As teachers prepare for the upcoming school year, Bulloch County Schools Superintendent Charles Wilson addressed the hardships the system has faced in the past months but remained positive the district will overcome them.
“We will never be able to predict everything to come our way, but as challenges arise, we do have the power to adapt and overcome,” Wilson said at the annual convocation Friday morning in a packed Statesboro High School auditorium.
In the past year, Bulloch County has been questioned about the religious freedom of employees and students in the public school setting and inappropriate teacher-student relationships that lead to the arrest of two SHS coaches, Jeffrey Tyler Crowder and Luke Edward Parks, on felony sexual misconduct charges. Principal Dr. Marty Waters also was arrested on a misdemeanor charge of failure to report child abuse in a timely manner.
Wilson focused on the importance of the teachers in Bulloch County, stating that they are the core of the educational process and, with their help, the school system will succeed.
“As the graphic shows, you, our employees, are at the core of all we do and hope to accomplish,” he said. “So if the tools to build a culture of excellence are in place, what must we do to strengthen our core? What should we expect of ourselves and each other? We simply cannot build a culture of excellence without your time, your talents and a positive attitude.”
Wilson also spoke of changes the school system will see.
“Regardless of our differing opinions about these changes, we ultimately all want our students to learn what they need to know, to enjoy learning, to strive for improvement, to have the ability to adapt to their environment and to be successful,” he said. “All of you are qualified professionals and valuable team members, and with ‘Heart, Head and Guts,’ we will figure this out together, and we will all be better for it.”
He outlined a number of initiatives the school system has developed in the last year and will continue to use in the upcoming year. All of them, he said, are designed to improve student learning and help teachers to teach more effectively. Wilson said he understands some of the new initiatives may be a bit of burden at times but he knows that, in the end, teachers and administrators will find the “big picture of excellence.”
In an interview after the convocation, Richard Stubbs, a third-grade teacher at Julia P. Bryant Elementary School, shared his teaching techniques for English/language arts, reading and social studies.
“I really like to teach kids about life in general. I like to embed life lessons into my curriculum,” he said. “I am a great storyteller. I like to start a lot of my lessons with a good story, because they are automatically engaged at that point, and you can run right into a good lesson.”
As the new school year quickly approaches, teachers prepare for their new students and begin thinking of ways they will meet the new expectations they have set for the year.
Tanita McDowell, the 12th-grade assistant principal at Statesboro High, said her main focus for the 2014–15 school year will be increasing the graduation rate.
She said after the convocation that she will be meeting with teachers “on a weekly basis, looking at data, see what’s going on with the kids, why are they not passing, what interventions are we doing and what else can we do.”
Lawanda Allen, Bulloch County’s 2015 Teacher of the Year, plans to extend her goals for the upcoming school year outside the classroom. Allen, a music teacher at Langston Chapel Middle School, hopes to get her sixth- through eighth-grade students more involved in the community.
She said in an interview that she wants them “to do some more volunteer work, and more performing for [her] chorus kids, try to get them performing more for the community.
“I want more hands-on things; wherever there is a need, try to get them to embrace that need,” she said.
In the end, this year’s initiatives will help not only the school system overall but the students themselves — those who matter the most — Wilson said.
“We have the opportunity, and the honor, to change the world and prepare our students for it,” he told the audience. “Everyone is depending upon us, and failure isn’t an option.”