System-wide Straight Talk for GSCS Employees
 January 26 - February 2, 2018
In This Issue

The decision to recoup instructional time for two of the six days lost to inclement weather this year was not one taken lightly. GSCS values teaching and learning. The belief that students need time with their teachers, the heart of the learning process and a key component to reach our vision of "transforming our students into future-ready learners and contributing members of society," is one that drove considerations as my Senior Cabinet reviewed options to make up instructional time. We also value time devoted to professional learning opportunities for our teachers to enhance instructional capacity. There is also the potential for additional winter weather occurring in the upcoming weeks that might drive a decision to recover more time with fewer scheduling options available. All of these factors played into the decision to designate two days in February as make-up days.

In 2015, GSCS entered into a strategic waiver contract with the State exempting the school system from most state rules and regulations in exchange for certain accountability targets. One the rules exempted relates to instructional seat time. The exemption was used a couple of years ago to reallocate five instructional days into dedicated professional learning days. The effect was to take the normal student instructional calendar from 180 days down to 175. The other five days became scheduled professional learning days, separate from the 10 days identified for pre- and post-planning. The loss of six instructional days to a hurricane and a snow/ice event brings our instructional days down further to 169. Our belief in the value of teaching and learning led to the conclusion that losing that much instructional time was not in the best interests of our students. In particular, it is extremely important to regain this time for our high school students who are on a block schedule. Rather than the traditional high school schedule of six or seven class periods of 50-55 minutes each, block scheduling consists of four class periods per day of approximately 103 minutes each. The loss of one block schedule day is the equivalent of losing two traditional high school days. In the end, redeeming two days of lost instruction brings the total up to 171 instructional days with four days being waived under our flexibility contract.

GSCS has chosen not to do the bare minimum. Instead, we have tried to maximize instructional time as much as possible to give our teachers and students the time needed cover as much of the curriculum as possible before the testing window opens in mid-April. Many years ago, 20 minutes were added to our daily instruction time in order to recoup time lost to inclement weather. The work day itself was not lengthened. Subsequent discussions with school administrators indicated that the extra minutes were useful and were kept as needed class time. The current daily school schedule includes 380 instructional minutes at the elementary level, 420 instructional minutes at the middle school level and 430 instructional minutes at the high school level. These totals are all above state minimums (which do not apply to GSCS under our strategic waiver contract) and allows us to waive some of the lost instructional days along with covering the days converted to use for professional learning.

There are two days, one in February and one in March, that are identified as professional learning days for teachers without students being in school. Some of the rationale behind this swap was to allow teachers to concentration on professional learning opportunities without the need for substitute teachers. The February 16 professional learning day has already been planned with a wide-variety of trainings geared toward improving teachers' instructional capacity. In addition, multiple teachers representing all schools will be meeting to work on curriculum guides in ELA, math and science, as part of a plan approved by the BOE to meet a major recommendation of the curriculum audit conducted last year on our instructional program. Teachers will be working together in teams, with facilitators, to develop curriculum guides needed to bring a greater degree of structure and consistency to our instructional program and provide teachers with a resource for classroom planning.

March 16 is also identified as a professional learning day. However, it is the only week day scheduled without students between the February break and the end of the school year, with the exception of Spring Break. Cabinet felt it was best to hold the March 16 day for possible use if additional time was lost due to winter weather that may occur after the February break. I am hoping we have no more winter weather. But, in December and January, we were faced with the threat of potential or actual winter precipitation on three occasions. More may come.

Therefore, designating two days from the February break as make up days became the best option. It must be noted that the employee work calendar distributed last spring did identify the order in which days would be used in the event that lost instructional days would need to be made-up. On that calendar, the order is listed as February 23, February 22, February 21 and February 20 (February 19 is President's Day, a federal holiday).

As a practical matter, designating February 22 and February 23 as make-up days allows for a six day February break for students beginning Friday, February 16 and running through Wednesday, February 21. Had we chosen to designate Monday the 19th and Tuesday the 20th to recoup lost days, students would have been out of school on the prior Friday, then come back for two days Monday and Tuesday, before being out again Wednesday through Friday. The decision was made to keep the break to consecutive days.

This is a long explanation to say that this decision was not taken lightly. The decision to close schools is among the most difficult I face. The decision to designate make up days is right behind it. Ultimately, I have to make a determination about what is in the best interests of our students and their learning.

I hope this helps explain the process and thought that went into the decision announced on Wednesday. It may not be popular but the circumstances are, thankfully, not ones we encounter often. In any case, this becomes part of the process we must navigate as we work our mission statement "to empower students to graduate college and career ready." Our work is guided by this statement and our students deserve our best efforts.

James D. Smith
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Message from GSCS Charity Coordinator Stacy Wilson
GSCS again proves how vested we are in our community. Last year, GSCS collected 28,035 food items during the Salvation Army Food Drive which was outstanding; however, this year, we collected 39,407 food items. That's 11,372 more than last year! 78% of our schools averaged at least one food item per student enrolled. That's quite impressive.

