The system’s four schools have a full-time equivalent number of 4,873 for the school year, taken in October. Last year, the system had 4,682 students, meaning a 4 percent increase in the number of students occurred over a year.
“Those numbers blew us away,” said Assistant Superintendent Mike Sanders. “During our summer retreat, we talked to our board members about how we would handle some substantial growth in our system, which is a great problem to have. We used a growth number of 150 students as a kind of worst-case scenario that we didn’t think would happen. So when we saw the growth of 191 students, we were incredibly surprised.”
Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards said he and Sanders will be working the next couple of months to come up with a plan for the board to consider if the growth continues — or even levels off.
“We are extremely proud of these numbers, but, as we said in our summer meetings, we need to start talking about how big we want to get,” Superintendent Dr. Kent Edwards said at the Board of Education’s work session Thursday morning.
Thirty percent of the system’s students are non-residents of Carrollton — the same percentage as last year, but since the total enrollment has gone up, the number of non-resident students has increased as well, Edwards said.
The school system also has a growing population of students in ESOL classes — up 39 students since last year. The system has 219 ESOL students total, with 135 at the elementary school level.
Edwards, meanwhile, has concerns regarding the system’s alternative school, New Horizons Alternative School. The superintendent said the school, which started with 75 students several years ago, has shrunk to only 22 students. While he admitted that this is a good problem to have, Edwards said the program is no longer as cost-effective as it once was.
As a replacement of sorts, Edwards said he and Sanders will be visiting the Ombudsman Educational Services office in Douglasville on Monday to see if that program would be a viable alternative for the system. Edwards sees the service as an “alternative to alternative schools.”
“I’ve spoken with some of my friends in education and asked them about the ins-and-outs of using an outside service, but we’d like to see how it’s working in Douglasville before we even start seriously considering it,” Edwards said.
Edwards stressed that the ombudsman office would be somewhere in the community near the system’s campus, and that the system would not choose to go forward with it if it seemed to not be in students’ best interests.
“We won’t do anything if it doesn’t seem like a good fit for our students,” Edwards promised the board.
Carrollton Middle School Principal Jason Mundorf on Thursday shared with the board his plan for a new after-school program to help students with disabilities improve their reading skills.
The school was identified as a focus school by the state because of a substantial gap between the highest and lowest performing subgroups in standardized testing, specifically in science and social studies.
The highest performing subgroup was the school’s white students, while the lowest performing group was the school’s students with disabilities.
Schools in Georgia with the greatest gaps (lowest 5 percent) were identified as Priority Schools. CMS was in the next tier of the lowest 20 percent of schools identified as Focus Schools.
“It’s kind of counterintuitive, since CMS made AYP for the sixth straight year in 2010-2011, and we as a system are one of four districts in the state named a Title I Distinguished School System,” Mundorf said. “But we have to play by the rules, and so we have to follow along with their guidelines.”
The Department of Education requires two plans of action for Focus Schools. First, the school must complete a Flexible Learning Plan though Title I — the school received an additional $53,000 in Title I funds to support this — and secondly, the school is required to set aside 5 percent of Title I funds ($69,000) for three years regardless of any gains made. This means the designation as a Focus School cannot change for three years, no matter the progress made.
The funds were used to purchase a software program named Read 180, which will serve 60 students after school with four certified instructors.
Mundorf said 70 percent of the program’s reading passages focus on science and social studies material.
The school’s director of Title I and federal programs, Annette Murphy, gave a report to the board on Wednesday’s visit to each of the system’s four schools from the Georgia STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) Program. The state program certifies deserving schools for having robust STEM programs.
Murphy said the visit went extremely well at each of the four schools, and that she should hear back from the state program within 30 days regarding the schools’ certification. The panel of seven visitors were taken to each of the schools and spoke with students, teachers and parents, and watched the STEM classes and projects in progress.
“We fought hard for this,” Murphy told the board. “If we don’t get it, we’ll take their feedback and massage some of our programs and re-apply next year.”
The system will have a showcase of the schools’ STEM programs on Jan. 25.
The board will hold its regular November meeting Tuesday at 6 p.m. The next work session will be on Dec. 6 at 7:30 a.m., at which time Edwards said he will present the first budget considerations for FY2014 to the board.