PAGE One Magazine - Aug./Sept. 2019

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August/September 2019

Tracey Pendley

Georgia Teacher of the Year

Art of Parent Engagement | Concerns about A-F Grading, Vouchers | PAGE Engage Academy



MORE THAN 50 STATE-OF-THE-ART, INTERACTIVE EXPERIENCES AND EXHIBITS, INCLUDING: • Game Day Theater • Fight Song Karaoke • Virtual Face Painting • ESPN College GameDay Desk • Virtual Reality Stadiums • 45-yard Indoor Playing Field For more information, email:


August/September 2019

Vol. 41 No. 1



6 Tracey Pendley, 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year 10

eorgia Principals and Assistant G Principals of the Year



2  Meet Nick Zomer, your 2019-20 PAGE President

14  The Art of Parent Engagement How Georgia school districts are using innovation to increase parent and community involvement and student success

2  From the President Keeping the Enthusiasm from Start to Finish 4  From the Executive Director The Fulfilling Journey of Transitioning from a Teacher to an Educator

Professional Learning 28  Introducing PAGE Engage Academy Legal 31  Take Precautions Against Releasing a Student to an Unauthorized Person

Legislative 24  GaDOE and GOSA Statewide Listening Sessions


24 PAGE One Official Publication of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators Our core business is to provide professional learning for educators that will enhance professional competence and confidence, build leadership qualities and lead to higher academic achievement for students, while providing the best in membership, legal services and legislative support.

August/September 2019



Executive Editor Craig Harper

President Larry Lebovitz

Graphic Designer Jack Simonetta

Editor Meg Thornton

Publisher John Hanna

Production Coordinator Megan Willis

Contributing Editor Lynn Varner

Editor Cory Sekine-Pettite

Advertising/Sales Sherry Gasaway 770-650-1102, ext.145


Meet The 2019-2020 PAGE President

Nick Zomer Has Fresh Memories of By Meg Thornton, PAGE One Editor


ick Zomer, assistant principal ference.” That includes his personal interacschool and assist them in meeting the of Creekland Middle School tions. “When students come into my office, needs of every student,” he says. He also in Cherokee County, is the I make sure that they know that they are believes that the best thing that teachers 2019-2020 president of the Professional loved and cared for. We celebrate successes can do for one another is to simply be Association of Georgia Educators. A while working through areas of growth.” there for each other. novice administrator with fresh memoHailing from a family of educators, “Teachers are natural problem solvries of the pressures of the classroom, Zomer says that educational leadership ers. They can look at a room full of Zomer says that the hardest part of is about empowering fellow educators. “I differences and determine an appropriteaching is balancing the wide-ranging am not in a role of evaluating educators; ate course of action to meet everyone’s needs of students with external demands I am here to support the teachers in my needs,” he says. Educators need to share beyond our control. situations, ideas and successes, “Focusing on the feeling that and know that they are not alone ‘I doubt I would have remained in the there is always someone watching in facing their challenges. profession had it not been for what I have Zomer admits that each spring, over our shoulder, decisions being made from outside the schoolhouse learned from PAGE. To me, PAGE is he swells with pride when he reads and high-stakes testing is enough the names of graduating seniors. more than just lobbying and insurance. to make any of us want to run “I often heard that I pushed and PAGE is a network of educators and from the profession,” he says. But challenged students to reach resources designed to support teachers for him, focusing on what he can higher levels. It is a true honor to control “has made the world of dif- during their highest and lowest of times’ know that I played a role in their

From the President

Keeping the Enthusiasm from Start to Finish


s I write this column, I am embarking on year 17 as an educator. That astounds me. A blur of faces come rushing back as I recall events of my career. Some educators consider his milestone as the start of the second half of a career, perhaps even the start of a downhill slide. But I feel as if I am still just getting started. I made it through the first five years when so many novice teachers make the critical decision to stay in the profession. I taught through the economic crisis of the early 2000s when class sizes swelled. I have seen friends come and go, some of them leaving for “greener pastures.” And I’ve heard expert trainers tell me they have the magic solution, only for me to go back to my classroom and adjust that program to meet the needs of my students in my own way. Through it all, I’ve never lost sight that education is the most honorable of professions.


I recently read an article still challenges and excites that spoke of the professional me just as it did years ago. decline that people often Before my first year as a experience during the second teacher, I traveled with half of their career, no matmy family to visit relater their profession. They tives in Michigan. A prize often reach their peak in their possession on that trip late 30s or 40s — the exact was my physical science point where I currently am. teacher’s book edition. I The article cited the natural carried it everywhere. I decline in energy that comes remember my 80-year-old with multiple years doing the Nick Zomer grandfather pouring over same thing. For educators, our the pages at his dining first years are exciting and nerve-wrackroom table, and I recall telling him how I ing. Our hearts pound with anticipation planned to teach my classes that fall and and anxiety in the weeks prior to the start what I was going to accomplish. of the contract period — or at least mine But during the past few summers, I did. We see teaching ideas in everything no longer carry such tools of the trade we do and everywhere we go. But as the with me everywhere I go. However, I now years go on, we become more accustomed carry a computer via my cell phone so I to the job and the requirements. can explore ideas whenever and wherever. I feared the “decline” was happening And I still feel the nervous butterflies in to me, and then I realized that my work my stomach grow in anticipation of the August/September 2019

Classroom Pressures academic success,” he says. He’s particularly touched when former students who have pursued science careers tell him that he encouraged their love of the field. A graduate of PAGE Teacher Academy, Zomer has been a PAGE member since the time he stepped into the classroom. “I would not be where I am today without the support of PAGE,” he maintains. “The networking and professional development I have received has helped get me to where I am today. I can honestly say that I doubt I would have remained in the profession had it not been for what I have learned from PAGE. To me, PAGE is more than just lobbying and insurance. PAGE is a network of educators and resources designed to support teachers during their highest and lowest of times.” According the new PAGE president, the biggest challenge facing Georgia schools is the continual need for dedicated educators.

“With the external pressures brought on by legislative Creekland admin tea and assessment challenges, m at the 2018 county job fair. it can be difficult to recruit and retain quality individuals who are focused on students and their He obtained a master’s in education from growth,” he says. “However, I know for a Walden University, and he earned a bachfact that schools from one edge of Georgia elor’s in middle grades education from to the other are filled with educators who North Georgia College and State University. have made teaching their passion and are An expert on integrating technology in the only focused on improving the lives of classroom, he is a frequent contributor to their students. I wish there could be a way PAGE One magazine and presenter for state to reduce the pressures from assessments education associations and the Georgia and external scrutiny to allow teachers Science Teachers Association, for which he to focus solely on their mission to teach has served on the board. students. However, until that day arrives, A 15-year classroom teacher, Zomer Georgia public schools need to find more taught at Mill Creek Middle School from ways to empower educators and let them 2013-2017, at Dean Rusk Middle School know that their efforts are appreciated from 2007-2013 (both in Cherokee), and more than they will ever know,” he adds. at Liberty Middle School in Forsyth from Zomer earned an educational specialist 2003-2007. He has taught science, reading, n degree in leadership from Berry College. and social studies.

first days back to the schoolhouse. That feeling excites me; it tells me I still care about what I do. I talk to other educators who have the “back-to-school dream” where they visualize events in their classrooms or schools. That signifies to me that they, too, are pondering what the year will bring. I know that I share this feeling with so many of you.

‘External stress is going to happen. As you walk through the door to your school each day, remember why you are there and what you want to achieve. Is it simply preparing for an assessment or are you wanting to touch a life forever?’

