After becoming one of the highest achieving schools in Georgia, A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School was congratulated Thursday by the state’s top education chief.
State Superintendent John Barge addressed students, staffers and Richmond County Board of Education members in an assembly honoring A.R. Johnson’s being named one of 28 Georgia Schools of Excellence for 2012.
The honor was announced this month and awarded to schools that showed the highest performance or progress within each congressional district on the state’s new accountability system. Johnson was recognized for highest performance for scoring 101.2 percent on the College and Career Ready Performance Index, which grades schools and districts on a variety of indicators ranging from test scores to Advanced Placement offerings.
“I do believe in what I do,” Barge told almost 600 students and faculty members gathered in the gymnasium. “I believe in education, and I believe in you.”
The school was also awarded a $1,000 check from Georgia Natural Gas and a day of pampering from UnitedHealthCare, which will provide massages for all teachers and staff.
Barge called education “the great equalizer” and urged students to continue the work they have accomplished so far in a time when the state is emphasizing post-high school readiness. He said that no one in his family attended college and that there was no money to send him to a fancy university.
Still, he realized early that education could change his life. School was always there, even when his father was on drunken binges or when there was no food in the house.
“I made a decision like many of you that when I was an adult I wanted it better, and the only way to do that was through education,” he said.
Johnson 10th-grader Cameron Carlton said Barge’s remarks made him want to work harder and continue the success his school has made. Coming from a traditional public middle school in the district, Carlton said, he finds the atmosphere of a magnet school more demanding but more rewarding all the same.
“We’re one of the best schools in the state now and we have to keep it up,” he said.
Barge left after his remarks to fly to about four other schools Thursday to recognize their accomplishments as Georgia Schools of Excellence. Richmond County Superintendent Frank Roberson said it was an honor to have the education leader visit to congratulate the students and remind them of the importance of education.
Roberson said he sees A.R. Johnson as a key player in feeding the growing technical and medical industry in Augusta. The magnet schools have always been a source of pride for the district, but they are now serving a larger purpose.
“With (Augusta’s) medical and engineering focus, it’s in the best place any high school could be,” he said. “It’s going to continue to grow and feed those professions.”