By REBECCA HAZEN
The Dade County Board of Education held a meeting on Thursday, Feb. 10, at Dade Elementary School (DES), in an effort to meet and interact with both students and staff.
“This is something new that we want to start, having called meetings at each of our schools,” Superintendent Josh Ingle said. “The purpose of these meetings is to give board members the opportunity to get in the schools and see what our kids are doing.”
It was noted that the planned January meeting at Davis Elementary School was cancelled due to the amount of COVID-19 cases at the time.
Ingle also noted that the board recently made the decision that the schools are no longer requiring mandatory quarantining.
“The teachers are happy, the principals are happy, the nurses are happy, and the kids will be in school. I thank Mrs. Blevins for being patient. Now, everyone is ready to return to some sense of normalcy,” Ingle said.
At the beginning of the meeting, fifth grade students Madison Cain and Cohen Spurgin read portions of their speeches, as part of the Optimist Oratorical Competition. Cain and Spurgin are representing DES at the district level of the competition, which will be on Feb. 22. The topic of the speeches was “staying optimistic through challenging times.”
“In life, when you think you have a wonderful plan, and there’s no flaws, well then your plans will fall flat. If we keep going, we will have a new plan, and maybe we don’t fall short on this plan, and it succeeds. You see, if you stay optimistic when your flame burns out, then you can light a new flame,” Cain said.
“Just by being optimistic, you can make the world a better place. An unknown author said, ‘I trust the next chapter, because I know the author.’ These words are true and optimistic, because they don’t know what will happen next in the future, but they are still hopeful,” Spurgin said.
DES Principal Tracy Blevins provided an overview report of the school.
There are currently 742 students in grades Pre-K through fifth grade. There is a 94 percent attendance rate, and 11.8 percent of the students are in special education.
Measures of Academic Progress (MAP) is a new way of tracking the student’s progress at DES. The MAP assessment test is given to every K-5 student three times a year. The assessment is a good predictor of Georgia Milestone success.
“I think we’re really going to like this,” Blevins said. “This assessment is computer based, so it is quick.”
Blevins highlighted some aspects of the school, including the STEM lab. Every student in grades 3-5 has a segment a week in the STEM lab. The virtual STEM night event will be Thursday, Feb. 17.
All DES students K-2 have a segment of art instruction once a week. The art classes are planning a collaboration with the media specialist, and will hold a book fair and art show, Books and Blooms, on the evening of May 13.
The school also uses the Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) of Georgia Rewards program to award good behavior stars. Students accumulate a certain number of stars in order to attend or receive monthly awards. Recently, students had the opportunity to meet animals such as a sloth and an owl, as part of the rewards program.
Blevins noted that there are many DES and community collaborations. These include local churches, local businesses, the Sheriff’s Office, and Trenton City Police Department. A lot of older students help as well.
“The high school sends a lot of students over here to help us with daily things. This morning we had the girls’ basketball team help us with morning parent and bus drop-offs,” Blevins said.
Board member Dr. Jayne Griffin asked Blevins what she would like to see at the school in terms of growth.
“The most important thing right now is learning gaps. We were faced with a lot of that. Virtual learning is not meant for elementary students. Sometimes that is the best we can offer, but face-to-face is always going to be best for them. We want to try to lessen that learning gap,” Blevins said.
The board members got a tour of different areas of the school, including the media center, the STEM classroom, the Practical Assessment Exploration System (PAES) Lab, where they got to interact with and watch the students working.
In the STEM classroom, board members watched the 3D printers in action, working on pencil holder gifts for the board members. In the PAES Lab, students were sorting silverware and learning how to fold napkins. In the media center, the board members had the opportunity to see the book displays, including one of Valentine’s Day themed books.
Board members also visited the teacher’s Comfort and Care room, which was created during the pandemic as a space for staff to enjoy on their breaks.
Also during the meeting, the board approved the personnel report, which included the hiring of Garrett Moore.
The monthly regular Board of Education meeting is Monday, Feb. 28.