Each morning, stop and breathe Jim Harbaugh, the University of Michigan head football coach, once said that he was going to “attack the season with an intensity unknown to mankind.” This prompted laughter and commentary on social media. However, Harbaugh’s comment echoes the mantra I try to lead by every day. We are called into education for a myriad of reasons. For some, it is a long-desired dream profession. Others want to pay homage to that individual who changed the trajectory of their lives. And still others seek to provide experiences they were never offered as students. No matter the reason, the beginning of August/September 2019

the school year offers us a chance to begin anew and work toward the future. Before you leave your vehicle each morning, stop and breathe. Do not leave your personal space without properly preparing for what lies before you. External stress is going to happen, whether it be kids, traffic or other life issues. As you walk through the door to your school each day, remember why you are there and what you want to achieve. Is it simply preparing for an assessment or are you wanting to touch a life forever? To each of you, I hope that the 2019-2020

school year is the best one yet! Whether this is your first year in the classroom, you are at the midpoint in your career, or you are in your final year of teaching, strive to put blinders on to guard against the pressures that surround our chosen profession, and simply focus on the students. Each day, thousands of students from all walks of life and experiences walk into our schools. They are counting on us to be our best every day, thus we must strive to make each interaction with them the best yet. It is essential to celebrate the good days and find ways to improve the bad ones so that they become fewer and farther between. Attack those days with that intensity that makes others take note, because it is contagious. One of my former administrators pulled me aside one day and told me “Zomer, it only takes a second.” When I asked him what he meant, he added “… to make someone’s day better.” Remember this as you begin day one, day two, or day 180. You never know when the action you n make will have a lasting impact. PAGE ONE  3

From the Executive Director

The Fulfilling Journey of Transitioning from a Teacher to an Educator Craig Harper


new school year unveils great potential for learning and accomplishment, along with challenges and disappointment. How we prepare ourselves to cope with success and failure determines our ability to sustain a positive, action-oriented attitude and a commitment to continuous improvement. Each of us possesses more control over our circumstances and development than we may believe. PAGE takes its role as a professional learning organization seriously. We seek to provide educators with learning experiences and encouragement to fully engage in individual improvement and fulfillment. As I thought about this school year and the learning goals of PAGE’s new Engage Academy (see article on page 28), I was reminded of Harry and Rosemary Wong’s message to educators about taking control of your ability to make a difference in the lives of students. They stress the significant difference between workers and leaders, jobs and careers, and teachers and educators. Obviously, the preferred role is as a leader who has a career as an educator. I encourage you to read the book “How To Be An Effective Teacher: The First Days Of School”¹; it’s also well worth keeping in your professional library as a reference. The Wong’s provide excellent, research-based process and structure guidelines that can benefit any educator. The section of the book that most resonates with me addresses how to


ally, seek ways to share and cooperate with others, and set goals for achievement. Harry Wong asks a great guiding question to start the process: “What do I need to know in order to do what I need to do?” Answer that question about your professional growth, about learning outcomes for students or about the requirements for a desired new role, and you will know what to do next, and after that, and going forward. PAGE is doing its part to help you enhance your professional capacity. This year, you can choose to join one of our Engage academies located regionally across Georgia. During this two-year professional learning experience, you will discover research-based frameworks to enhance your ability to design student work that results in profound learning and how to analyze challenges and design solutions that result in successful outcomes. Because PAGE believes collaborative effort results in deeper learning and encouragement to put learning into action, we ask that each participant partner with at least one other educator from your school. Visit for more information and to reference academy locations in your area. The intended outcomes of the PAGE Engage Academy are: •  Gain a holistic understanding of stu-

If you choose to be a leader, then you must also choose to put in the intentional effort to grow professionally, seek ways to share and cooperate with others, and set goals for achievement. become a professional. The straightforward career advice emphasizes universal truths applied to educators with practical steps to become a knowledgeable and respected leader. (See table on workers vs. leaders.) From my many years of human resources experience, I know that the characteristics and behaviors of those choosing to be leaders rather than workers makes a significant difference in satisfaction and success as an educator. As this year begins, evaluate how you approach your work. Do you decide or choose? Effective decision-making can only flow from a place of choice. To get there, you must make a conscious effort to break through perceived limitations. Are you a worker or a leader? If you choose to be a leader, then you must also choose to put in the intentional effort to grow profession-

See Page 28 to learn more about PAGE Engage Academy — an innovative professional learning program offering hands-on, small group sessions focused on your school’s unique needs.

August/September 2019

dent needs and their varied motives for learning; •  Design meaningful, engaging work across departments, grade levels, and teams; •  Extend engaging work from your classroom to your school as you develop skills for building effective relationships and two-way communications; •  Learn to leverage essential resources (information, time, people, space, and technology) to fully implement meaningful work. Let’s all choose to be leaders this year. Not only will you enhance your standing as a professional educator, you will continually ignite the passion for learning for n all students along your path. 1. Wong, H.K., & Wong, R.T. “How To Be An Effective Teacher: The First Days Of School.” Mountain View, CA: Harry K. Wong Publications, Inc.



A WORKER is concerned with time and money.

A LEADER is concerned with enhancement and cooperation.

A WORKER has a job.

A LEADER has a career.

A WORKER is hired to do a job.

A LEADER is hired to think, make decisions, and solve problems

A WORKER is an hourly laborer with a skill.

A LEADER is a professional with talent.

A WORKER can be fired from a job.

A LEADER cannot be fired from a career.

A WORKER cannot find another job because of training in only one job.

A LEADER can always find another job because he or she possesses versatile skills.

A WORKER has no future in having a job.

A LEADER has a great future because he or she is oriented toward a career.

Source: “How To Be An Effective Teacher: The First Days Of School” by Harry and Rosemary Wong

PAGE cordially invites your Education Pathway students to

Future Georgia Educators Day Dates and Locations 9:30 a.m. - 2:30 p.m. (Start/end times may vary by location.) Sept. 26 Oct. 23 Oct. 24 Nov. 7 Nov. 13 Nov. 20 Jan. 23 Feb. 6 Feb. 27* March 25

Georgia Southern University Statesboro Columbus State University Columbus Dalton State College Dalton University of North Georgia Dahlonega Augusta University Augusta Valdosta State University Valdosta University of West Georgia Carrollton Georgia Southwestern State University Americus University of Georgia Athens (*date is tentative; please check website for updates) Georgia College & State University Milledgeville

$10 per person/ affiliated FGE chapters: $8 per person

Register online at August/September 2019


2020 Teacher of the Year Tracey Pendley

Georgia’s Top Teacher Endured a Tough Childhood On Way to Becoming a Change Agent and Mentor By Meg Thornton, PAGE One Editor


s a child, 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year Tracey Pendley found much-needed hope through her schooling. “As I attended nine different schools and managed the uncertainties of life with a single parent who was an addict, my teachers provided the stability and encouragement that my twin brother and I needed,” she said. “I had several superhero teachers who showed me what a huge impact an engaging, loving and trust-filled education has on a child’s life. Our teachers were our cheerleaders, our role models, and sometimes, even our caretakers.” By the time Pendley was in college, she embarked on a life-long mission to pay it forward. As an undergraduate at Furman University, she managed the Clubhouse Gang, a ministry-based afterschool program for students in underserved neighborhoods. Her group of volunteers mentored their charges twice weekly. Upon graduation in 2006, she enrolled in the University of Chicago’s Urban Teacher Education Program, and after completing a master’s degree, she dropped her pursuit of a doctorate in sociology to follow her heart back to the classroom. From 2009 to 2012, she taught in Chicago Public Schools, before returning to her hometown of Atlanta, where she taught fourth grade at Toomer Elementary before transferring to Burgess-Peterson Academy. Holding that “kids deserve the magic that learning should bring,” Pendley designs authentic experiences by teach-


August/September 2019

ing through a culturally relevant, equitybased lens. She challenges students to think critically about important historical events and to draw connections between themselves and people of different races, cultures and beliefs. In social studies, for example, her students are transported back in time with role-play, videos and artifacts. Along the way, they research social problems. A favorite unit to teach is Expansion of a New Nation, which integrates westward expansion, weather, tall tales, abolition and suffrage. Students make a packing list for their trek with the Corps of Discovery, analyze Lewis and Clark artifacts, trade with Native Americans and reenact the Battle of the Alamo. And through interactive simulation, the student pioneers encounter obstacles along the trail and must make tricky decisions

Through the words of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Pendley's charges learn that where there is injustice, there are those who stand up for what is right: ‘Students see themselves as agents of change who can write their own stories and screenplays, call their senators, and carry out daily acts of kindness that make a difference.’ that determine their family’s outcome. The unit’s conclusion embodies Pendley’s philosophy of hopefulness and action. “We begin with the inequities inherent to Manifest Destiny, but we end the unit focusing on the advancements made with the expansion of social equalities and technology,” she said. Through

the words of Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman, Sojourner Truth and Elizabeth Cady Stanton, her charges learn that where there is injustice, there are those who stand up for what is right. “Students see themselves as agents of change who can write their own stories and screenplays, call their senators, and carry out daily acts of kindness that make a difference,” Pendley added. Such immersive experiences have helped her fourth graders write with deeper insight and supporting evidence. “There was a 96-percent pass rate for the unit assessment, and students’ culminating performance task demonstrated that they could creatively organize and interpret the content from multiple perspectives [via] an 1800s newspaper design project,” said Pendley.