Even more impressive was our three top schools. Crescent Elementary donated 8,008 food items (19.07 food items per student), Mainstay donated 271 food items (14.26 food items per student) and Cowan Road Elementary donated 8,914 food items (13.84 food items per student). Kudos to these schools for going up and beyond. Your giving was phenomenal!

As Kathy Calvin, president and chief executive officer of the United Nations Foundation, said, "Giving is not just about giving a donation. It is about making a difference." Thank you for your generosity and for making a difference in our community. You are TRUE Agents of Change!

Special thanks to the SA Food Drive Coordinators at each school. We couldn't have done it without you!

GSCS 2017-18 Salvation Army Food Drive Totals:
Participating School
Food Drive
School Enrollment
Number of Food Items Collected
(avg. # of food items donated per student)
Anne Street 
Shirley Ali
536 (1.22)
Tiffany Campbell
578 (1.24)
Jamie Reid
614 (1.77)
Cowan Road 
Tonya Jones
8,914 (13.84)
Kathy Pearl
8,008 (19.07)
Futral Road 
Sandra Long
3,596 (5.66)
Jackson Road 
Kytha Dockins
1,567 (3.77)
Jordan Hill 
Rebekah Stewart
1,595 (3.74)
Shawanda Blackmon Milsap
1,730 (4.26)
Moreland Road 
Jan Baxley/Stan Mangham
1,533 (2.70)
Paula Sanders
1,801 (2.93)
Siedra Pitts
195 (.40)
Julie Evans
406 (.74)
Crystal Perkins
2,202 (4.75)
Jodi Spears
3,778 (5.61)
Justina Russell/Stephanie Wellons
250 (.18)
Corenza Barnes
1,114 (.86)
Tina Moore
415 (3.74)
Audra Lester
271 (14.26)
Central Office
Stacy Wilson
The Georgia School Personnel Survey (GSPS) is a 31 question survey for all certified and classified staff members who work at least 50 percent of the day in the school. The survey is accessible using a computer, tablet or smartphone. Survey responses are anonymous and will be submitted directly to the Georgia Department of Education for analysis.

Click on the link below to complete the Georgia School Personnel Survey:
Congratulations to Rehoboth Road Middle School for taking the top spot in the Regional Middle School Math Competition!

"I am not a product of my circumstances.
I am a product of my decisions."
~ Stephen Covey
The Griffin-Spalding County School System (GSCS) will offer a Summer Enrichment Program. The program will provide selected students with an opportunity to improve academic performance and become college and career ready through an engaging and enriching experience of high quality instruction.

The goal of the Summer Enrichment Program is to strategically support the achievement of students by providing additional support in English Language Arts (ELA). Based on Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) reading results and retention in school career, the program will target 2nd grade (rising 3rd grade), 4th grade (rising 5th grade) and 6th grade (rising 7th grade) students. The curriculum will mainly focus on ELA but will also incorporate math and science literacy standards.

A summer program will also be offered for high school students needing to recover credit in 9th Grade Literature and American Literature.

Students will be selected for this summer program based on academic need and criteria set by the federal funding. Letters will go out to qualified students starting in January.

Locations for the programs will include four elementary schools, two middle schools and one high school. Locations will be clustered and determined based on student enrollment. Class size will be 10-12 students per teacher.
Congratulations to these GHS FBLA students for placing first in the Digital Video Production team event at the Region competition!

*A special thank you to Mr. Kilgore for volunteering his time to help the team!
Tracey Ellis
Ms. Ellis works extremely hard to keep her students engaged in meaningful activities. She has high expectations for her students and she encourages them to do their best. Additionally, she positively impacts her students by facilitating our senior pictures and the Salute to Excellence awards program.  Ms. Ellis is a great addition to A.Z. Kelsey!
Courtney Favors-Evans and Pamela Davis
Ms. Favors-Evans quietly and humbly adds so much to our school. She sets very high standards for the fine arts department is doing a great job as the new department chair.
Pamela Davis is a wonderful administrator who always models leadership with a smile on her face. Mrs. Davis is always professional and ready to assist teachers in any way possible with her knowledge of the curriculum. She is visible to the students and faculty each day and is an asset to GHS!
Rynn Goldstein
Mr. Goldstein is a conductor of sorts, moving unassumingly behind the scenes making sure that the "trains run on time." His keen intellect coupled with a kind disposition makes him a treasure within the building. As a teacher, he has a way of getting his students to think about things in a different way and view their place in the world from a larger perspective. He is an expert at logistics and can make arrangements for a group of 40 students to travel to Europe or the entire student body to take all their assessments at the right time. He works alongside everyone in order to lead by example, no matter what the task. To know him is to be transformed.