By Steve Smith
As we approach another school year,I want to keep you apprised of what is going on in your school district and schools. We continue to work hard to make sure every student gets the best education possible, and this past school year was one of our best.
I am pleased to report that our district continues to lead the 10 school districts in the Heart of Georgia RESA in the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) and the Financial Efficiency Star Rating (FESR). We also lead all school systems in the Middle Georgia RESA in those indicators. Bleckley County Elementary School (BCES) was named a Title I Reward – Highest Performing School, and even our nutrition department was one of only 19 districts in the state to win the Gold Level Golden Radish Award for farm-to-school efforts. Our great performance and financial efficiency are a testament to our teachers, administrators and support staff. Supportive parents and guardians who value education also play a tremendous role in our students’ success. Parents, we thank you and the entire community for supporting our schools!
Our motto is “Expect Excellence,” and I am so proud of our students, staff, coaches, and club sponsors, all of whom made history this past school year. Our students who participated in 4-H Senior Cotton Boll and Consumer Juding were number one in the nation! The BCHS Beta Club just returned from the national convention, with two individuals placing 3rd and 4th, respectively, and the show choir placing 5th in the nation. These are all NATIONAL rankings! We had 23 BCHS students win individual STATE championships this past year in clubs and athletics, and six teams won STATE championships: Senior Forestry in FFA, Senior Dendrology in FFA, Girls Cross Country, Boys Cross Country, Girls Tennis, and Boys Tennis. The BCHS Boys Track team finished 2nd in the state. For the first time in school history, BCHS won the All-Sports State Class AA Director’s Cup and the Girls Sports State Class AA Director’s Cub. We dominated our REGION competitions in athletics, too, with BCMS taking six region championships and BCHS taking seven region championships. We are installing a new trophy case at BCHS to display these and all of our region (formerly called district) and state championship trophies.
We have one construction project currently underway as we are expanding the weight room and locker room at the new BCHS gymnasium. Although we refer to the gym as “new,” it is already 11 years old. We appreciate the work of former head football coach Tracy White, who helped devise the plan to move football practice from the practice field at the old track to the new high school. Our players have had some close calls in traveling to the old track for practice after school. I explain it as follows: “Johnny walks his girlfriend out to her car and tells her goodbye, runs by the convenience store to pick up an energy drink, then pulls into the old high school parking lot on two wheels so he won’t be late for practice.” While there may be some exaggeration in that statement, I agree that moving practice to the new high school removes that potential risk. The good news is that all sports and our PE program will benefit from the expanded weight room, and basketball, soccer, and football will benefit from the expanded locker room. A training room will allow Coach Brannon, our athletic trainer, to treat injuries and tape up ankles much more effectively. Fortunately, we had money in our Capital Projects account to cover practically all of the costs associated with this expansion, so we did not use funds that would normally be used for instructional materials or teacher salaries. We hope the project will be completed by the end of the first week of school. Piedmont Construction Group, Inc. of Macon, GA won the bid to handle this project, and we are thankful the project manager for this job has a grandson who plays football at BCHS. As he explained, “I have a vested interest in this job and this school system.”
We are thrilled with the work being done by the new Bleckley Christian Learning Center (BCLC), which served 79 BCMS and 44 BCHS students this past year by teaching Bible-based classes off-campus under “release time,” which was upheld by the United States Supreme Court in The BCLC is a 501(c)(3) charitable organization that relies solely on donations to cover the cost of transporting and educating students. Research has shown and our experience confirms that the students who participate in this program have better grades, fewer discipline problems, and fewer absences. They are also more likely to become leaders in the schools and focus more on serving others than meeting their own needs. You can find out more about them at www.bleckleyclc.org.
When school starts on August 4th, we will have a few changes in leadership roles in our schools as Michele Dyal will be moving from principal of Bleckley County Middle School (BCMS) to principal of BCES. Carla Thrower will move from assistant principal to principal of BCMS, and Liz Dykes will move from teacher to assistant principal at BCMS. Matt Gibbs is moving from assistant principal to principal at Bleckley County High School (BCHS), and we welcome Matt Godwin to BCHS as an assistant principal and CTAE Director. Trey Belflower has moved to the Central Office, where he will become the Director of Operations and Federal Programs after the retirement of our Director of Student Services, Debbie Puckett. With the retirement of Athletics Director Benjy Rogers, Von Lasseter will assume that role, and we have a number of new teachers who will be joining us this school year, too.
Watch Out for Children and Buses
We realize the first couple of weeks can be trying as parents, students, bus drivers and riders, and teachers get into their routines. We ask for patience as we deal with large numbers of car riders during those first few days. We also ask that you be mindful of our bus loading and unloading zones. Please do not block those areas or allow your students to enter or cross those areas without holding an adult’s hand. Please be aware of buses on the roads, and never pass a bus with its lights flashing and STOP arm extended. State law prohibits passing a bus that you are meeting or following even on a four-lane or five-lane road with its lights flashing and STOP arm extended (unless there is a median separating the traffic flow). A turn lane is not considered a median, so if a bus is stopped on the Eastman Highway, Macon Highway, or the bypass, you should stop, too, regardless of your direction. We Are Here to Serve We strive to serve you better, and my goal is to make every experience with Bleckley County Schools as pleasant as possible. I realize no parent who hears of his or her child’s misbehavior considers the news to be pleasant, but I do hope we can agree that proper discipline can help avoid future problems. We are all on the same team, and we all want what is best for our children. We will do our best to treat every child as our own, because when you entrust them into our care, they become our children.
Over the next few weeks we will begin a new strategic planning process for our school district. We need parents and stakeholders who are willing to participate in no more than five meetings this fall. If you are interested, please email Debbie Arnold at firstname.lastname@example.org or call her at 478-943-2821 Ext. 0 so we can get you on the list. Each meeting should last no longer than 90 minutes, and you will be providing a great service to our school system as we plan for the next five years.
Thank you again for supporting Bleckley County Schools! We covet your prayers, and if I can ever be of service to you, please do not hesitate to contact me.
Contact: Steve J. Smith, Superintendent
Phone: 478-934-2821 Ext. 1100