Dear Abby Lives On Through SEL

Pendley’s students begin each day with the Morning Meeting to give them space to greet their classmates, learn the day’s news, share and participate in an activity that promotes social awareness and self-awareness. To Pendley’s surprise, her students’ favorite SEL activity is not a playful game, but rather Dear Abby, in which they anonymously write about problems they are facing. “I typed their letters and projected them for the class, charging Tracey Pendley, Dr. Bobbi Ford, State School Superintendent Richard Woods Continued on next page August/September 2019


To Pendley’s surprise, her students’ favorite SEL activity is not a playful game, but rather Dear Abby, in which they anonymously write about problems they are facing: ‘My class kindly demanded that we give each student who wrote a Dear Abby letter the chance to be heard and the opportunity to be cared for and tended to by their classmates.’

in order to plan my small groups for the next day.”

Isolation Led Her to Leadership

Pendley finds great value in partnerships. In her work with CREATE (Collaboration and Reflection to Enhance Atlanta Teacher Effectiveness), she has spent years mentoring student teachers and learning to advocate for students. The grant-funded teacher residency program in East and South Atlanta aims to train and keep talented teachers in the cluster. She also is immersed in Page Turners Make Great Learners, which partners with metro Atlanta schools to provide reading experiences that connect students to the world. When Pendley came back to Atlanta in 2012 and began work at the school in her new neighborhood, she felt isolated and her teammate was neither interested in collaboration or lesson planning, she recalled. “Reflecting now, I realize that I had not plugged myself into any meaningful professional communities (so) when I moved to my current school, BurgessPeterson Academy, I was determined to

students with the important responsibilFame, the Center for Civil and Human ity of brainstorming solutions for the Rights and a walking field trip to the anonymous writer. After two days of local senior living home where they problem solving, I was sure that students interview seniors about their Jim Crowwould be ready for a new activity. But no, era experiences and later return to read I was wrong. My class kindly demanded to them. that we give each student who wrote a Student work is customized by level, Dear Abby letter the chance to be heard and they enjoy choice in independent and the opportunity to be cared for and research. “I differentiate in my instructended to by their classmates.” tional delivery and process daily by As a result of such experiences, utilizing small groups, parallel teaching, Pendley believes that her students have stations, buddy reading and an array of become kinder and more open-minded technology and instructional delivery citizens and risk-takers. And her classmethods that are ‘no opt out’ but that room now models SEL for visiting APS offer support,” said Pendley. “Finally, I administrators, teachers, parents and analyze lesson exit tickets immediately prospective donors. Learning also transcends the classroom. Students Tracey Pendley with her fifth-grade teacher, Dr. Bobbi Ford, 1996 Georgia Teacher of the Year take trips to pet shelters, community gardens, the College Football Hall of


August/September 2019

take initiative,” she said. “From the start, I actively engaged myself in teacher mentorship and began participating in professional communities that uplift research-based instructional methods and issues of educational equity.” When she started at the academy, CREATE did not have any participants there. “Being new there, I knew I was taking a risk, but the school’s new principal was supportive, and I took on two student teachers in order to participate in CREATE’s programming. Since then, I have hosted seven student teachers in my classroom, and served as the instructional mentor for a group of entering first-year teachers at CREATE’s intensive Summer Residency Program. Making my teaching transparent for new teachers, and coaching them through the bumps has made me a more reflective educator and provides my students with so much additional academic and socio-emotional support,” she said. “We now have eight Cooperating Teachers, our students’ test scores have risen every school year, and CREATE makes every training available to the entire Burgess-Peterson Academy staff,” Pendley added. More than 80 percent of the school’s classroom teachers have participated in cognitive-based compassion training, social reform conferences, Critical Friends groups and other enriching experiences, such as hearing Dr. Beverly Daniel Tatum, author of “Why Are All of the Black Kids Sitting Together in the Cafeteria?” These events build cross-cluster and district collaboration, build teacher expertise and strengthen school culture. “Everything I have learned I have taken directly back to impact my students, and even more, this knowledge serves me well in my other leadership roles. I am no longer isolated. … One of my student teachers even became my grade-level partner,” Pendley declared. In her role as a teacher leader with Page Turners, her students receive three novel sets a year, and have hosted authors such as football star Malcolm Mitchell and Jeff Kinney, of “Diary of a Wimpy Kid” fame. “Students increased their average chapter books-per-month from 1.3 to 3.5 last school year!” Pendley relayed.

August/September 2019

PAGE, a proud Georgia Teacher of the Year sponsor, celebrates all educators who bring their best to the classroom each day. Throughout this year, PAGE One magazine will profile all 2020 TOTY finalists, sharing how they each uniquely spark a love of learning.

‘Draw a Heart Over Your Mistake’

Pendley’s message for teachers, students and the public is one of educational equity, student growth and elevating Georgia educators and their awesome impact on students. In her room is a sign that reads, “Teachers open the door, but you must enter by yourself.” Her students know that Chinese Proverb well. “From the start, students have voice in building our community, and students have ownership of the physical space, the learning process and their student data,” she said. At the same time, she calls mistakes “gloriously beautiful.” “It’s not about the number on your paper, it’s about how much you grow,” Pendley tells students, offering the following example: “As I circulated the room during phonics, Symone shouted out the wrong vowel team sound and quickly covered her written answer as I approached. ‘YES! I love your mistake, Symone!’ Symone first looked at me as if I had gone mad. ‘You have just helped everyone by reminding us that /ea/ makes more than one sound. Awesome! No, don’t erase it. Be proud. Draw a heart over your mistake and note the correct vowel sound for next time.’ Symone’s smile said it all. Freeing students of fearing mistakes creates a fertile educational space where both students and teachers are not afraid to take risks, ask questions or receive help from others. While my student achievement scores are amongst the highest in my school, it is always my students’ growth of which I am proudest,” she added. Drawing from her own challenged

youth, Pendley fiercely holds that investing in the education of teachers and elevating their impact is crucial to the success of Georgia students. “It only takes one teacher to make a forever impact, and we will achieve that by building our teachers’ professional capacity,” she said. “This means empowering Georgia teacher education programs to develop bright, passionate teachers, and uplifting high-achieving educators so that others can benefit from their expertise.” Although Pendley had many teachers who exuded magic in the classroom and helped mold her into the professional she is today, she recalled how one teacher stands out the most: “Dr. Bobbi Ford taught me in the fifth grade, the same year that she was named 1996 Georgia Teacher of the Year. [She] is everything I try to remember when I walk into my own classroom each morning. I never knew if she was aware that my mother was an addict and that my brother and I were mostly taking care of ourselves, but it did not matter. Her authentic learning engagements, encouragement and kindness inspired me to be a scholar and to build a life that would allow me to give back. Lucky me, I was recently able to show my gratitude to Dr. Ford by presenting her with a superhero cape at the Atlanta Association of Educators Banquet. Great teachers grow great teachers and learners. Teachers’ inspirational lessons, acts of kindness and role modeling are magic — and often extend further than we realize.” As the 2020 Georgia Teacher of the Year, Pendley pledges to promote equity, celebrate student growth, and “expand the impact of n our state’s incredible educators.”


Associations Name Georgia's Outstanding Principals and Assistant Principals of the Year By Lynn Varner, PAGE Contributing Editor


Kerensa Wing, Collins Hill High School Kerensa Wing, a five-year principal of Collins Hill High School (Gwinnett), is the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals Principal of the Year. She is also among three finalists vying for the title of National Association of Secondary School Principals Principal of the Year. A key focus for Wing has been easing student accessibility to school offerings. After she cut the red tape involved in enrolling students in Advanced Placement courses, participation in AP courses increased by 200 students over

three years and 300 more AP tests were taken. Moreover, on average, 69 percent of AP students have scored 3 or higher. On another front, Dual Enrollment participation has swelled three-fold in three years to include 150 students. According to Wing, the high school emphasizes literacy and communication skills; problem solving, inquiry and critical thinking; and civic engagement. She also wants students to leave high school with a résumé that includes job experience and/or college credits so they are confident in their next steps.

Wing serves on the Gwinnett Schools’ Creativity, Innovation and Entrepreneurship team and is a 2008 graduate of the district’s Aspiring Principal program. The 29-year educator earned a bachelor’s from Oglethorpe University, a master’s of education from Georgia State University, and an education specialist degree from Lincoln Memorial University.


