School starts back for students in Dade County this Friday, Aug. 3. But teachers and staff are already at it, and they assembled for Institute, the annual school kickoff, Tuesday morning at 8 sharp.
Institute is a kind of yearly pep rally for faculty and staff, and Dr. Jan Harris, superintendent of schools (pictured above) used the occasion to brag how well they'd done in the past year. An incentive program to discourage absenteeism had resulted in 541 fewer sick days last year, she said, and 89 staffers had collected a couple of hundred dollars each for perfect attendance. "Do you think that makes a difference in student achievement?" asked the super.
Dr. H also had rave reviews for Dade's elementary school math teachers, to whom she credited students' headline-making strides in standardized math test scores recently. Dade youngsters scored the highest in math of 11 northwest Georgia school districts, said Dr. Harris.
She congratulated middle school teachers, too: Math scores were dramatically up at Dade Middle as well, she announced.
Dade students also found themselves in the path of the super's tsunami of felicitations. At right, elementary student Della Blevins was awarded a prize for her "servant heart" and community service. Her teacher, Amber Kent (second from right) singled Della out for "doing small things with great love," and Dade Elementary principal Tracy Blevins (right) was on hand to witness the honor.
Dr. Harris bragged that Dade students had put in 1381 volunteer hours doing community service last year.
The super also had changes to announce, including the new school system logo she unveiled above. After holding focus group discussions with stakeholders on the subject, said Dr. Harris, the board had hired a designer to come up with the stylized triangle. The three sides represent family, county and school; the three dots are heads, said Dr. H., representing people.
Dr. Harris pointed out the system had a new website too, a more modern one featuring more videos. "We want to surprise and delight," she said.
She mentioned a new system of microphones and video cameras for 10 "at-risk" classrooms this year and expressed hope there would be more in years to come. "It's my dream we have that in every classroom," she said.
The super thanked Dade County for sharing the cost for more SROs (school resource officers) this year so that each school could have one, and she thanked the sheriff's office for supplying them. And she thanked board of education members for their support and cooperation. "The board/superintendent relationship is kind of like a marriage," she said.
Keynote speaker for this year's do was Dr. Jim Wright, executive director of Child Haven, an old orphanage turned foster children center in Cullman, Ala., Dr. Harris's old stomping grounds.
Dr. Wright said education was an important component in breaking the cycle of child abuse. "You are in a demanding job," he told teachers. "I want to remind you that you are doing some of the most critical work on the planet."
Open houses for Dade schools are: Davis and Dade Elementary, Thursday, Aug. 2, from 4:30-6 p.m.; Dade Middle and Dade County High School, also Aug. 2, from 5-6:30 p.m.
Classes begin Friday at Davis and Dade elementary schools at 8 a.m. Dade High and Dade Middle begin at 7:50 a.m.
For more information about scheduling or the schools in general, readers may visit the school system's website, dadecountyschools.org.