Early County Schools System Superintendent Dr. Jennifer Brown cited community engagement as a major reason why the local public schools have remained among the best in Georgia.
In a speech to the Blakely Rotary Club on May 19, Dr. Brown said, “We have numerous community organizations, businesses and individuals that rally with the school system to ensure every student has what he or she needs to succeed.”
She said a meeting four years ago solidified the community’s efforts to maintain a strong public county school system.
“I was involved in a group of over 30 people who met when we adopted our vision of ‘Everyone Committed to Student Success.’ Personally, I was thrilled for us to have a clear, concise vision,” she said, adding that with 1,700 students, “there are over 1,700 ways to define success!”
Noting that Early County is “a high-poverty community in a rural area, our students are way more familiar with dirt roads and tractors than they are with interstate highways and public transportation,” Dr. Brown said.
To overcome such, “the system has focused on student engagement for the past eight years. Our teachers make every effort to design engaging work that will capture students’ individual needs. We make every effort to capitalize on students’ strengths and specific aptitudes. People are smart in different ways and we are committed to helping students discover their individual paths.”
She named three students in the system in recent years as examples of the system’s focus. One is Randy Wade, who loved football and quickly excelled. “His teachers, coaches, administrators, family and friends all rallied together to make sure Randy was equipped for life.” As a result, Randy was such an outstanding player at Georgia Southern that he is now a potential NFL player.
Amber Craft graduated ECSS as a certified welder. A manufacturing company recognized her abilities and potential and today they are investing in her. “When she isn’t welding, she is now working part of each day in the engineering department,” Dr. Brown said.
The third example, 2022 graduate Charlye Allen, “didn’t know how she would be able to achieve her lifelong dream of attending an Ivy League school.” She took extra courses through Georgia Virtual and Advanced Placement courses. Because of everyone’s commitment to student success, Charlye is on her way to Harvard, “out of our rural high school.”
Dr. Brown said the system’s four-year graduation rate is 86-percent, which is 3-percent above the Georgia average. Including five-year graduates, the rate is a phenomenal 93-percent. Seventy-percent of the local graduates attend either a two-year or four-year institution in the state. Of those students, only four required remedial language arts and five required remedial math.
“Now that is success!” Dr. Brown said.
Tammy Storey, the system’s Family Engagement Director, said the schools have several meetings each year with students’ families and guardians and the community as a way to strengthen relationships.
“We go to different organizations and they partner with us to make strong connections,” Storey said. “We are all in this together. We look at feedback we receive from hearings and meetings and collaborate on what we need most in the system for student success.”
The two system leaders told the Rotary Club that they’ve recently hired a new agriculture teacher due to students’ interest rising in that field. Other innovative ideas include helping new teachers find places to live in the county. The system holds “Signing Day” activities for non-athletic students earning scholarships and other assistance for college. Graduation for the system’s 137 seniors is scheduled for Saturday, May 28. “Each of them has a success story,” Dr. Brown said.