Andrea Morrow, Murray County High School Andrea Morrow of Murray County High School is the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals Assistant Principal of the Year. She has served as the school’s AP for three years. Murray County High has made great strides in slashing the student dropout rate over the past 15 years, and the successful effort continues. Graduation rates have climbed to 96 percent, up from 52 percent in 2004. According to Morrow, the increase stems from the collaboration of teachers and administration. Together, they analyze data, especially in relation to how students


learn. “Literacy, rigor and differentiation became school-wide focus areas [and] closing the achievement gap became a school-wide responsibility,” stated Morrow. Murray High also is recognized by the Georgia Department of Education as a Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports model school. Morrow’s experience teaching at the elementary, middle and high school levels helped prepare her for her role as Murray High instructional coach. In that role, she helps teachers plan and individualize lessons to meet the needs

of each student. She also leads staff professional learning sessions. The 20-year educator is active in NASSP/GASSP conferences and has served on the GASSP board of directors. She earned a bachelor’s in elementary education from the University of North Alabama, a master’s from Piedmont College and an educational specialist degree in educational administration and supervision from Lincoln Memorial University.

August/September 2019


Marybeth Thomas, Hilliard A. Wilbanks Middle School Marybeth Thomas is the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals Principal of the Year. Thomas has led Hilliard A. Wilbanks Middle School (Habersham County) for eight years. The school, which was named a GASSP Breakout School last year for improvement in student achievement, has raised the bar for student success. CCRPI scores increased from 68 in 2016

to 77 in 2017 to 84 in 2018. Thomas credits the improvement to the positive school culture, collaborative leadership and the use of data to drive both instruction and learning. "Our team works hard to see that every student shows progress," she adds. For the past three years, Wilbanks has also enjoyed the highest attendance rate of all middle schools within the 13-coun-

ty Pioneer RESA region. Last year, attendance averaged 97 percent. An educator for 24 years, Thomas earned a bachelor of science in biology from Piedmont College and a master’s of educational leadership and policy from the University of Georgia.


Jennifer Johnson, North Gwinnett Middle School Jennifer Johnson is the Georgia Association of Secondary School Principals Assistant Principal of the Year. North Gwinnett Middle School is Gwinnett’s largest middle school and typically ranks within the top quartile for students earning “proficient” or “distinguished” evaluations on state assessments. According to Johnson, “internal and external stakeholders rally around the success of each student.” Still, in reviewing the longitudinal Georgia Milestones data, the district determined that students could improve their writing skills. Thus, the system adopted the writer’s workshop

instructional framework from the Teacher’s College Reading and Writing Project. As a first step, Johnson presented data to parents demonstrating need. After a team of teachers piloted the program, all teachers tried the new approach, and the model was fully implemented in the 2017-18 school year. Johnson reported that after only one year, “our writing scores increased in every category, ranging from 4.1 up to 39.6 percentage point gains in Ideas, Conventions, [and] Narrative Writing for every cohort grade level. This data validated our use of this instructional method, and we extended it this year to

include instructing reading within the same instructional framework,” said Johnson. A former local school Teacher of the Year, Johnson earned her bachelor’s in journalism from Northwestern University, her master’s in teaching from Emory University and an educational specialist degree from the University of Georgia. She participates in Gwinnett County Public School’s Principal Program and is a Just-in-Time facilitator for assistant principals.


Marlo Leatherwood, Harlem Middle School When Marlo Leatherwood became assistant principal of Harlem Middle School (Columbia) in 2016, she quickly introduced the Response to Intervention/Multi-Tiered System of Supports process and led staff training. As a result, the teachers are now skilled at developing strategies and interventions for students. Leatherwood credits the RTI/MTSS system with a decrease in the number students who are held back, along with a decrease in discipline referrals. In recommending Leatherwood as August/September 2019

a National Association of Elementary School Principals National Outstanding Assistant Principal, Harlem Middle School Principal Carl Jackson cited her unwavering support of the academic growth of students. “She is strong in her beliefs, kind in her approach and always honest when dealing with everyone,” wrote Jackson. “You always know that you can trust her to do the right thing for our students, staff and family.” Leatherwood earned a bachelor’s

of secondary education at the University of Georgia, master’s and specialist degrees from Brenau University and an educational leadership certification from Valdosta State University. Since becoming an administrator, she has been active in programs sponsored by the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals. PAGE ONE  11


Connie Stovall, Dawson County Junior High School Connie Stovall of Dawson County Junior High School is a National Association of Elementary School Principals National Distinguished Principal, representing Georgia’s middle level principals. Stovall has a long leadership history in Forsyth County schools, beginning in 2003 as assistant principal at North Forsyth Middle School, then in 2007 as assistant principal at Piney Grove Middle School. She became principal of Liberty Middle School in 2008. There she implemented a school model that incorporated inquiry-based/interdisciplinary instruction, an approach that evolved after her superintendent praised the school’s standardized test scores, but then asked: What else can you do? The school’s faculty and staff worked together to ensure that students “were not only academically prepared for their future, but also ready for the world out-

side the school,” Stovall stated. The process is described in “A Return to Middle School,” an article written by Stovall that appeared in the March 2015 edition of AMLE Magazine. Upon being named principal of Dawson County Junior High in 2018, Stovall was concerned with the percentage of students who were performing below grade level in reading and/or math. She has taken a three-pronged approach: Response to Intervention, Remedial Education, and Data Teams for Learning. End-of-course comparison data from winter 2017 to winter 2018 showed a 36-percent improvement in literature and a 13-percent improvement in algebra of ninth-grade students performing at or above grade level. Stovall earned the Dr. John H. Lounsbury Award from the Georgia Association of Middle School Principals in 2017, and

was awarded the Dr. Jim Puckett Outstanding Educator Award by the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders in 2015. She is the current presidentelect of GAMSP. The seasoned educator earned an associate’s degree in business administration from Emmanuel College; a bachelor of education in middle grades education from Brenau University; a master’s in middle grades education from the University of Georgia; and an education specialist degree in middle grades education from Brenau. She earned Educational Leadership Certification from the University of Georgia.

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Dr. Dick Bazemore, T. G. Scott Elementary School Dr. Dick Bazemore is the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals 2019 Georgia National Distinguished Principal. He has been the principal of T. G. Scott Elementary (Monroe) since the school opened 15 years ago. After taking the helm, he helped consolidate two elementary schools, and within a year, his school was named a Title I Rewards School. The honor was achieved again in 2018. According to Monroe County Schools Superintendent Dr. Mike Hickman, “Dr. Bazemore is well-respected by his students, staff, parents, system colleagues and the entire educational community. His ability

to build and sustain a supportive learning environment and positive culture in his school speaks volumes about his tenure as an effective leader in our school system.” Alicia Elder, the school district’s assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, added that Bazemore “works tirelessly to make others feel valued, appreciated, and better prepared for what the future holds. What a difference he has made in the many lives of his staff, students, parents and colleagues in Monroe County Schools.” Bazemore is on the GAESP board of directors and has served as its president. In 2012, he earned the Georgia

Association of Education Leaders Service Award. Highly involved in his community, he has served on the Middle Georgia Regional Commission since 2006 and will assume the role of board chair later this year. Bazemore earned his bachelor’s in business administration from Georgia College and State University, a master’s in health and physical education from Georgia Southwestern State University and an educational doctorate in leadership from NOVA Southeastern University.


Dr. Brittney Mobley, Richmond Hill Elementary School Dr. Brittney Mobley is a National Association of Elementary School Principals National Outstanding Assistant Principal of the Year. She is the assistant principal at Richmond Hill Elementary School (Bryan). In carrying out Mobley’s commitment to build strong relationships, her staff embraced the social-emotional learning framework of 7 Mindsets. Since the implementation of that system, Mobley said the school has realized academic improvements measured by MAP and GMAS data and nearly a 50-percent

decrease in office referrals. Walt Barnes, principal at Richmond Hill Elementary School, had high praise for his colleague: “She possesses a unique ability to focus on the positive and draw forth the best from those she works with. She has improved the culture and climate of our school by recognizing others and by her willingness to roll up her sleeves and do what needs to be done, even when it is difficult,” he said. “She has established the respect and admiration of the staff because of her discipline and work ethic.” In 2018, Georgia Southern University

named Mobley as a Top 40 Under 40. She has served as GAESP's District 6 president and awards chair, is a Ronald McDonald House board member and a sponsor for the Liberty County Recreation Department. Mobley earned a bachelor’s in early childhood education, a master’s in education leadership and a doctorate in curriculum studies, all from Georgia Southern University.


