inquiry-based instructional strategies from educators who have recently received high-quality training and preparation.
For the second consecutive year, we worked with the Board of Education to pass a balanced budget. The district is appreciative of the unwavering financial support of the Athens-Clarke County community, which has allowed us to support our students while completing many improvement projects. These include the construction of the new Oglethorpe Avenue Elementary School and the soon-to-be-reopened Hilsman Middle School.
As we look to the future, six of our schools have just begun their work with the University of Virginia Partnership for Leaders in Education in their school transformation efforts. We will continue our improvement of district facilities through the development of Old Gaines. The opening of the school-based health clinic at Hilsman Middle School will meet an urgent need for access to health care for our most vulnerable students. It will also usher in a new age of community schools in our city.
Most importantly, we are excited about the future of the West Broad property and how we can advance our vision of expanding high-quality early childhood education opportunities for children and families through a new use of the property.
Our work is driven by a moral purpose. As Fullan stated, “Moral purpose focuses on raising the bar and closing the gap for all children…” (2010). Noted equity scholar H. Richard Milner (2017) declared, “…Our educational system requires a much broader, more holistic approach for educational change that is transformative and sustainable.” We are engaging in morally driven change that is substantially proportionate to the historic marginalization that many of our children and their families have faced in Athens-Clarke and beyond.
The Clarke County School District is fortunate to have educators and dedicated supporters who all want what is best for our children. I look forward to working with our Board of Education and members of the Athens community to accomplish our common goal: helping all children succeed.
Means is superintendent of the Clarke County School District.
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