The Dade County Board of Education won the Georgia Governance Team of the Year Award for the first time ever on Nov. 30 after being named as one of 11 finalists by the Georgia School Board Association.
The GSBA determines the eligibility of all 180 school districts in the state to determine which schools qualify for the award. Dade County was nominated as a finalist last year but finally got to take home the prize in 2020.
Finalists include Dade County, Bleckley County, Coffee County, Dawson County, Jefferson County, Oconee County, Columbia County, Effingham County, Fayette County, Henry County and Houston County, according to a press release from the GSBA.
“In order to be a finalist, you have to go through a rigorous process that includes preparing a packet – a report if you will – about the school district and the outcomes of the school district,” Dade County Superintendent of Schools Dr. Jan Irons Harris said. “Then, there’s a site visit where they have people come and validate everything that’s in the report. They have people that are outside of the GSBA that come and do the ‘judging,’ people from other states, college professors and people from [other organizations]. They come and they do the validation visit.
Harris said that because the GSBA decided to add more categories to the award based on the size of the district, DCS was finally able to win the award.
“Last year we were a finalist,” Harris said. “This year, they gave three different categories of awards – small district, medium district and large district. Dade County was awarded the Governance Team of the Year for the small district.”
The board had planned to gather to watch the virtual banquet for the award. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, that decision was ultimately canceled.
“Instead, everyone watched it from their personal computers,” Harris said. “I decided I would come to the boardroom to watch the awards program. I invited BOE President Carolyn Bradford and my assistant Cynthia Daniels. We watched the awards program and we have a wonderful video of when they started announcing the winner. They said Dade County and we cheered. We were so excited. I told them that we were so excited to receive this award and that we have a wonderful team. It takes a team working together to produce outcomes that enable us to get this recognition. We all work together. We have a wonderful team. I’ve enjoyed working with the board for almost five years now. Together, we’ve made some headway and some improvements that we all wanted.”
Bradford thanked not only the board for their hard work in making this possible, but also the students, parents, faculty and staff that helped produce the outcomes needed to receive the award.
“The Dade County Board of Education Governance Team which includes all five board members and the Superintendent could not be more proud of all the hard work that the students, parents, faculty, and staff have exhibited in order for our system to be chosen as the Governance Team of the Year from the Georgia School Boards Association,” Bradford said. “Dade County is a special place with some very special people. We are so pleased that our district is being recognized for all the outstanding accomplishments. “
While Harris was talking to the GSBA on behalf of the board, GSBA member and sister of the late Dade County Sheriff Philip Street Kate Street Cammack snuck into the boardroom behind Harris and handed her the award.
“She turned around and she said, ‘I’m Kate Street Cammack and I am a graduate of Dade County High School,’” Harris said. “She said she graduated in 1978. She said, ‘I’m here on behalf of the Georgia School Board Association to give you this award.’ She presented it and I cried. Miss Bradford had some tears in her eyes too.”
The GSBA issued a statement congratulating all three award winners.
“We are so pleased to honor these 2020 Governance Teams of the Year,” GSBA President Pat Hugley-Green said. “They have exemplified, through work and service, what a high functioning board of education and superintendent look like.”