Dr. Elgin Mayfield, Langston Road Elementary School Dr. Elgin Mayfield is a National Association of Elementary School Principals Georgia Distinguished Principal. As he took the helm of Langston Road Elementary (Houston) when it opened in 2014, he asked his staff to create a mission statement. “We are now in our fifth year, and I am very proud to say that we are a high-performing school, largely because of that day when we decided who we are as a school, what is important to us, and how we were going to be sure that we were working toward our unified goals,” said Mayfield. His new staff also agreed to embark on a three-year process to become “a true, August/September 2019

fully integrated professional learning community,” he added. As a result of their success, the school was recently selected as a site for district principals and teachers to observe best practices and effective components of a professional learning community. Lazunia Frierson, the district executive director of teaching and learning, said that due to Mayfield’s “exceptional organizational abilities, teacher collaboration has functioned at the highest levels with a focus on analyzing student data and planning strategies to target specific student needs.” The school has earned a Climate Star rating of four for three consecutive years.

Mayfield is the state president of GAESP and previously served as a district president. In 2018, he earned the Outstanding Service Award and the Exemplary Service Award from GAESP, and in the same year received the Outstanding Educator Award from the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders. Mayfield earned a both a bachelor’s of music education and a doctor of education degree from Valdosta State University. He earned a master’s of education degree from n Columbus State University. PAGE ONE  13

The Art of


August/September 2019

Parent Engagement How Georgia school districts are using innovation to increase parent and community involvement and student success

By Scotty Brewington


arent and community involvement in the local school system benefits everyone, but engaging busy parents has become increasingly difficult. Some parents may feel frustrated because they only hear from school when there is a problem. Other times, it’s as simple as a scheduling conflict. For working and single parents, sports practices and other competing afterschool activities — combined with long workdays and limited childcare options — make it impossible to attend evening open houses and other events at school. On the following pages, learn how Georgia school districts are getting creative to foster parent engagement and create stronger school/ community relationships. Continued on next page

August/September 2019


Cherokee County Takes Parents Back to School

districts have done something similar or used the toolkit to develop their own community In 2017, the Georgia School Boards Association outreach programs.” (GSBA) partnered with the Cherokee County Cherokee County’s inaugural VILLA School District (CCSD) to create a program to (Volunteer Instructional Leadership Learning help parents — as well as community leaders — Academy) program, the first of its kind in learn more about their local schools. the state, debuted in October 2017. Sixteen Working closely with the district and a local participants attended six, two-hour sessions. consultant, GSBA helped to create a curricu“Each night had a special theme,” said Kyla lum and online toolkit of resources that other Cromer, Cherokee County School Board chair. school districts across the state could use to “For example, one night, the superintendent increase parent and community engagement gave an overview of the district, and some of in a way that is sustainable. “We wanted to crethe chief officers shared the responsibilities of ate a process to help educate the community the school board and what drives the priorities about how and why the school system operand decision-making process. Each session ates — everything from how the budget works ended with a Q&A, giving participants the to curriculum,” said Justin Pauly, director of opportunity to ask questions.” communications for GSBA. “Since then, other Academy participants also took a field trip to the district’s transportation office, where they learned about the bus system. They then boarded school buses and visited a school, where they enjoyed a cafeteria lunch and an informational session about school lunch nutrition. The final session was held prior to a scheduled school board meeting, where the board recognized participants as graduates of the program. “Our goal is to get parents to go beyond their own child’s class—Kyla Cromer, Cherokee County School Board Chair room and really understand what

'Kids perform better when the community is involved — all of the research shows that — but we also want participants to be advocates. When they are out at a swim meet, for example, and hear someone say something that may not be accurate, they can speak up.'


August/September 2019


is driving our district and what is going on in our schools,” said Cromer. “We’re also the largest employer in the county, so we want people to understand how decisions are made, but also want them to become advocates for the district so that they can go out into the community and share what they’ve learned and what we do.” In 2018, Cherokee held its second annual VILLA program, which had almost 30 participants. This year, the district will offer a day and night session with two different groups of attendees. “I want everyone in the county to advocate for public education and be invested and celebrate the successes,” said Cromer. “Kids perform better when the community is involved — all of the research shows that — but we also want participants to be advocates. When they are out at a swim meet, for example, and hear someone say something that may not be accurate, they can speak up.” Attendees of the program also provide the school district with a pool of candidates to serve on the PTA and various ad hoc committees throughout the year. One VILLA attendee, Olga Spivey, went on to become Cherokee County Council PTA president. “We view our school district as an organization built on families and community, and we work very hard to leverage those points,” said Cherokee County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Brian Hightower. “We want to hear from our parents. The VILLA program became an extension of that vision. We wanted them to leave knowing more about us, about public education, and what we are doing in the classroom as well as our business operations.”

Building Advocates in Oconee County After researching the resources and guidelines provided by GSBA and the examples of how

Cherokee County had structured its VILLA program, Oconee County Schools adapted its own version of VILLA earlier this year. Two parent leaders from each of the county’s 11 schools were invited by school principals to participate in the inaugural program, which included four interactive sessions at the central office, a field trip to two schools, and a graduation dinner with board members. Topics included school board governance, business services, teaching strategies, communication and day-to-day operations. The school system plans to hold its second VILLA program in January 2020. “After the first academy, we told our parents, ‘you are graduating, but this isn’t the end of our involvement with you.’ Now we have a group of parents we can go to at any time to get great insights and feedback,” said Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, director of communications for Oconee County Schools.

Bringing People Together in Rockdale County Rockdale County Public Schools takes a different approach to its parent academy program, offering a half-day conference twice a year on a Saturday. In March, the district held its 16th Parent Academy at the Rockdale Career Academy. The academy is offered as a free professional conference and learning opportunity for parents, and includes a special track for teens and “tweens,” Spanish-speaking students and parents of students with disabilities. Attendees can take classes in everything Continued on next page

August/September 2019



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OCONEE COUNTY from Zumba to college and career readiness, how to navigate the school district’s website, and even a math “boot camp” for parents trying to help students with today’s math. “We set it up like a conference. Attendees go to an opening general session, then whatever breakout sessions they choose,” said Cindy Ball, chief of strategy and innovation for Rockdale County Public Schools. Academies typically begin with a roundtable discussion or “state of the system address” from the school superintendent. (In 2018, following the Parkland, Florida, school shootings, the community was invited to participate in an opening roundtable discussion on school and student safety that included the superintendent, as well as the sheriff and police chief.) Following the roundtable, participants choose two sessions taught by people in the community or school system leaders. The day also includes free lunch, childcare, door prizes and a vendors market featuring local businesses and non-profits. Some 200-300 parents attend each Saturday academy. “Before the academies, we held community forums at night, but attendance had dwindled. We

were looking for a way to engage with parents in a different way,” said Ball. “Research shows that when parents are engaged, students do better in school. From our standpoint, we are providing opportunities for parents to become engaged and involved, while also providing a creative way to share information in an atmosphere where they are comfortable.” Ball says the Saturday conference also is more convenient for working parents, and the casual atmosphere helps to build trust with parents and school staff. “Participants choose what to learn about — whether it is something your child is experiencing at school or just something that will help you as a parent with life in general,” said Ball. “If we can create an atmosphere that makes

Rockdale County, which held its 16th Parent Academy in March, offers a half-day conference twice a year on a Saturday. Attendees can take classes in everything from a math boot camp, college and career readiness, how to navigate the school district’s website to Zumba.

August/September 2019

Continued on next page


parents comfortable, then maybe they will be more comfortable when they have to go to school to talk about something less comfortable.”

All About Families in Glynn County At C.B. Greer Elementary School, a Title 1 school in Glynn County, Principal

Carter Akins regularly invites parents and guardians to learn more about the school. He has held sessions on everything from school safety to online reading programs and preparing for standardized tests. Akins started his Family Academies initiative in 2017-18 because at his school, it isn’t just moms and dads raising students.

“We’re not just working with parents, but families. On any day, I could be talking with a mom, dad, aunt, uncle or grandmother who is helping to raise a child,” said Akins. “The idea is to engage, involve and educate everyone raising their children about things going on in the school.” Akins holds around six events each year and at different times, designed to give families plenty of opportunities to engage. Though some of the topics are preset, there is flexibility to discuss topics around current events.

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“With the recent events in the nation, I get a lot of questions about safety and how we are protecting our children,” said Akins. “When I start getting a lot of questions on a topic that needs to be discussed at a higher level, it’s something that we can get in the room and talk about the things we are doing.”

