The student population broke the 41,000 threshold for the first time, one of several inaugural events.
“Our first charter program for college and career focus, the Academy for Advanced Studies, opened very successfully. Our first conversion charter school, Hickory Flat Elementary School, is inspiring other conversion charter schools in our district and the first public school in the county to incorporate the Chinese dual immersion program was Dutchtown Elementary School,” said Hardin.
And, as the district bid farewell to Superintendent Ethan Hildreth, who served the county’s school for 22 years and received the President’s Award from the Georgia School Superintendents Association, the system welcomed Rodney Bowler as the new superintendent in April.
“I was very honored to take this position in a school system that knows me and that I feel has wonderful community support,” Bowler said.
Although the district saw positive changes, challenges were also experienced and dealt with head-on.
In particular, Hardin pointed to inclement weather that paralyzed metro Atlanta in January and then again in February as a setback for the system.
“Inclement weather in metro Atlanta area [with] closure of schools for more than the normal amount of days was a hindrance this year,” he said. “Additional days were missed by a handful of schools in Henry County after cold weather affected operating systems inside buildings and testing dates were impacted due to inclement weather.”
These closures also affected staff, who already had to take furlough days, including administrators who incurred six furlough days and teachers who incurred five.
However, the system is seeing a positive upturn in the upcoming school year.
“For the first time in many years we have a balanced budget and no furlough days scheduled for the 2014-15 school year, so our system is stabilizing,” said Bowler.
Increased revenues from the county and state will also result in lower student-to-teacher ratios by helping to fund more teaching positions. The county will also see some new construction projects, including renovations expansions to Eagle’s Landing and Stockbridge high schools and a 50,000-square-foot addition to the Academy for Advanced Studies thanks to a grant from the Technical College System of Georgia and the Georgia lieutenant governor’s office.
Students will occupy Hampton Elementary Charter School, which will open as the second conversion charter school in the district. Hampton High School will open as the 10th regular high school in the district.
Most importantly for the 2014-15 school year, said Bowler, is the system’s mission to ensure success for each student in the county.
“By focusing on each student and what they need personally in order to achieve at high levels, we will become a more successful system,” Bowler said. “We’re moving down a road of personalized learning which I think will be a positive transition for our students.”