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Lamar school board hears reports on CTAE, ‘exceptional students’

Kay S. Pedrotti As the school year continues with unusual methods and needs, the Lamar County board of education receives ‘progress reports’ from various areas of study. Last week Dr. Treesomia Walker, director of the CTAE unit, and Dr. Johnathan Roberts, director of special education, updated the board on changes and continuing efforts to serve each student in their areas in the best possible ways. Dr. Walker explained that a ‘comprehensive local needs assessment’ is a funding requirement for this year. It involves stakeholders, examining all aspects of CTAE, identifying strengths and growth areas, and a plan of action for ‘overarching needs,’ those most important to the success of CTAE students. She praised the new high school location as ‘a wonderful facility, in fact one of our strengths.’ Audio and video learning has been added to the CTAE curriculum pathways. Walker stressed the needs for access to technology in each pathway, and for recruiting ‘non-traditional’ students, ‘like the ones who are in JROTC because it offers sports medicine.’ In all areas studied, the participants anticipated using methods for future growth aimed at doubling the success rate in some areas. One of those areas, she said, is work-based learning, in which students actually are employed outside of school in companies or circumstances that are compatible with their curriculum. She also noted that each career area is ‘certified by the industry in which the student will work.’ Certifying added pathways is ‘in the works,’ she said. Budgetary needs were listed as purchasing or replacing Chromebooks; expanding employer recruitment, and enhancing student exposure to career opportunities (virtually). Dr. Roberts introduced the name ‘Exceptional Student Education (ESE),’ as a substitute for ‘special education.’ The revised name helps students and parents who sometimes ‘fight to be included’ in school areas other learners take for granted, Roberts said. The report outlined accomplishments and needs in technology upgrades, compliance standing, and other areas. ’We try to give these exceptional students a vision for life,’ he said. ‘While they may not find traditional careers, they should experience paths toward a quality life while they are in Lamar County schools and for the rest of their adult lives.’ The bottom line, he noted, is ‘do the right work with the right kids.’ The Lamar school system has been on a state ‘disproportionate’ list for 12 years, based on whether students are receiving maximum learning that matches their abilities. ’We are officially off that list as of this year,’ Roberts added, ‘and now our job is to do everything possible to stay off that list.’ He praised the team working with him, both staff and teachers. The September board meeting began with a recognition for Andy Johnson, retiring after 18 years with school maintenance. Department head Bill Baker said Johnson will stay on for one day a week, ‘but I wish I could talk him into more.’ The department ‘will really miss him, because you can’t replace knowledge,’ Baker added. The board also approved purchasing a brand-new and ‘badly needed’ school bus, Dr. Wilson said. Cost of the bus is $92,000, with state funding at $77,220 and the system contribution of $14,780 to be drawn from ESPLOST collections. Wilson also noted that Moody’s Credit Rating for school systems has rated the Lamar system’s credit at ‘A-1 Prime.’ As the system’s debts are paid off, the ratings from Moody, S&P and Fitch will rise even more, he added. The board also approved a number of items including purchase of new fuel pumps and management system for the transportation department; the revised 2020-21 school calendar; 2021 board meeting dates; FY 21 state and federal CTAE grants; the local school board plan to conduct training to meet the requirements of the Georgia School Board Association; and drawing funds from the Community Foundation for REACH scholarships.

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