Ready, Set, Go! At Goodyear Elementary School, also in Glynn County, Principal Oatanisha Dawson hosts “Family Nights” to build relationships between home and school. These events are designed to familiarize parents with the school, teachers, expectations and classroom procedures and also offer families a chance to share a meal together and participate in activities at their tables. “The purpose is to connect home with

school and to build relationships within families and between families, which is part of the socio-economic approach to learning and teaching,” said Dawson. During one of the Family Night dinners, a group of teachers approached Dawson with the idea of inviting fourth-grade parents to a separate session to discuss upcoming Milestone testing. The teachers put together a program and invited parents to attend, but only two showed. Dawson decided to try something new and offered the session in the morning instead. She called it a “Ready, Set, Go!” because the topic was the upcoming standardized testing and what parents can do to get students ready for the next grade. A team of teachers talked about testing, the importance of getting a good night’s sleep, and ways parents Continued on next page


August/September 2019


can help students stay engaged over the summer break. There was breakfast, drawings for prizes, and this time it was a full house. “It wasn’t complicated and wasn’t an inconvenience. The fourth-grade session was so successful that we did it again for the third-grade parents the very next week and then again for the fifth-grade parents,” said Dawson. Throughout this school year, Dawson plans to hold even more breakfasts, including sessions for parents of kindergartners, first and second graders. “We get so caught up in the tradition of afterschool activities, but in a school like this — a Title 1 school with lots of kids on free and reduced lunch — you have to get creative,” said Dawson. “There is a

misconception that families in poverty are not interested in education because of their lack of attendance when you invite them into the school, but that’s not true. It’s the way we bring them in.” And perhaps most critically, Dawson said, when parents get involved, they pass along the message to their children that school — and education — is a pri-



ority. “No one ever invests their time in something they don’t think is important,” she said.

Principals for the Day As executive director of strategy and innovation for Glynn County Schools, Dr. Valerie Whitehead was familiar with a Principal for a Day program that Gwinnett County had tried and another similar program in Australia. After some research, she started talking to her principals and outlining what the program could look like in Glynn County and then pitched it to the Chamber of Commerce and offered to partner with them. “We have lots of parents and business leaders who are alumni of our schools and offer a variety of perspectives across our community,” said Whitehead. “We went to the Chamber and talked to them about the program, which would allow community leaders to come into the schools and shadow various principals.” In February, six guest principals headed out to their assigned elementary, middle and high schools. Among them were a variety of community leaders and parents, including a local business owner, an airport commission employee, the executive director of the local United Way chapter, two human resource directors and a bank executive, whose wife is also a principal in the district. “We wanted to promote the great work our schools are doing and create awareness about what we are doing in our school system to prepare our future community members and leaders,” said Whitehead. “Our business leaders were August/September 2019


very enthusiastic, and our existing principals learned insights from the community. We created a strong group of community advocates.”

Getting Involved in Valdosta City and Lowndes County Over a decade ago, 20 schools in Valdosta City and Lowndes County began a campaign to get local businesses involved in the school system through their Community Partners in Education (CPIE) program, a joint effort between the Lowndes County School System, Valdosta City School System, and the Valdosta-Lowndes County Chamber of Commerce. What began almost 30 years ago with 10 community members and 75 businesses, civic groups and churches has grown to more than 450 community partners ranging from small businesses to large corporate sponsors — such as Chick-fil-A and Walmart — as well as community organizations and groups of parents and volunteers. “When someone wants to get involved, we send them a form and ask them how they would like to be involved,” said Jennifer Steedley, director of public relations for Valdosta City Schools. “That could be anything from being a guest speaker to tutoring, to someone who just wants to volunteer in a classroom or make a donation. We want our community to know we appreciate any role they want to play in our school district and with our students.” August/September 2019

One group of volunteers throws birthday parties for those students whose families can’t afford them. Another makes sure student athletes have plenty to eat in the mornings and after practices. A group of retirees with the Georgia Master Gardener Extension volunteer program dedicates their time to tending the gardens on school campuses and teaching students about their harvest. “The idea is to connect the needs of our schools with people who have the resources and time to creatively meet some of those needs,” said Crystal Rowan, CPIE advisory council chair. The orthodontist office where Rowan works provides onsite dental screenings to local schools, as well as incentives for honor roll and other student recognitions. “People always want to help but are not always sure how. CPIE funnels the need and helps to connect the community at large to give back to schools in tangible ways,” Rowan said. Strong parent and community involvement in public schools shows students, teachers and administrators that they have a relationship with the community and that everyone is “all in” when it comes to student success. “We want people to come into our buildings and see what our teachers are doing to educate our children. How can you know if you have never stepped foot in the door?,” said Steedley. “We want people to play an active role in our education community because at the end of the day, it’s their comn munity and their future.” PAGE ONE  23

Legislative GaDOE and GOSA Statewide Listening Sessions

District Leaders Voice Concerns about Vouchers, Assessment, Dual Enrollment and More By Josh Stephens, PAGE Legislative Affairs Specialist


his past spring, the Governor’s Office of Student Achievement and the Georgia Department of Education embarked on a tour of Georgia’s 16 Regional Education Service Agencies to gain insight from local district leaders on key issues affecting students and schools. Attending district leaders throughout the state voiced concerns on a wide range of issues, including the impact of school vouchers on public school funding, the need for continued Dual Enrollment funding, the burden of Georgia’s standardized testing and A-F grading systems, and challenges regarding teacher retention, mental health, and transportation — especially in rural areas. Gov. Brian Kemp led three of the sessions: Pioneer RESA in Cleveland, Metro RESA in Smyrna, and Southwest Georgia RESA in Camilla. The remaining sessions were led by State School Superintendent Richard Woods and GOSA Director Joy Hawkins. At Southwest Georgia RESA, Kemp held a ceremony during which he signed the FY20 budget that includes a $3,000 pay raise for certified educators. Several state legislators and State Board of Education members were on hand to wit-

ness the signing. At each of the listening sessions throughout Georgia, superintendents expressed gratitude to Gov. Kemp and the Georgia General Assembly for funding the $3,000 pay raise for teachers, and during the tour, Hawkins reinforced Kemp’s intention to provide the remaining $2,000 teacher pay raise to fulfill the $5,000 teacher pay raise Kemp promised on the campaign trail. Below are highlights of the events: Pioneer RESA In addressing the Pioneer RESA, Kemp cited the increasingly collaborative relationship between GOSA and GaDOE. Noting the duplication of services between the two agencies, he pointed to “significant changes” in the GOSA budget following the legislative session. GOSA’s budget decreased from almost $25 million in FY19 to less than $17 million in FY20. “I am not worried about relinquishing power and control from the governor’s office,” Kemp added. Area school superintendents in attendance expressed the need for mental health supports for students regardless of family income, continued support of Dual Enrollment, local fair-share educa-

tion funding reform, flexibility regarding the use of federal title funding, and higher education options for undocumented students. Kemp described himself as flexible and supportive of school choice. However, he said, “We can’t not focus on public education. That would be crazy.” Kemp also touted 2019 legislative session accomplishments, including the $3,000 educator raise aimed at boosting teacher recruitment and retention, expanded funding for the Georgia Apex program and $30,000 grants for each Georgia public school to strengthen school security. Metro RESA Kemp revisited the same topics at the Metro RESA in Smyrna, but also addressed student assessments: “There was some nervousness when people heard I’m getting involved in [assessment discussions]. I want to take some mandates off teachers and administrators,” he said. Kemp characterized parents as “frustrated” by Georgia’s assessment and standardized testing program, and stressed the importance of open lines of communication with the Trump administra-

Many district leaders shared their concern regarding the impact of the A-F grading scale that was implemented by GOSA, though the assignment of such grades is not required by law. At First District RESA in Brooklet, superintendents agreed that the A-F grades do not adequately reflect the academic growth experienced by small, rural districts facing unique financial constraints. 24  PAGE ONE

August/September 2019

Chattahoochee-Flint RESA

Metro RESA

tion and the U.S. Department of Education. “So, if we can come up with something that people can live with, we can work with the administration on that,” he said. A superintendent in the audience requested that the governor allow the review process at the United Gov. Kemp at Pioneer RESA States Education Department regarding Georgia’s assessment pilot to play out. Another encouraged Kemp options to ensure that TRS meets its oblito let districts work together using the gations to retirees and continues to be a current assessments approach. Many in strong tool for recruitment and retention. the room agreed when a superintendent Both Kemp and Woods expressed willingrequested that policymakers decouple ness to continue to seek ways to utilize student assessment from teacher and retired teachers in the classroom. leader evaluation. Two well-spoken stuAnother local superintendent voiced dents who accompanied DeKalb County concern about the burden that school Superintendent Stephen Green to the vouchers place on school funding. Woods listening session publically expressed deep expressed his opposition to vouchers concern about Georgia Milestones. The students encouraged policymakers to expand their focus beyond standardized tests to other educational indicators. At the meeting, Kemp also expressed support for Georgia’s popular Dual Enrollment program, but added that, due to ballooning costs amounting to $25 million a year, he intends to cut the program’s funding. “We cannot sustain dual enrollment at its current level,” he said. (A 2019 legislative session bill introduced to cut funding did not pass.) Southwest Georgia RESA At Southwest Georgia RESA in Camilla, topics included Teachers Retirement System, school funding, assessments and the College and Career Readiness Performance Index. One superintendent in the audience requested information about plans to change TRS. Kemp said he is keeping an open mind regarding August/September 2019

