Morgan County Schools achievements of 2014

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Dave Belton Morgan GOP Vice Chair

Every year, I write a column summarizing the past school year. The big news, of course, is our recent ranking as the 10th best school system in the state. That puts Morgan in the stratospheric heights of top 5 percent of Georgia. Numbers one through nine were either tiny districts or very affluent ones. Our 87 percent graduation rate was 15th best county in the state, putting us in the top 8percent of Georgia for the second time in a few years. We’ve been named an AP STEM School and AP STEM Achievement School, one of very few schools to be named both. We’ve quadrupled our AP Scholars and doubled our National AP Scholars. Our AP pass rate of 45 percent doubles Georgia and the nation. And we have an amazing a record 83 percent acceptance rate at UGA and GA Tech for the past few years. An unbelievable 99 percent of our students passed the state Writing test. Our Elementary School was ranked in the top 5 percent for the third time in three years. Our last SAT scores were the highest they’ve ever been, rising 108 points in four years. They were a whopping 32 points better than Georgia and just a few points shy of the nation. Our last ACT scores recorded five year highs, beating Georgia AND the nation. We just finished the Primary School Gym under budget and on time. We lowered the budget by 10 percent to get us through the Recession. Unfortunately, our staff is 10 percent smaller than a few years ago, a trend I hope we can reverse. We’ve gone through another clean audit (as we do every year). We’ve returned the millage rate to the rollback rate eight years, not increasing your taxes during that time. Our biggest decision this year was to build a Career Academy instead of a school in Rutledge. The Rutledge idea was envisioned many years ago to handle future growth, but the recession in 2008 stopped that growth west of Covington. Our enrollment is actually down: at 3205 students we’ve lost 150 kids or 5 percent in three years. At the direct request of many of our parents, our new focus is to provide an alternative for kids who don’t want to go to college. This new workforce-ready program will make our kids uniquely qualified for the jobs that are coming with the advent of Baxter and its ancillary businesses. The decision to hire our new Superintendant, James Woodard – who started an incredibly successful and national award winning Career Academy in Newton – was a huge step in this direction. I believe he is the perfect man to lead us through these opportunities. Dr. Scott Anderson of MCES won a national award from Kahn Academy for being one of the top technology users in the country. Jeffrey Rowser of MCHS was named the number 1 music educator in the state out of a pool of 35,000. He’s doubled the size of our band while taking them to three parades in Atlanta, the Outback Bowl in Tampa, and to the Hollywood Christmas Parade in California – as well as earning “Superior” (the highest rating) in several competitions. Morgan County owns the Georgia Youth Assembly in Atlanta during these past five years, taking home too many trophies to count. Our robotics team is doing incredibly well, our Middle School’s science team won dozens of statewide awards, and our Primary School teachers are presenting their programs before national audiences. Our Archery Team won the State Championship, and of course our Men’s Basketball Team won an epic victory to become State Champions. Overall, our non-affluent, rural-county schools far exceed expectations. Citizens of Morgan should be proud of their better-than-expected results. The economic benefits should be obvious. As this will be my last article as a school board member, I want to reiterate that any of the successes we’ve had is not because of us. Instead, they were the direct results of the hard work of our dedicated, caring, professional teachers. It’s never been harder to be a teacher than right now. There is way more scrutiny and accountability than ever before. Their responsibilities constantly increase as they nobly suffer pay cuts – all while the state constantly changes their curriculum (three times in the last few years). Your Morgan teachers are doing more with less, and they are doing it with superlative results. It has been a unique honor and the privilege of my life to serve the people of Morgan County. Thank you for the opportunity. Dave Belton Morgan County School Board 5th District

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