Stronger schools

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After several years on tenuous ground, Richmond County schools are on the move again -- and there's good reason to be optimistic that they'll keep moving in the right direction.

The healthy change is coming about in large part because the public voted to revamp the Richmond County Board of Education, which in turn refocused its efforts on improving the quality of education.

The first move came last summer, when trustees hired Dr. Dana Bedden, a visionary school superintendent who so far has kept his promise to run an open and transparent school system in an effort to forge a communitywide partnership to work toward a resurgence in education.

He's off to a good start, notwithstanding that there have been some bumps in the road in the form of discipline problems. But Bedden has been reaching out to parents and civic groups, and he ordered an audit of the school system that, though it contains some contentious proposals, also points toward innovative ways to make savings and efficiencies that could considerably benefit education throughout Augusta and Richmond County.

Moreover, the county's three magnet schools provide a sound foundation for Bedden to work with. They each have been highly successful, attracting state and national attention -- especially John S. Davidson Fine Arts Magnet School, which often has been cited as one of the best schools in the nation.

There's strong sentiment in the community that we hope Bedden, as he gets deeper into his job, will pick up on -- and that's to expand the magnet school concept countywide. If educational excellence can be achieved in three magnet schools, why not four, five or six? Every Richmond school should be a magnet school.

Indeed, we hope Bedden and others in education -- at the state as well as local level -- will be open to expanding the range of options parents have in schooling their children. Last year, the Georgia General Assembly did a good thing in giving the green light for disabled students to have school choice in Georgia. That freedom to choose should be extended to all students.

It could be done in small steps. Start with allowing voluntary enrollment in schools outside one's neighborhood. That would allow parents to remove their kids from the worst and most disruptive public schools and force those bad schools to clean up their act to compete for pupils; or, for that matter, to survive.

Public education should be moving in the direction of more parental choice, because that would dilute the influence of teachers' unions and compel schools to be more customer-friendly. That is the direction in which our community and our state should be encouraged to move.

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WHATDIDIDO
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WHATDIDIDO 04/08/08 - 04:42 am
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Good job Dr, Bedden and all

Good job Dr, Bedden and all of the teachers out there. Trust me there are more people than not, that have faith in you all. Slow but steady progress, is a move in the right direction. Some of us realize that this monster was not created over night.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/08/08 - 04:51 am
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Trying to move education in

Trying to move education in the direction of parental choice scares the b'Jesus out of all tenured teacher unions. Any attempt, no matter how small or subtle, will be instantly met with a "top to bottom" panic. The Fair Tax will happen long before school choice or anything like it.

SoonerorLater
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SoonerorLater 04/08/08 - 06:10 am
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Dr. Bedden inherited a mess

Dr. Bedden inherited a mess from Charles Larke and his crony staff who ran the school system with the secrecy of their own private organization. Education is a three legged stool, with an effort required by the school staff, the parents, and the students to make a successful education system. Dr. Bedden seems to be taking care of his end of the bargain, now hopefully the parents and students of Richmond County step up and meet the challenge as Dr. Bedden has thus far.

christian134
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christian134 04/08/08 - 06:49 am
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Amen to that

Amen to that patriciathomas...Furthermore what is going to have to happen will be for the majority of "so-called parents" to actually care about the children they bring into this world before something meaningful can happen. Good education starts in a morally sound home....My prayers go out for the community at large to get behind Dr. Bedden and support what needs to be done without entwining him in mounds of paperwork or criticizing his every move. But mainly it will be in the parents backyard before we realize moral and educational changes in the children.

bone
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bone 04/08/08 - 07:48 am
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i'll agree that dr. bedden

i'll agree that dr. bedden appears to be the right man for the job; even the recent commotion at ARC shows his willingness to look for solutions within schools, not blame outside influences. that said, i am always frustrated by the perception that there are powerful teacher unions operating in GA. this is a right-to-work state and unions don't carry any weight - in fact, the GAE / NEA branch doesn't have near the membership of PAGE, which is the professional organization that provides the cheapest liability insuarance for teachers & has the largest membership. the key to education reform is to empower schools to compel parents to play their role & ensure students are working to maintain high academic & behavioral standards. too many parents treat schools as nothing more than inexpensive daycare & are unwilling to help the schools. at the school where i teach, we have actually set up pull-out programs that enable students who don't complete homework or classwork to be removed from non-academic courses in order to complete assignments; administrators have gone so far as to say that parents are not to be used as an excuse anymore & we are now solely responsible for students.