Several leaders criticized the recent push for school vouchers by the Georgia General Assembly and the diversion of public funds to private schools. ‘There is a lot of conversation about the accountability public schools face, but we are not hearing anything about accountability of the schools that accept vouchers,’ said one superintendent.

because the vast majority of students in Georgia attend public schools. Kemp said that Georgia must allow parents the option “to provide better education for their children.” A third superintendent described weaknesses in Georgia’s school accountability index. She asked whether state leaders are open to other forms of accountability, such as PAGE’s True Accountability initiative, which provides a more complete accounting of the work of schools for student benefit beyond standardized test scores and the A-F ratings assigned by GOSA. Woods asserted that “real-life data” should take priority over delayed standardized assessment results. He explained that GaDOE must work within requirements from the USED when developing alternative assessments. Kemp agreed that the state must pursue an alternative assessment model and stressed his desire to decrease regulatory burdens placed on teachers. Assessment and GOSA A-F Letter Grades Student assessment was the leading topic of discussion at nearly every listening session. At the Heart of Georgia RESA session, a Dublin City educator said that high-stakes testing is a major factor impacting teacher retention and recruitment. “A lot of potential teachers are fearful because of the high demands of testing,” the educator said. A third-grade English language arts teacher added, “Hyperaccountability makes our job very tough and creates anxiety among teachers. Students also are scared [of testing] and filled with anxiety. We are not just trying to compose ourselves as teachers, but we are also Continued on page 27 PAGE ONE  25

trying to help compose students.” Many district leaders shared their concern regarding the impact of the A-F grading scale that was implemented by GOSA, though the assignment of such grades is not required by law. At First District RESA in Brooklet, superintendents agreed that the A-F grades do not adequately reflect the academic growth experienced by small rural districts facing unique financial constraints. Several superintendents stated that teacher recruitment efforts in their districts are hampered by the A-F grades as well as regulatory burdens they face due to overreliance on high-stakes testing. Teacher Pipeline District leaders at each session also raised concerns about their ability to attract teachers to fill positions. A 23-year educator at the Heart of Georgia RESA session cited pay as an issue for retaining quality teachers. She credited burdensome regulations and long work hours outside of the classroom as major hindrances to retention efforts. At the Coastal Plains RESA session, an Irwin County educator said she plans to teach at a private school in the future due to the amount of paperwork required of teachers in public schools and increased behavioral issues exhibited by students in the classroom. TRS was also cited as an important recruitment and retention tool. Superintendents called on the state educational agencies and governor’s office to protect TRS benefits for current educators, while avoiding major reforms for future educators. Transportation Funding The need for transportation funding was raised at several listening sessions, especially those held in rural areas. One superintendent asserted that pupil transportation funding is a huge burden for rural districts. Woods agreed and expressed a desire to examine transportation funding within the Quality Basic Education funding formula. One rural RESA director suggested that bus drivers be allowed to participate in TRS because such districts are unable to recruit and retain enough drivers. Vouchers Opposition to private school vouchers was voiced at several sessions. At the First August/September 2019

Gov. Kemp expressed support for Georgia’s popular Dual Enrollment program, but added that, due to ballooning costs amounting to $25 million a year, he intends to cut the program’s funding. ‘We cannot sustain Dual Enrollment at its current level,’ he said.

District RESA session, several leaders criticized the recent push for school vouchers by the Georgia General Assembly and the diversion of public funds to private schools. “There is a lot of conversation about the accountability public schools face, but we are not hearing anything about accountability of the schools that accept vouchers,” said one superintendent. A coastal Georgia superintendent said: “We don’t want school vouchers in South Georgia — period. We can’t afford to lose a dime.” In response, Superintendent Woods

said that his support lies with public schools. He encouraged all superintendents and school leaders present to engage with their local legislators and the governor’s office to share concerns about school vouchers. Next Steps This fall, GOSA and GaDOE will host several more listening sessions designed to gather feedback from teachers and building leaders. PAGE will provide information on these events as details n become available.

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Professional Learning

Introducing PAGE Engage Academy Innovative Professional Learning Program Offers Hands-On, Small-Group Sessions Focused on Your School’s Unique Needs By David W. Reynolds, PAGE Professional Learning


riting a grocery list. Checking your email. Sudoku. Texting a colleague sitting right next to you. What do all of these things have in common? If you answered, “They are all things that I have done during a staff development meeting,” you are not alone. If on the other hand you thought, “These are things I will not want to do during PAGE Engage Academy,” then you are even more correct! For years, PAGE has provided quality professional learning opportunities for Georgia educators through academies for early-career teachers, a school-based redesign initiative, school district networks, opportunities for administrators and teachers to work together, and other configurations of role groups. Beginning with the 2019-2020 school year, PAGE unveils its most finely tuned professional learning initiative to date. PAGE Engage Academy has been designed based on


participant feedback and a thorough review of professional learning practices with the highest impact on professional development. Those elements include participant choice, authentic work, sharing one’s work with others, a broad range of relevant resources, practical application of learning, a focus on student benefit, and centering work around a directional system. Furthermore, instead of targeting specific role groups, schools or districts, participation in PAGE professional learning is now an option for any public school educator in Georgia. Any individual teacher, along with one colleague or more from the same school, may register for any regional cohorts offered throughout the state, without regard to a school’s or district’s official involvement with a PAGE initiative. Focus on What Matters ‘Back Home’ PAGE also has enhanced the structure

of professional learning sessions. Engage Academy experiences will be far more customized than any professional learning PAGE has offered thus far. There will be a reduction in whole-group instruction and less frontloading time devoted to theory. Instead, increased time will be built in for participants to engage in conversation, collaboration and practice, along with more one-to-one time with session facilitators to address whatever a participant’s focus is “back home” at her or his school. All teachers, administrators, counselors and coaches operate in different contexts and environments than that of their peers — sometimes even within the same school, and certainly across districts or regions. Time spent reflecting on the shared, universal strands of educators’ work absolutely aids in the generation of solutions to challenging issues, often providing others with ideas to address similar concerns at their sites. Equally important is

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time spent focused on the unique aspects of the students and communities that educator-leaders serve. Knowing one’s customers makes a huge difference in designing meaningful work and effective solutions to challenges that are specific to a particular school or classroom. In PAGE Engage Academy, participants will have myriad opportunities to do both. Whether you are thinking about how to transform your freshman orientation event, shifting your approach to parent involvement, considering a new master schedule and pondering its implications on student success, grappling with in-house professional learning, searching for new ideas for difficult-to-teach or hard-to-learn subject matter, or something else entirely, that topic can be the focus for you and your team during PAGE Engage Academy. PAGE Engage Academy cohort members will examine some pivotal beliefs that drive how teaching and learning unfold at the classroom level. For example, how do you view teachers? Are teachers professionals? Experts? Purveyors of information? Test administrators? PAGE’s stance is that teachers are leaders, regardless of official position or title. When this belief is acted upon, decisions are made that empower teach-

Participation in PAGE Engage Academy is open to any public school educator in Georgia. Any individual teacher, along with one colleague or more from the same school, may register. ers to lead their classrooms, to contribute to the school’s messaging about learning, and to design work aligned with student interests and learning styles instead of following a scripted program. PAGE also believes that there is a need for change in the way that we “do school.” Change is called for because a bureaucratic model of school is not conducive to creating the conditions that best stimulate a love of learning. If a school is primarily concerned with maintaining order, and students are viewed as raw material or products instead of volunteers (voluntarily committing their time and attention to the work assigned to them), less-than-desirable processes may be implemented in a number of areas, such as grading practices, the use of time, and student leadership opportunities. Therefore, perhaps the most significant belief is about beliefs themselves. Once we are clear about what we believe

regarding teaching, learning and the purpose of school, and we then commit to using those beliefs as a filter for decision-making, students will benefit, and our honorable profession will continue to make a positive difference in the lives of thousands of students. To further enrich the PAGE Engage Academy experience, all members of the PAGE Professional Learning team are committed to conducting learning visits between cohort sessions. Learning visits have been labeled with that moniker because they allow Engage Academy facilitators to amplify their individual and collective learning. When PAGE staff interact with PAGE Professional Learning participants, we learn. That’s the goal. We need to keep learning. Spending time in a school and talking with teachers and others, in the places where they work, provides great insights in how to design upcoming professional learning Continued on next page.

