System-wide Straight Talk for GSCS Employees
 January 12-19, 2018
In This Issue

Welcome back.  I hope you had a wonderful break and are ready to move forward into the second half of the year.  We have a lot to do with over 10,000 students depending on us, but I know we are up to the challenge.
I want to mention a couple of initiatives currently going on.  At the November meeting, the Board of Education approved the plan to develop curriculum guides for all courses and grade levels.  The work will be done in phases using consultants from the International Center for Leadership in Education (ICLE). ICLE will work with our teachers and administrators to develop guides customized to Griffin-Spalding.  Work began in December developing frameworks for the types of information, resources, references, assessments, timelines, etc. that need to be a part of the comprehensive course guides.  This year, work will be done to complete guides in ELA, mathematics and science.  Work will be done on social studies, electives, CTAE, etc. over the following two years.  The process is not cheap. We will spend over a million dollars over a three year period on consultant services, substitute teachers and stipends.
The work is important.  I've had several teachers talk with me about the time needed to develop a year's worth of lesson plans and resources when no curriculum guides exists for a grade level or subject.  This will help us with consistency of instruction between schools, an important consideration with a transiency rate as high as ours.  The guides will also allow us to remain focused on the overarching standards.  I am excited to see this work begin as we strive towards meeting a key recommendation of the curriculum audit.
Another initiative to make our instructional program stronger is the newly released GSCS High School Advisement Guide for 2018-19.  You can find a link on the district webpage. This guide includes information on courses, graduation requirements, sequencing, college entrance requirements and a whole host of other topics that parents, students, teachers, counselors, administrators and others need to navigate toward graduation.  The guide was developed by Executive Director of Secondary Education Dr. Donald Warren and our high school counselors.  Kudos to all who helped put together this quality reference book. Great job!
These are but two examples of the work being done to provide structure and organization within which we can strengthen our instructional program.  We need to be more formalized due to our size as a system. We are not a small district.  While we want to keep the ability to relate to students and families as individuals, we need an effective structure to support our instructional program.  You will see more of this happening as time goes by.
Have a great weekend and MLK holiday!

James D. Smith
Click HERE to view the briefs from the January 9, 2018 Board of Education meeting.

The Griffin-Spalding County School System (GSCS) named Eric Pitts from Griffin High School (GHS) as the December district-level Most Valuable Parent (MVP). Mr. Pitts has been a committed chorus parent and member of the GHS Chorus Booster Club for the last four years. He is always available and willing to offer his services to help the GHS chorus. He transports equipment, travels with the chorus and helped transport supplies collected during the chorus' hurricane relief initiative.

Griffin High School Choral Director James Lindsey stated, "Mr. Pitts is committed to partnering with GHS in order to help our students Strive Towards Excellence.
Message from GSCS Charity Coordinator Stacy Wilson
Thank you to everyone that contributed to this year's United Way campaign. GSCS donated $10,582 via cash donations and payroll deductions to help agencies within our local community. Funds that are raised here, stay here...that's the United Way. Thank you GSCS for showing how much you care and for making a positive difference in our community!

A special shout out to our United Way school representatives for heading up the campaign at each of their schools. Please know that your hard work has not gone unnoticed. We couldn't have done it without you!

2017-2018 United Way Campaign Totals:
United Way School
Money Raised
Anne Street 
Andrea Moon
Paulette Forster
Sherry Warwick
Cowan Road 
Anita Morgan
Kathy Pearl
Futral Road 
Jessica Lalumiere
Jackson Road 
Melissa Case
Jordan Hill 
Brittany Green & Kori Perez
Moore Elem.
Angela Stewart
Moreland Road 
James Freeman
Paula Sanders
Brittany Mosley
Melanie Vaughn & Shwanda Dukes
Sharon Harps
Denise Lawrence
Stacie Davis
Teresa Graddick
A.Z. Kelsey
Chris Garland
Mainstay Academy
Audra Lester
Central Office
Stacy Wilson
GSCS Total
Help us spread the word about our upcoming job fair. Do you know someone look for a teacher or parapro position? Tell them to take a look at GSCS!

GSCS Employee Referral Bonus:
GSCS believes the most important factor in the success of students and our school system is the quality of our teaching force. We seek to build on the talent that we already have in the school system by hiring teammates who have the strong work ethic and high expectations necessary for all of our students to graduate college and career ready. To encourage and recognize 
employee participation in bringing additional talent to GSCS, we will offer an employee referral bonus to any staff member who refers a certified classroom teacher or speech language pathologist that is hired by GSCS for at least 90 days.

Referral Bonus: $500

Click HERE for more information.
Attention GSCS employees who were enrolled in Flex Spending for 2017:

Did you use out of pocket money, instead of your Consolidated Admin Services (CAS)
card, to pay for services between
January 1, 2017 - December 31, 2017?
If you did and would like to be reimbursed from your flex account, you must submit your receipts directly to CAS for reimbursement by March 31, 2018.
* Remember, up to $500 will rollover if unused.

Claim forms can be found on our benefits website at If you need assistance, please contact
CAS at 877-941-5956.
This week, Education Week sent out its inaugural edition of "10 Big Ideas in Education." Part opinion writing, part conversation and part journalism analysis, this special report explores game-changing disruptions to the field of education that have the potential to shake up the schoolhouse and the classroom.

Presented in no particular order, they are meant to stir conversation or prompt you to think about your work in a new way. Let Education Week know what you think by tweeting your comments using #K12BigIdeas.