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Dan White 04/08/08 - 08:45 am
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Richmond schools will never

Richmond schools will never improve even if they all become charter schools. They will never improve until and unless they get the kids under control and kick out the belligerent thugs who control them now. By the way, I would never have another assembly if I was the principal at ARC. Many schools have adopted that policy. No pep rallies. No assemblies. They are a riot waiting to happen.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/08/08 - 09:07 am
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The Chronicle saying every

The Chronicle saying every school ought to be a magnet school is like Wobegon saying all their children are above average. If you create a ranking, someone has to be on the bottom.

Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 04/08/08 - 09:08 am
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On second thought, perhaps

On second thought, perhaps every Richmond Co. school IS a magnet school. Magnets have two poles - one attracts and one repels.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/08/08 - 09:22 am
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bone, good to see you still

bone, good to see you still monitor. re: the influence of NEA, it's my contention that while they don't have as strong of a presence as they would like, the NEA still sets much of the parameters that schools get to choose how they operate within and they have much influence in Washington,DC to set agendas (self esteem instead of self confidence, global warming , ect). Among their agendas is the avoidance of the "r" word and school accountability. School choice falls under these guidelines and a national effort would be directed at Augusta if the option were made available to A/RC parents and students. As far as the effort of Dr Bedden goes, not many would disagree with you on his actions. The job he has taken on is Herculean.

patriciathomas
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patriciathomas 04/08/08 - 09:24 am
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Little Lamb, without a

Little Lamb, without a ranking, how do you know if improvement is necessary or possible? If there is a ranking, do those at the bottom have to stay at the bottom? How do you know if you're improving if you don't keep score? (Keillor exists only in his own mind)

bone
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bone 04/08/08 - 09:40 am
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the nea has never advocated

the nea has never advocated testing mandates; if they are so strong, how have politicians been able to continually require larger batteries of dumbed-down tests for the purpose of showing "improvement?" pt, i'm really not monitoring much these days since i'm still unable to view comments or post on my home computer. the rankings, as most social science studies, don't bring much information to bear in the argument of school improvement. if anyone bothered to look into the deeper aspects of test scores, the interesting data analysis would probably reveal that there is a closer correlation to parent involvement & test scores. does this mean that public schools can't improve? as i mentioned earlier, i think efforts being made to hold students accountable for their work - like what is being done at the school where i work - are positive steps. hiring more staff to sit with students and ensure they do their work is another possible step (almost like paying someone to parent). you'd be surprised at the movement afoot to completely eliminate homework...

142
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Dan White 04/08/08 - 10:56 am
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It would help to ensure

It would help to ensure students do their work if they brought their book, pen, and paper to class. You'd be amazed at the number of them who just walk into class with nothing but themselves.

Da Voice Inside Your Head
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Da Voice Inside Your Head 04/08/08 - 11:49 am
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I still can't understand the

I still can't understand the need for all the testing. If a child is suppossed to read at a 5th Grade level, give him a book at that level and let him read it. If he can't he gets extra tutoring and until he reaches that level. Spend the money wasted on testing and use it for *** EDUCATION! What a concept! Not all children learn at the same speed. Some need more help than others. But if they can't read and write and do simple math tey are destined to fail. Teach the BASICES FIRST THEN ALL THE OTHER STUFF LATER.

jack
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jack 04/08/08 - 12:05 pm
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PT, you are 100% correct.

PT, you are 100% correct. There are no more fierce opponents of improving education by forcing BOEs to hire qualified teachers, not allow those to teach in subjects not certified, fire the incompetent ones (teachers and adminstrator) or give parents choice of schools than the teachers/educators unions. The NEA is one of the largest supporters of the DIMocRAT Party who instead of requiring schools to provide quality education only want to throw more money at it which obviously has accomplished nothing. Teacher/Educator unions should be outlawed and any teacher who strikes should be immediately fired. There should be NO tenure (seniority rights for promotion yes) in public (guv'mint) schools. They are government employees.

jack
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jack 04/08/08 - 12:06 pm
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Amen RJH. Dr B can't do it

Amen RJH. Dr B can't do it all by himself.

