I have noticed a lot of change in Butts County recently. For one thing, the weather is cold in this town lately! After suffering through a long, hot summer, it’s amazing how quickly the seasons change. To me, it seems like yesterday that we conducted our community open house of the new wing at Jackson High School on a hot July Day. Now we’re buying turkeys and gift wrapping paper!
I am also thankful to notice some additional change that we have seen recently in our community, specifically with the progress that Butts County School System is making in its aim to be the school system you are proud to support. When you have a talented student body like ours and a hard-working staff of 500 men and women standing behind them, it is a wonderful thing to see positive change as a fruit to enjoy.
A change I am very proud to see is the growth in our community’s graduation rate. In 2012, our 4-year graduation rate was a little over 67% and below the state average. In 2013, our rate grew to 74.5%, which was two points higher than the state average. And lo and behold, this year we were thrilled to receive the news that the Class of 2014 achieved a graduation rate of 79.40%! Not only that, but we exceeded the state rate by 7 points!
It is easy to gloss over statistics and numbers, but I think it is important to realize that these numbers stand for real human beings: our children. This dramatic increase in diplomas means more hope. It means that not only will their lives improve, but the lives of their future children. This is a big deal, and it is a big victory for our county that is worth some thanksgiving.
What else? Well, I just received hot off the presses that Jackson High School was recently named to the College Board’s 5th Annual AP® District Honor Roll for Significant Gains in Student Access and Success. This means that JHS has dramatically increased the number of students taking Advanced Placement courses for college credit AND increased the number of student passing those tests!
When you consider that our Board of Education has allowed us to expand student access to dual enrollment in Southern Crescent and Gordon State College, it is exciting to see that our future graduates will not only receive their high school diploma, but will also graduate with one or two years of college credit—free to their parents!
I still run into parents that don’t yet realize that they can enroll their qualifying sons or daughters in state colleges with free tuition if they are dually enrolled in high school. If you are the parent of a freshman or sophomore at JHS, I would encourage you to contact Mrs. Melissa Griffin at JHS to learn more about how they can enroll as a junior. We will even bus them to the college for you!
Finally, we have some significant change that has happened on the opposite end of our school system. I am referring to our 4-year olds in Butts County. In the last two years alone, our school system has grown from one lottery-funded pre-K classroom to five classrooms. For every classroom we add to the system (mostly funded by the state of Georgia), this means 22 seats for 4-years to get a head start in their education.
As of the morning you read this article, I estimate there are still 60-80 4-year olds sitting in homes with no access to pre-K education. What would happen if we could find a way to get them in school and learning with their peers? We have made huge progress, but we will not be satisfied until every 4-year old in Butts County has equitable access to a fighting chance for a great education. We do not want any child starting the first day of kindergarten already a year behind. Please help us spread the word.
In this holiday season, I am thankful for your support. We could not have accomplished any of this without your encouragement and involvement. These “changes” are not just victories for BCSS, but for all of our community members and tax payers. The more achievement that we see in our schools, the better our chances to attract more jobs and a better quality of life for all of us.
On behalf of our Board of Education, faculty, and staff, we wish you all a Happy Thanksgiving and a very Merry Christmas!