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PAGE’s stance is that teachers are leaders, regardless of official position or title. When this belief is acted upon, decisions are made that empower teachers to lead their classrooms, to contribute to the school’s messaging about learning, and to design work aligned with student interests and learning styles instead of following a scripted program. sessions and what type of support is most beneficial for educators overall. In short, learning visits help uncover evidence that informs PAGE’s ability to legitimately address teachers’ needs. Where Two or More Are Gathered … All PAGE Engage Academy cohorts are two years in length with eight sessions conducted within that time period. Two or more teachers or administrators from the same school should attend together. In-session learning, coupled with the practical on-site application of new knowledge and skills, is most successful when undertaken with at least one colleague who has been immersed in the same experience. Teams with larger numbers are welcomed and encouraged as long as space is available. Many venues have been secured as locations for PAGE Engage Academy sessions to be conducted this year and next. Some are first-time sites while others are “repeat customers.” In fact, the PAGE Professional Learning team was able to confirm more sites than needed for the upcoming year. When good work is being done, good people always rise to the occasion and play a pivotal role in the success of the endeavor. PAGE is grateful to its school, community and agency partners for extending this type of support to Georgia’s educators. In another exciting development, the 2019-2020 school year marks the first time that college students enrolled in educator preparation fields — and college of education professors — are being recruited to attend PAGE 30  PAGE ONE

Professional Learning sessions. Clark Atlanta University will serve as the first on-campus site for a PAGE Engage Academy cohort. Dr. Felicia Mayfield, associate professor and curriculum and instruction interim department chair, and Dr. J. Fidel Turner, Jr., dean of the school of education, have made this possible. PAGE commends all of the higher education institution students and staff members who are working with us to unleash a vibrant mix of educators who will enrich the experience of all participants. What tremendous potential this holds — veteran teachers alongside future teachers, each bringing to the table their unique generational perspectives, proven approaches to teaching, and a willingness to learn from one another

Whether you are considering a new master schedule, exploring ideas for hard-to-learn subject matter, shifting your approach to parent involvement or something else entirely, that topic can be the focus for you and your team during PAGE Engage Academy.

Cohort sizes are being capped at or near 60 participants per group (with nearly 12 locations planned) to provide the most beneficial coaching and customized support for each participant. Three facilitators, typically two from the PAGE Professional Learning team and one from the Schlechty Center, will be heavily involved in the design of PAGE Engage Academy content. The entire process used to develop the focus and approach for each session has been reset as well. Focusing on engagement that grows out of collaborative work, PAGE Engage Academy will provide strategies, tools, technology resources and concepts to highlight the most effective ways to design meaningful work for all learners, whether students or colleagues. The bottom line is that PAGE Engage Academy is intentionally designed to support Georgia’s great educators in their efforts to transform schools and classrooms into dynamic environments where students thrive, teachers excel and everyone embraces and enjoys the learning! A final note: PAGE is pleased to announce that Angela Garrett, the former initiative lead for many PAGE Professional Learning experiences (including the Principal Teacher Leadership Network and the Assistant Principal Teacher Leadership Academy), has moved into the role of PAGE Professional Learning lead. Angela brings with her a solid understanding of the best way to leverage multiple frameworks and ideas for maximizing learner benefit. You can reach her at Each member of PAGE’s experienced Professional Learning team (Angela Garrett, Bill McCown and Rick Little) is committed to creating the optimal learning experience for all PAGE Engage Academy participants. If you are a Georgia educator, you are enthusiastically encouraged to participate. If you are unable to do so during the 20192020 school year, stay connected to our website and PAGE One magazine for information in the spring regarding additional cohorts forming for next fall. In the meantime, thank you for what you do every day for the students, families and communities you so unselfishly serve. Professional learning matters. Innovation matters. Progress matters. n Teachers matter! August/September 2019


Take Precautions Against Releasing a Student to an Unauthorized Person By Margaret Copeland Elliott, PAGE Assistant General Counsel


hen a child is injured due to inadequate supervision at school, the child and/or family may sue the district and/or school employees for negligence. Georgia courts are carefully reviewing fact patterns of situations where students are injured or lost while at school. Historically, the courts dismissed these civil cases due to sovereign immunity. However, in some recent Georgia civil cases, the courts pierced the veil of sovereign immunity and found the state actors negligent by failing to perform ministerial duties. In such cases, monetary damages, including punitive damages, can been awarded to the plaintiff. Two important cases where parents received monetary damages from Georgia educators and school districts each centered on the policy of the schools for letting students check out. In these cases, students checked out with adults who did not have custody of the students and were not on the official list of adults permitted to check the students out from school. There are steps educators can take to guard against this: •  Know your school’s check-out policy and process. •  Verify that the person checking the student out is on the official list submitted by the parent authorizing who may check the child out of school. And carefully check the driver’s license or approved photo identification of the person. •  Have current contact information for the parents and/or guardians, and be August/September 2019

sure to contact the custodial parent if anything questionable happens. If a school employee receives a fax or e-mail from someone claiming to be the parent giving permission for the student to check out with an adult who is not on the authorized list, school personnel are advised to contact the parent to verify the request and take other steps as required by school policy. Your school’s check-out process is not a suggestion; it is mandatory. If the policy

is violated, it opens up school personnel for legal liability and may create a dangerous situation for the student. Students are sometimes injured at school due to inadequate supervision. When supervising students, make sure you are not distracted. Do not allow yourself to become engrossed in conversations with other teachers, don’t look away from your students to use your cell phone, or use your school computer for personal reasons. Make sure you are in reasonable proximity to your students and are able to see what they are doing at all times. If you must leave a classroom full of students, make sure someone, preferably another adult, is supervising your students. If your classroom is set up in a manner that prevents you from supervising all your students at once, make sure to notify the administration in writing. Accidents happen. It is imperative that negligent supervision is not a primary reason an accident occurs. If a situation arises, please call the PAGE legal department. We are always n here to help.

In some recent Georgia civil cases, the courts pierced the veil of sovereign immunity and found the state actors negligent by failing to perform ministerial duties. In such cases, monetary damages, including punitive damages, can been awarded to the plaintiff. PAGE ONE  31

Have You Transferred Systems? If you transferred from another school system where you were on payroll deduction, you must fill out the short PAGE application (online or paper) to transfer your membership. Otherwise your membership will expire.

Have You Moved or Has Your Contact Information Changed? Update your contact information at

New Teachers Must Upgrade to ‘Professional’ Your PAGE student membership does not cover you for a paid position in a school, even if your student membership has not expired. You must upgrade to “Professional” membership to receive liability coverage and other critical PAGE benefits.

Benefits begin immediately when you join or renew online. Georgia’s Largest Professional Association for Educators. 95,000+ members and growing. OFFICERS President: Nick Zomer President-Elect: Lindsey Martin Treasurer Lamar Scott Past President: Dr. Hayward Cordy Secretary Megan King DIRECTORS District 1 Dr. Oatanisha Dawson District 2 Brecca Pope District 3 TBD District 4 Rochelle Lofstrand District 5 Dr. Shannon Watkins District 6 Dr. Susan Mullins District 7 Lance James

District 8 Lindsey Martin District 9 Jennie Persinger District 10 Khrista Henry District 11 TBD District 12 TaKera Harris District 13 Daerzio Harris



The articles published in PAGE One represent the views of the contributors and do not necessarily represent the views of the Professional Association of Georgia Educators, except where clearly stated. Contact the editor: Meg Thornton,; PAGE One, PAGE, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141-2270; 770-216-8555 or 800-334-6861. Contributions/gifts to the PAGE Foundation are deductible as charitable contributions by federal law. Costs for PAGE lobbying on behalf of members are not deductible. PAGE estimates that 7 percent of the nondeductible portion of your 2019-20 dues is allocated to lobbying. PAGE One (ISSN 1523-6188) is mailed to all PAGE members, selected higher education units and other school-related professionals. An annual subscription is included in PAGE membership dues. A subscription for others is $10 annually. Periodicals class nonprofit postage paid at Atlanta, GA, and additional mailing offices. (USPS 017-347) Postmaster: Send address changes to PAGE One, P.O. Box 942270, Atlanta, GA 31141–2270. PAGE One is published five times a year (January, March, May, August and October) by New South Publishing Inc., 9040 Roswell Road, Suite 210, Atlanta, GA 30350; 770-650-1102. Copyright ©2019 .

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