Skip to content

Principals Gear Up for Start of School on August 4

Photo by Lydia Berglar – (From left) Michelle Beeler (DMS), Melissa Valtierra (DES), Brent Cooper (DCHS), and Charity Barton (Davis) are eager for students to fill the schools once again on Aug. 4. They are focused on literacy, attendance, and positive behavior this school year.

News Editor

With the first day of school coming up on August 4, the four Dade County principals (Charity Barton at Davis Elementary, Melissa Valtierra at Dade Elementary, Michelle Beeler at Dade Middle, and Brent Cooper at Dade High) are excited for their schools to once again be filled with students. Two issues are at the top of the list for all four schools: attendance and positive behavior. Both elementary schools are also focused on literacy.

The principals noted that parents/guardians and students can find important details on the schools’ websites, but we have included information about open houses, orientations, start/dismissal times, and meal costs at the end of this article as well.

The school system has recently incorporated two online tools: DC Connect and the Infinite Campus Parent Portal.

DC Connect is an online form that allows anyone in the community–not just parents of students–to submit feedback (positive or negative), ask questions, and thank teachers/staff. The drop-down menus on the form route submissions directly to the appropriate individuals/offices.

Through the Infinite Campus Parent Portal, enrollment is now completed entirely online. Additionally, current Dade County schools families can update information using the portal instead of through hard copies.

Barton explained, “If they’ve been in Dade schools already, they can log into the parent portal and update the address, telephone numbers, emergency contacts, and school nutrition forms.”

Superintendent Josh Ingle said, “In the past, if parents had students in multiple schools, they had to fill out [the hard copy packet] multiple times. Now, you log in as the parent and only fill out one form and one school nutrition application.”

The principals said that the portal must be accessed on a computer rather than a phone. They noted that the central office and each school have desktops available for parent use. There are documents that must be scanned or photographed and uploaded to the portal.

LaMerle Howard (Infinite Campus administrator) is available to assist parents with the portal. She can be reached by phone at the high school or by email at The open houses will also have stations to assist parents with the portal.

The principals noted the importance of updated phone numbers and school nutrition forms, with Beeler saying, “It’s really important we have updated phone numbers. In the case of an emergency, it’s hard to contact parents with outdated numbers.”

She continued, “Filling out the free and reduced lunch form is very important because it affects far more than just meal prices.” Data from school nutrition forms impacts federal funding that the schools receive, and at the high school level, it can lead to discounted SAT and exam fees.

Speaking about Davis, Barton said that she thinks children will be excited about the new playground equipment.

She noted that literacy continues to be a key focus. “Across Georgia, literacy has become a focus because of legislation. We have a reading interventionist and a part-time math interventionist. We’ll continue making sure we have targeted interventions for kids who are behind in reading.”

All four principals highlighted PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) as part of their plans to encourage the actions and attitudes they want to see in students. Barton explained that Davis has daily, weekly, and quarterly rewards. Some rewards are for behavior, some are for good grades, and quarterly rewards are based on attendance.

Both elementary schools are using ClassDojo, an app that allows school employees to track students’ behavior and PBIS points. Barton said, “The custodian can give points to a kid they see do something well or go out of a way to help another student.”

Barton appreciates the team mindset among the principals, saying, “We’re constantly in contact. Throughout the day, we’re texting each other, bouncing ideas off each other, and running problems by each other.”

While this is Valtierra’s first year as DES’ principal, she taught third grade at the school last year and previously worked in Crawford County, Ga. as a teacher, academic coach, and then assistant principal.

She said, “The teachers have been so gracious and so welcoming. They’re excited, which makes me excited. I’m excited about seeing the kids. I love everything about being in school. I just want to serve the teachers, the students, and the community.”

Valtierra noted that DES has a new academic coach, Ashlie Blalack, but with Heath Johnson continuing in his role as assistant principal, the administrative team is not entirely new.

Valtierra also noted the unity among the principals, saying, “I love how close [us principals] have all been together. Charity comes over and visits with me and kind of mentors me along a little bit.”

Even at the elementary level, attendance is an issue, and like Davis, DES is focused on literacy. Valtierra said, “I met with the media specialist in July, and we’ve got some plans for literacy nights.”

Valtierra also noted the new Georgia math standards that are being implemented this year. The schools have been working closely with RESA (Regional Educational Service Agency), the connecting agency between the state Department of Education and local school districts.

