Forum focuses on better schools

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As it stands, the education system in Richmond County is good, but over the next three years will blossom into a powerhouse to better prepare students for college and the workforce, said Superintendent Dr. Frank Roberson on Thursday evening.

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Richmond County Superintendant Frank Roberson reiterated his goal of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate by 2014 at Thursday night's forum.   Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Zach Boyden-Holmes/Staff
Richmond County Superintendant Frank Roberson reiterated his goal of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate by 2014 at Thursday night's forum.

"This place is ready and the grounds are fertile and we'll cultivate to grow ... dynamic individuals," Roberson said.

About 450 educators, legislators and parents discussed the issues and goals of the school system in the first State of Public Education Forum in Richmond County.

One proposed way to enrich classrooms would be to restore two of eight district employee furlough days that were implemented as a cost-saving measure in the 2010-11 budget.

The proposal drew cheers from the audience in the A.R. Johnson Health Science and Engineering Magnet School lecture hall, which was filled mostly with educators and some parents, students and other community members.

The restored days could be supported by $16 million in federal Race to the Top education reform funding awarded to the district in October.

Roberson also reiterated his goals of achieving a 90 percent graduation rate by 2014, boosting the number of students in magnet schools from 2,100 to 10,000 and hiring more bus drivers.

While only 49.1 percent of the county's 57 schools made the federal "adequate yearly progress" benchmark for the 2009-10 academic year, Roberson said he and board members are working boost the rate to 90 percent in the next three years.

To meet those goals, Roberson said there has to be a strong link between parents, teachers and students.

"We've got to engage the PTA more in the learning process," he said. "We're transitioning from PTA being a fundraising entity to actually assisting us with the effectiveness of the education system."

These changes must be made despite the $4 billion the state underfunded the K-12 education system during the past eight years, said Marcus Downs, the director of government relations for the Georgia Association of Educators.

A higher graduation rate and a better prepared workforce could come out of Richmond County with a better state tax structure and more adequate funding in classrooms, Downs said.

Susan Parr, Augusta-Metro Chamber of Commerce's president, said parent-student relationships are also essential to prepare students for the workforce.

One of the biggest concerns for local employers is the readiness of high school graduates to use teamwork and decision making in their positions, she said.

The enthusiasm for the next three years in Richmond County schools was encouraging to Valerie Lawton, whose son is a ninth-grader at Academy of Richmond County.

"I think the goals are realistic," Lawton said. "I'm very excited that (Roberson) wants to increase the magnet schools in the area, and I'm encouraged that the standards are going to be raised."

Still, there are sure to be challenges, said parent Cedrick Johnson.

Without more state funding, he said it will be difficult to implement changes.

"They want to change the goals, but the ways are the same," he said. "It's like putting cat food in a dog food bowl."

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usapatriot
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usapatriot 01/07/11 - 03:11 am
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have to take exception to

have to take exception to

"despite the $4 billion the state underfunded the K-12 education system during the past eight years, said Marcus Downs, the director of government relations for the Georgia Association of Educators.

was there a deliberate witholding? was there a miscalculation by ARC? the state? was $4 billion the total for the entire state over 8 years or ARC?

underfunded according to what? according to who, Marcus Downs or the state, or Federal govt? Who?

how about some accurate reporting?

how about the school system realizing that funds vary from year to year. There has been a roller coaster ride over the last 8 years. Did planners keep budgeting for more and more each year?

Thanks for an article that leaves more questions than answers.

C2Soldier
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C2Soldier 01/07/11 - 10:56 am
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Let’s see board members that

Let’s see board members that are willing to control spending and redirect the funds to paying the teachers, reducing the student/teacher ratio and developing programs focused on those children that are falling behind. The teachers are disgruntled, the BOE is wasteful and the children suffer. Parents are fed up with being told it's their job to educate their children. Teachers (like Soldiers) are paid by taxes and not once have I seen a teacher offer to take up a weapon and follow me. We pay them to educate our children. Make it happen.

lifelongresident
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lifelongresident 01/07/11 - 11:13 am
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"better education in richmond
Unpublished

"better education in richmond county with more money" sez marcus downs...as usual the mantra is "just throw more money at it and it will get better"....dear mr. downs, ms. cain and all others it's not about "more money" higher test scores and graduation rates can be achieved by raising standards and expectations of the students and MANDATING PARENTAL INVOLVEMENT!!!!!!!!! get rid of the "programs for so-called at-risk youths" (they are only at risk because of sorry and trifling parents and the de-emphisizing of education the the expense of sports), get back to the basics..reading writing and math!!!!!!!

countyman
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countyman 01/07/11 - 11:36 am
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I attended the forum last

I attended the forum last night and thought it was excellent... I would have imagined the crowd being larger than 450 people... I noticed several state and local leaders along with many parents and students in the audience...

Adding 10 magnet programs to diffrent schools throughout the county. Along with improving the graduation rate from 78% to 90% by 2014 are two excellent goals...

eduObserver3
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eduObserver3 01/07/11 - 11:49 am
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Wonder if the grandstanding

Wonder if the grandstanding Mr. Downs at all regrets his union being joined at the hip with the Democrat Party. The taxpayers spoke loudly in November, and the result is not one his partisan union is going to enjoy living with for the next two years and beyond. Budgetary decisions, after all, often depend on the goodwill of elected officials--increasing numbers of which are Republican or independent.

eduObserver3
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eduObserver3 01/07/11 - 12:06 pm
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I also wonder why it is that

I also wonder why it is that the above posting has had to be replaced by me three times this morning? Someone obviously opposes debate on these issues.

Sean Moores
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Sean Moores 01/07/11 - 12:27 pm
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eduObserver, check your email

eduObserver, check your email please

Craig Spinks
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Craig Spinks 01/07/11 - 05:05 pm
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Dr. Roberson's idea about

Dr. Roberson's idea about transforming the PTA into an organization focusing on school system effectiveness is worthwhile and overdue. How does he intend to implement such a transformation? How does he intend to evaluate the efforts of a transformed PTA?

usapatriot
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usapatriot 01/07/11 - 08:40 pm
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i suspect the desired PTA

i suspect the desired PTA involvement will be evaluated by its fund raising capability.

i also believe any new involvement by parents in the PTA will not be by the parents who acutally need to be involved. it will be more of the same type who largely have well behaved kids.

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