Local school officials seek to build stronger lines of communication to Atlanta, solons

Grady County School System leaders met with State Senator Dean Burke in Whigham Thursday.
School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard said the purpose of the meeting was to exchange ideas, comments and concerns as well as to build better lines of communication between the local school district and the state senator who represents Grady County in the Georgia Senate.
Joining in on the meeting, in addition to the senator and superintendent, were Grady County Board of Education members Laura Register and Teresa Gee Harris, Whigham Principal Mark Willis, Shiver Principal Todd Jones, Eastside Principal Chiquila Wright, Northside Assistant Principal Michael Best, Washington Middle School Principal Tilda Brimm, Washington Middle School Assistant Principal Justin Amaro, Cairo High School Principal Chris Lokey, CHS College and Career Academy CEO Todd Gainous, Assistant School Superintendent Kevin Strickland and middle school vocational agriculture teacher Tracy Champagne.
“Meetings like these are a good idea,” Sen. Burke said. He explained the value of developing relationships with the leadership in Atlanta and said that the school system and local community needed to travel to Atlanta more to develop relationships with leadership and “be seen.”
“If you are calling me to talk with me about concerns you have about particular pieces of legislation we are about to vote on in 10 minutes, then we’re lost,” the state senator said.
He encouraged open lines of communication and noted that as the beginning of a new session of the legislature approaches the more difficult it becomes to schedule meetings such as the one held last week at Whigham School.
Superintendent Gilliard began the session by calling on representatives of the county’s schools to share information with the senator about unique or innovative things that are happening in their classrooms.
The senator also encouraged the school officials to share their thoughts and concerns. He said he intended on doing more listening than talking.
School officials discussed with Sen. Burke their concerns about the state’s push for high school students to “Move On When Ready,” which in most cases means more and more high school students are leaving the Cairo High School campus to take college courses on nearby college campuses. Grady County principals and school personnel said that the school’s top students miss out on the high school experience by being off campus the majority of the school day and on the campus of an area college instead.
Dr. Gilliard suggested that if the state wishes to make obtaining college more affordable to working families then perhaps instead of paying for high school students to take college course work for free the state could offer scholarships to graduating high school students who attend state colleges and universities.
Local officials also said the legislature’s attempt to reduce the amount of standardized testing had actually increased testing.
“We don’t think that was your intent, but that is the reality,” Dr. Gilliard said.
Senator Burke urged the superintendent to share his observations with the chairman of the senate education committee as well as with Rep. Amy Carter, who is herself a teacher, and whose opinion in the legislature regarding K-12 public education is valued by legislative leaders.
A variety of other topics were discussed before the session concluded. Mrs. Champagne then took Sen. Burke on a tour of the Whigham vo-ag greenhouse and chicken coop.
The senator described Thursday’s session as “beneficial” and he encouraged local school leaders to maintain communication with him and through his office.
“It was a very good opportunity, not only for me but also our administrators, to talk and discuss important issues related to education with our elected representative in Atlanta. We look forward to continuing to work with not only Sen. Burke but also Rep. Darlene Taylor,” Dr. Gilliard said.

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