Like Barton, Valtierra wants to focus on PBIS. “Positive behavior is what we’re looking for; it’s what we’re trying to show to our students.” In addition to tracking PBIS points, the ClassDojo app sends parents texts, so Valtierra hopes to use this tool to improve communication.

She is also excited about several new teachers. “They graduated high school from Dade County, they went to Covenant College, and they’re coming back to teach in their community. I think that’s fantastic.”

Reporting on DMS, Beeler explained that she and Cooper have been working on consistency between the middle and high school. She said, “Mr. Cooper and I spent some time this summer going over our handbooks and rules together. The middle school adopted a point system for discipline that’s very similar to the high school’s. Parents who have kids at the middle and high school will find more consistency.”

DMS has also spent the last few years aligning its elective offerings with the CTAE pathways offered at the high school. This year, DMS is introducing computer science as a new elective class.

Beeler said, “Kids rotate through these classes because at the middle school level, you want them to get a taste [of different subjects]. Hopefully by the time they’re in eighth grade, they can start solidifying what they want to pursue at the high school as a career pathway.”

Beeler added that she encourages parents to attend the Parents Advisory Council meetings. “I would love to have more parents attend. We have a set council of parents, but it’s open to anyone else who wants to join monthly. I just need to know ahead of time.”

Lastly, Beeler said she is excited for Rhonda Bradford’s first year as the assistant principal. “She’s a hometown girl, people know her, she’s got relationships with a lot of the parents already. We’ve been working together this summer, and she’ll be incredible.”

At the high school, Cooper is ready for the quiet summer to end. He said, “We’re at school by ourselves all summer long. I’m ready to see kids coming back into the building, getting back into the routine I’m passionate about, and building relationships with students.”

In addition to last year being Cooper’s first year as principal, it was also his two assistant principals’ first year. This year, he said, “It feels good to have the entire administrative team with one year under our belts. We feel like we have a better handle on the things we need to improve.”

Communication is one of the areas for improvement. “You can never give out enough flyers, send enough information, or make enough announcements in the news; people still call with questions,” said Cooper. “We’ve added three TVs in our main hallway that will highlight upcoming events, results from competitions, etc. I felt like I didn’t do a great job with communication last year because the students usually only heard from me when I was on the intercom because they were in trouble. I’m wanting to improve that with more videos where they can see my face and I can talk about different things, instead of only being the fun police.”

Like the other principals, Cooper noted the struggle with attendance ever since COVID-19. “It’s really been high on my radar this summer, trying to find incentives (not just punitive consequences) for coming to school.”

Cooper is thankful that the high school only needed to replace six teachers this year. “That number’s been in the teens for the last five years, and I’m excited about our new hires.”

Like the middle school, DCHS has a parent council. Last year, Cooper capped the group at ten parents, but this year, he would like to hear from more parents who are interested in joining the council. They meet the second Monday of each month at 9 a.m.

Cooper said, “I got some great ideas from parents in those meetings, so I want to open it up again. Parents, please reach out to me through DC Connect or by emailing me directly at if you’re interested.”

Lastly, Ingle noted that this year’s hashtag across the school system is #teamdade. They are focused on unity and the theme of four schools–one school system.

Note: Open houses are for students and parents/guardians, but orientations are for parents/guardians only. The school day schedules have not changed since last year.

Regarding meal costs, breakfast is $0.95 and extra milk is $0.50 at all four schools. Lunch at the elementary schools is $1.95, while lunch at the middle and high schools is $2.15.

Davis Schedule

  • Open House – Aug. 3 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Pre-K Orientation – Aug. 1 from 5-6 p.m.
  • 7:20 – Doors Open
  • 8:00 – School Begins
  • 3:20 – Dismissal

DES Schedule

  • Open House – Aug. 3 from 3:30-5:30 p.m.
  • Pre-K Orientation – Aug. 1 from 5-6 p.m.
  • 7:30 – Doors Open
  • 8:00 – School Begins
  • 2:45 – Pre-K/K Early Dismissal
  • 3:15 – 1st-5th Dismissal

DMS Schedule

  • Open House – Aug. 3 from 5-6:30 p.m.
  • 7:20 – Doors Open
  • 7:50 – School Begins
  • 2:55 – Dismissal

DCHS Schedule

  • Open House – Aug. 1 from 4-6 p.m.
  • Freshman Orientation – July 31 from 6-7 p.m.
  • 7:10 – Doors Open
  • 8:00 – School Begins
  • 3:10 – Dismissal

Leave a Comment