bone
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bone 04/08/08 - 12:16 pm
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so, jack, what is your

so, jack, what is your understanding of teacher tenure in GA? just curious - it seems like you function under the misguided falsehood that GA teachers have anything resembling tenure. no teacher in GA can strike as a union member since GA doesn't recognize or negotiate with unions (GA is a right-to-work state). the trouble with school choice is pretty simple: who gets to choose first? we've already seen first-hand how awful lottery methods are for selecting school membership; if everyone wants to go to "the" school, how do we include / exclude students? finally, what do you believe is inproper about requiring certification in a teaching area? do you mean to imply that you would accept someone with little training in mathematics or physics to teach upper level calculus or theoretical physics courses? firing incompetent teachers is never as difficult as you make it sound provided a principal follows the right procedure; after 3 years as a teacher, the principal simply has to give a reason for your firing (including "any good and sufficient cause")or not renew your contract. jack, you make it seem like you could just walk in a classroom with your good intentions and do just fine.

jack
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jack 04/08/08 - 12:18 pm
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It is time for the kids who

It is time for the kids who attend our schools to learn again what it is to repeat a grade 'cause they did not meet the academic stabdards required. I ain't going to destroy their little egos/self esteem. I believe also, for those not academically proficient (all kids can't do upper level math) should have alternative curricula such as auto mechanics, carpentry including painting or business typing/shorthand/book keeping). This is what I had when I was in High School and it seemed to work very well. Of course, those who misbehaved got detention or were expelled, depending on what the circumstances were. Also time to quit "mainstreaming" kids who for mental or physical reasons cannot function at the appropriate level and placed where they can get as much education as they can handle at a slower pace, by specialists.

theeobserver
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theeobserver 04/08/08 - 01:24 pm
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Why does a school have to

Why does a school have to become a charter school before it is succesful? Why can't it be successful under the current name of the school?

jack
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jack 04/08/08 - 01:25 pm
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Bone, I fully understand

Bone, I fully understand teachers cannot strike in GA. However, as far as tenure goes, try and fire an incompetent one. Evidently, you have a reading comprehension problem as my point about teacher certification is that BOEs should NOT allow teachers to teach subjects they are NOT certified in, which happens all too often when enough science and math teachers cannot be found. Eglish, History, (social studies) teachers do NOT science and math teachers make but are forced into those classes by principals. As for my comment about unions and strikes, I am well aware that is not possible here, but in too many other states. As for school choice, minimum academic standards at their current school, attendance records, etc would be some criteria for those wanting to move. Give parents this choice and youu will see improvement in the rest of the schools as they would close with too little enrollment.

bone
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bone 04/08/08 - 01:32 pm
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actually, your writing is

actually, your writing is quite clear: an OPPONENT to NOT ALLOWING TEACHERS IN NON-CERTIFIED AREAS (i'm paraphrasing, but stick with me) is quite different from someone who is a fierce SUPPORTER of NOT ALLOWING TEACHERS IN NON-CERTIFIED AREAS. i understand now what you intended to write; do you understand your error? of course parents would want to move their students to the most successful schools; again, i ask: how do you include / exclude students at these schools? there is only a finite amount of space available at schools. if we assume that the best teachers are already there, do we begin hiring teachers of a poorer quality to teach the massive influx of students? won't that lower the standard? finally, i explained how easy it is to fire an incompetent teacher and i have seen it happen MANY times over the past few years since the weak tenure law was repealed.

142
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Dan White 04/08/08 - 03:52 pm
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You have many teachers

You have many teachers teaching in Richmond who are not certified and are working through the GA TAPP program to become certified. Like learning on the job. Also, if you keep failing the kids, they will never rise up into 8th grade. Last year at Laney, about 60% of the kids were placed into 9th grade after academic and test failure. Talk about a mess! Kids couldn't hardly read and write. But the alternative is to have 16 and 17 year old kids in 8th grade. And why do they attend? Because mom's welfare check is tied into school attendance and tied into them getting a driver's license at 16. What a mess! You fire all the incompetent teachers, and you want have enough teachers in there to even take roll.

bone
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bone 04/08/08 - 03:57 pm
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AMEN, greenjacket - sad but

AMEN, greenjacket - sad but true: no one is showing up to take the place of weak teachers, so they'll stay there and draw their paycheck. i guarantee that if schools raised pay (i know we're overpaid - i hear it all the time) and changed the requirement for compulsory attendance, we'd eliminate the problem of awful teachers overnight.

FallingLeaves
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FallingLeaves 04/08/08 - 06:03 pm
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Thank you, thank you, thank

Thank you, thank you, thank you, for mentioning Davidson is one of the best schools in the nation. I will be even happier when our counties school in total are considered all among the best in the nation. It can happen.

