Thursday, September 13, 2018

Oconee County Schools Added Enough New Students In August To Fill Half Of A K-5 School, Education Board Members Told

***Community Engagement Meeting Announced***

Enrollments at Oconee County Schools increased by 246 students over the last year, marking the fourth straight year that enrollments in the county schools grew by more than 3 percentage points.

Brook Whitmire, chief Human Resources officer for the school system, told the Board of Education on Monday that the growth in enrollments means that the county is adding enough students each year to represent about half of K-5 school.

Oconee County Schools opened the Dove Creek Elementary School on Hog Mountain Road in the far west of the county this year to accommodate school growth.

The school system also added 148 new employees for the start of this academic year in August, Whitmire said, including 85 new teachers. Twenty-five of the teachers hired are in new positions, while the remainder are replacements for existing teaching staff.

In other action, Chief Academic Officer Claire Buck announced a Community Engagement meeting for 6 to 8 p.m. on Sept. 18 at the Oconee County Civic Center to gather input for a new five-year strategic improvement plan for the school system.

All parents, students and community members are invited to attend, Buck said.


Enrollments increased by 3.2 percent in the most recent county census over the count from last year, according to data released by the school system after the meeting on Monday.

Enrollments grew 3.5 percent in 2017 compared with a year earlier, and 3.4 percent in 2016 and 3.7 percent in 2015.

Enrollment was static in 2008 and 2009 but has grown ever since, with 2013 being the only year in that time period with only a minor increase.

Click To Enlarge

Whitmire, in his comments to the Board, reported an enrollment increase of 3.5 percent, but he did not include the Pre-K figures in his comparison.

Whitmire said the system had 7,970 students enrolled in K-12 in the most recent count, compared with 7,697 a year earlier, or an increase of 273 students.

The system also had 58 students in Pre-K, bringing the total enrollment to 8,028, Whitmire said.

Anisa Sullivan Jimenez, director of Communications for Oconee County Schools, provided me after Monday’s meeting the enrollment data I used in the chart above.

New Teachers

Whitmire told the Board that the 85 teachers hired for this academic year included 41 elementary school teachers, 24 middle school teachers, and 20 teachers at the county’s two high schools.

Last year, the school system hired 53 teachers, Whitmire said.

Only nine of those 85 teachers hired for this academic year did not have prior teaching experience, Whitmire reported, while 47 had between 1 and 10 years teaching experience and 29 had 11 or more years of experience.

Most of the 71 teachers hired who currently hold teaching jobs came school systems in the northern part of the state, with Clarke and Gwinnett contributing 14 each and Barrow contributing 11, Whitmire said.

Only four of the teachers are from out of state, Whitmire reported, and 13 are graduates of Oconee County schools.

“We’re growing,” Whitmire said. “We’ve got a terrific school district, and a lot of people want to be a part of it.”

Strategic Improvement Plan

Claire Buck, chief academic officer, outlined for the Board the process to be used to develop a new five-year strategic plan for the school system.

The process begins with the community engagement meeting on Sept. 18 at the Civic Center, 2661 Hog Mountain Road, west of Butler’s Crossing.

After introductory comments at that meeting by Board Chair Tom Odom and Superintendent Jason Branch, a Georgia School Board Association member will talk about the process and the purpose of the gathering,

Attendees then will break into small groups and provide input on observed strengths of Oconee County Schools, areas in need of improvement, opportunities for the schools, and threats to the schools, Buck told the Board.

An online survey will be available or those who cannot attend, Buck said, so that all “stakeholders” will have an opportunity to give input before the plan is developed.

Construction Update

Jake Grant, director of facilities for the school system, said he had been told by county officials that the new high-pressure gas line running in front of the Dove Creek School property on Hog Mountain Road will be connected next week.

Roadwork for the entrances to the school should be completed by Oct. 26, Grant said.

That roadwork was delayed because of the need to replace a high pressure gas line running along the eastern edge of the school property.

Temporary entrances and exits from the school are being used at present.

Grant also reported that 12 new classrooms at Oconee County High School have been completed and opened for the school year. Work is expected to be completed by December on five science classroom and three Career, Technical and Agricultural Education classrooms.

The construction of both athletic fields and tracks at the two high schools has been completed, Grant said.

Emil Beshara, director of Public Works for Oconee County, reported at the Land Use And Transportation Planning Committee meeting on Tuesday night that Georgia Department of Transportation has set the speed limit at 55 miles per hour on Hog Mountain Road at Dove Creek.


The video below is of the Sept. 10 meeting of the Board of Education, officially a Work Session.

Buck’s report begins at 2:43 in the video.

Grant’s report begins at 21:55.

Whitmire’s report begins at 32:55.

OCO: BOE 9 10 18 from Lee Becker on Vimeo.

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