 1: Memory is the key to student engagement.
 2: Tackle the teacher-diversity problem. Re-examine teacher preparation.
 3: Stop expecting parents to engage without showing them how.
 4: There's a tech solution to creating a master schedule.
 5: Students don't need grades.
 6: School districts can dramatically reduce student homelessness.
 7: Bridge the gap between mindset research and practice.
 8: Fight the opioid epidemic at its source.
 9: Artificial intelligence is on the rise. Schools have a role to play.
10: Civics education is no longer just happening in the classroom.

Click HERE to read the special report.
"There are two mistakes one can make along the road of truth...not going all the way, and not starting."
~ Buddha
Message from Mental Health First Aid USA

The new year marks a fresh start for many, including setting goals for the upcoming year. While many resolutions often center around physical health, we believe that incorporating mental wellness into your New Year's resolutions is critical.

That's why we'll be focusing on building healthy habits for the new year during #BeTheDifference this January. Here's how you can get involved this month:
  • Join our chat. On Thursday, January 18, we're hosting a #BeTheDifference Twitter chat on how to incorporate mental health into your New Year's resolutions. To join and share your strategies and goals for the year ahead, follow @MHFirstAidUSA on Twitter and use the hashtag #BeTheDifference in your responses.
  • Read the blog. We'll be writing about ways to refocus on your mental health all year on the Mental Health First Aid blog. Read up and share with your networks!
  • Share your stories. As always, we're looking for stories from our community about how Mental Health First Aid has impacted your life or someone else's life. If you have a story to share, reach out to Erica Hoffman at for a chance to be featured on the blog.

Thank you all for continuing to work toward healthier, safer communities for people facing mental health and addiction challenges in the new year and beyond.

Michelle Wood
Mrs. Wood has done an excellent job as the grade-level chairperson for first grade. She has accepted various tasks and has done an excellent job. We appreciate all that she does to contribute to Anne Street Elementary's standard of excellence.
April Stephens, Kamilah Gordon and Ashley Porter, second grade teachers
These teachers have supported the grade-level over the last few months to ensure that one of our second grade classes, being served by a long term sub, continued to receive quality instruction. They took on extra students during instructional time and included them in small group and whole group instruction to make sure they stayed on pace. Thank you for putting in the extra time and effort to support these students and demonstrating this type of team spirit.
Laura Love, teacher and Jerry Lewis, head custodian
Ms. Love quietly comes in and works hard to educate her students. She is reflective, seeks to improve and cares deeply about her students and their achievement. Thank you for being dedicated and reliable!
Mr. Lewis is always friendly, caring and has a positive attitude, even when the demands of the job are unpleasant (sick students, plumbing issues at the school, etc.). He takes pride in his work and is a great role model for his team.
Laura Forehand
Laura Forehand goes the extra mile with her responsibilities and duties. She is a team player, working cooperatively with administrators and co-workers. She is prompt with all her duties, always has a smile on her face and willingly accepts extra responsibilities. She coordinated a wonderful Christmas program with our staff and students and works hard to ensure we have a well-rounded program of activities here at Cowan Road Elementary. It is with grateful appreciation that I recommend Mrs. Forehand as our Employee of the month.
Rhonda Grubb, Wanda Spear, Kaye Reaves, Connie Howard, Tammy Polk, Olivia Merez and Vera Spencer, ELA team
These ladies are working hard on designing a school-wide independent reading plan to increase Lexile's.  Accountability for independent reading will increase with reading logs, goal setting and celebrations. This group is supporting change related to teacher AND student best practices.
Gayle Harvil, music teacher
Ms. Harvil truly goes above and beyond to enrich the fine arts here at Futral. Not only does she organize our PTO and Christmas concerts but she also oversees our music club, which meets once a week after school. During the holiday season, she took our music club students caroling at Stepping Stones, The Renaissance Center and Brightmoor Nursing Center. Thank you Ms. Havil for investing in our students and sharing that investment with our community!
Mitzi Barcus
Mitzi is not only extremely conscientious but she is always one of the first people to step up to help in any situation. She recently became our building opener when an employee was out for several weeks because she is typically one of the first employees in the building and doesn't leave until late most days. She spends a great deal of her summer at the building or calling to ask, "When is the very first second I can come back?" If any of our families or staff need anything, she doesn't hesitate to give her time and/or resources.  She is a great teacher who is super dedicated to her students and is passionate about getting them ready to take on the next milestone. Thank you Mrs. Barcus!
Sandra Whatley, custodian
Ms. Whatley does her work with a smile on her face and she is very pleasant to the staff and students here at JHE. And, when those situations arise where someone is needed to help clean up quickly, she willingly steps up to help out.  Thanks Ms. Whatley for all you do!
Lynelle Andrews and Alicia Parker
Both Mrs. Andrews and Ms. Parker should be commended for leading our students in the stunning performance in the winter musical of "Annie" at the December PTO meeting and the Southern Crescent Technical College faculty/staff luncheon. We appreciate their hard work and dedication!
Amanda Collins
Amanda Collins is a special needs paraprofessional in one of our Kindergarten classrooms. Amanda goes above and beyond each day to carry out her responsibilities, as well as, help anyone else who may need assistance. She is always willing to do anything that is asked of her and volunteers to jump in whenever she sees a need. Amanda is a very valuable asset to the staff at MRE.
Christie Shouse and Essence Williams
Christie Shouse is Orrs certified staff member of the month and Essence Williams is Orrs classified staff member of the month.