Craig Spinks
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Craig Spinks 04/08/08 - 07:37 pm
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How many teaching positions

How many teaching positions were there in the RC public school system at the end of the last school year? How many positions were vacated at the end of the last school year because of voluntary resignation? forced resignation? termination? My hunch is that the number of "teachers" terminated at the end of last year approaches zero and has done so for most of the last 30 years. How many "teachers" have knuckled under and resigned rather than face termination proceedings? Some. How many teachers decided that teaching wasn't worth the abuse to which they were exposed and left the field voluntarily? How many with the potential to become good teachers for our children made this decision? I suspect many. Are we losing more good and potentially good teachers and retaining poorer ones? Has anybody checked?

rottiesrus
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rottiesrus 04/08/08 - 07:59 pm
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I know many teachers in RC

I know many teachers in RC that have given up and left due to the lack of support from the administration and BOE. If a student doesn't follow the rules, instead of suffering the resulting consequences of their actions, the teachers have to jump through so many hoops, that the student is still disrupting class, and the teacher is going before tribunals. One of the reasons Davidson is so successful- the students are fully aware of the consequences, and there are no second chances. ( last summer's episode aside- even the prinicpal did not agree with the BOE overriding the student contract w/ DFA). Discipline is not an issue because there is no doubt that there will be consequences. In the non-magnet schools, the parents make a fuss about little johnny being picked on by the teacher and the teacher gets in trouble. One former RC teacher I know taught all around the world, is very well know outside this area for creating award winning programs- he came to RC, and after 5 years and ulcers, left- couldn't deal with the hipocracy anymore.

rottiesrus
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rottiesrus 04/08/08 - 08:04 pm
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Davidson is currently ranked

Davidson is currently ranked #86 in the nation. #1 reason- parental involvement-an extremely active PTA ( or PTO) that supports the students and teachers.

bone
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bone 04/08/08 - 08:12 pm
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#1 reason davidson is

#1 reason davidson is successful: ability to select students using stringent criteria and dismiss students with almost any discipline problems. parental involvement model isn't really applicable to this school except for the fact that when you get a call from a davidson teacher you'll more than likely return it. if all schools operated on a student contract policy we'd see much better results from the students.

rottiesrus
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rottiesrus 04/08/08 - 09:18 pm
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The DFA contract and ability

The DFA contract and ability to enforce it is huge, but if the parents aren't behind it 100%, it won't be as successful. The parents at DFA have to sign that contract with their students- they can't play the games that occur in other schools. And yes, that contract, and clear understanding of it are integral to their success. Several area schools use a similar contract for some of their elective programs ( obviously not the school itself, but band programs, etc) and with few exceptions, when the teachers involved have tried to enforce those contracts, they were met w/ parents that argued what ever the issue was and, rather than supporting the discipline of their child, fought the teacher instead. The parental model has everything to do with DFA's success. Do you think those students came out of the cabbage patch? It is the parents that support and encourage the students, ensure that they are at school, ON TIME, with homework done, prepared for class,knowing how to behave appropriately and respectfully. If the parents fail their children, no contract will fix that- and no school can overcome that.

Rozzie2003
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Rozzie2003 04/08/08 - 09:25 pm
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I want to ask you experts on

I want to ask you experts on education in Richmond County one simple question---How many of you have visited a school lately?Richmond County School System has many good schools beside Davidson. Davidson is a top school because it is very selective.
A magnet school robs other schools of its best students and leadership. I talked with a high scool principal last week and he felt his school would be strengthened if the 75-100 students zoned for his school were there. I am a graduate of Harvard and Harvard only accepts top students --those with high SAT scores. Last week, Harvard turned down 50 students with perfect
SAT's scores. Therefore ,Harvard is very selective and attracts the top students in the country, I suggest that all of us should volunteer to help the schools in Richmond County and speak very positive about them.

Rozzie2003
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Rozzie2003 04/08/08 - 09:26 pm
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I want to ask you experts on

I want to ask you experts on education in Richmond County one simple question---How many of you have visited a school lately?Richmond County School System has many good schools beside Davidson. Davidson is a top school because it is very selective.
A magnet school robs other schools of its best students and leadership. I talked with a high scool principal last week and he felt his school would be strengthened if the 75-100 students zoned for his school were there. I am a graduate of Harvard and Harvard only accepts top students --those with high SAT scores. Last week, Harvard turned down 50 students with perfect
SAT's scores. Therefore ,Harvard is very selective and attracts the top students in the country, I suggest that all of us should volunteer to help the schools in Richmond County and speak very positive about them.

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