Our teachers, administrators, support personnel, board members, central office and parents work tirelessly to promote differentiated learning. One new innovative idea is our BTOD initiative that allows youngsters to power up and “Bring Their Own Device.” All local schools this past spring had a soft opening with prior planning and teacher-supported, embedded professional development that enabled effective use of their electronic devices on our local network. Thus far, the results have been positive with at least 5,000 devices being brought from home, along with our current technology resources of a minimum of 4,500 technological devices. This is excellent learning support that will promote literacy.
Another added program that seems to be paying huge dividends is our PASS program housed at our alternative school. We have allowed for students that met certain criteria to fulfill their academic responsibilities within this program. There have been approximately 15 boys and girls during the 2012-2013 school year who completed their academic criteria and received their high school diploma requirements.
These students all attempted to drop out from their local schools because of certain road blocks that caused obstacles. Our belief and mission has been education — anytime, anyplace and anyway. In Calhoun County Schools, it is our responsibility as meaningful educators to find a way to say yes to these unique situations and find a solution so students can either enter the workforce or attend their next chapter at a two-year college or four-year institution.
Our system continues to be proactive and initiative-oriented in regards to maintaining safe and orderly environments. Our school district has a resource officer that is assigned specifically to each community school and contributes greatly to the well-being of our employees and children. Also, we have an employee who is our safety and security director and is designated the safety operations leader. That enables our system to maintain a dedicated, safe environment that is conducive to learning.
Our system runs on an $84 million state and federal budget. The last two years have been frugal, with approximately $7.5 million dollars being saved through cost-effective measures within the local schools and central office. This allows for the addition of locally funded units at a time when the state education budget has been minimized.
The last topic of differentiated change is the Calhoun County Schools Innovation School System Waiver approved on July 9. The 2016 plan enables our school stakeholders an opportunity to work outside the box with less parameters and more rigor to simply meet the explicit needs of our kids. The vision — every child a graduate, every child prepared for college and every child prepared for work and adulthood in their future. By collaborating and partnering with local business and industry, the Calhoun County Chamber of Commerce, the Calhoun County Commission, the Calhoun County Sheriff’s office, the District Attorney’s Office, the family courts system and additional groups, our educators and parents have a better opportunity to meet the needs of our 9,200 students.
Our school board members, administrators, directors, teachers, coaches and support personnel believe strongly that it’s our purpose and duty to have a 100 percent success rate in bringing the highest level of literacy to all K-12 students. Thus, we expect in exchange that our 21st-century learners will transform into extraordinary leaders and make a difference in this flat world.
Joe Dyar is superintendent of Calhoun County Schools.