Leaders discuss education models

Published 12:00 am Saturday, September 26, 2015

Public, private school heads talk changes

By James Morton



LaGRANGE — Members of the local Republican Party met Thursday night to listen to a panel of education leaders from Troup County.

The four-member panel included leaders from home school, private school and public school.

Home schooling

Mandy Lamb, president of West Georgia Home School Association, spoke to members about the benefits of home schooling. Brown said she began teaching her children at home eight years ago to ensure their education was Christ-based.

“Every spring we re-evaluate our school and we decide what will work best for our family,” said Lamb.

Brown went on to say that she had more hands-on time with her five students and was able to design curriculum based around their needs.

“I’m assessing them daily without a Scantron sheet,” she said.

Lafayette Christian School

Headmaster John Cipolla spoke about the structure of LaFayette Christian School. He said the school was accredited by the National Accreditation Commission for Early Care and Education Programs, or NAC, and the Southern Accreditation of Colleges and Schools, or SACS.

Cipolla said the school’s pre-K program is the only one in the state to be accredited with both NAC and SACS. He said the state asked the school to participate in the lottery funding program, but the school declined, partly because the state will not fund religious-based programs. The school does, however, work with the Department of Family and Children Services to help some families afford the school’s tuition.

“We take a unique approach academically to middle school,” Cipolla said. “Our middle school teachers are grade-certified in their field, so rather than having a middle school teacher who has an education degree and has simply passed the history test … we have a teacher with a history degree.”

The middle school program has about 100 children in attendance.

Cipolla also said that another unique aspect to LCS is that the seniors mentor the ninth grade students.

“It’s a real great environment,” he said.

Cipolla said that modern culture has separated faith and values.

“The truth of the matter is, this will be our downfall,” he said.

LaGrange Academy

Carl Parke from LaGrange Academy said his school has duel accreditation with Southern Association of Independent Schools, or SAIS, and SACS.

He said one of the biggest challenges his school — as well as every other school — faces is the rapid change of society. He credited the recent economic crisis and technology as factors for those changes.

Parke said there had been a profound amount of change in technology in the past few years. He gave an example of how students today have a wealth of knowledge at their fingertips. He pointed out that students no longer had to go to the library to do research, they can read up on topics using their phone while waiting on the curb.

“Technology is changing at breakneck speeds,” Parke said. “It has changed so much within the last 15 years that it is affecting the way learning is happening, it is changing the way we teach.”

Parke went on to say that his faculty and students have to think about the way technology will be used in the future.

“We have to prepare them for their future, not our past,” he said.

Parke cited the Scantron machine as the piece of technology that had the biggest impact on education in the 20th century.

“It was invented in 1948 and that’s when life became multiple choice,” Parke said. “Now for me — and most of you — life’s not multiple choice.”

Parke said that he teaches his students to be able to pass multiple-choice tests like the SAT and ACT, but he also wants his students to be able to use the material they learn critically.

“For us, it’s not if they’re (LaGrange Academy students) are going to college, it’s which one is the best fit,” Parke said.

Parke said that LaGrange Academy takes students to several different colleges so that when they are ready to graduate they know which college will be best for them. The school has a 100 percent college acceptance rate and a 98 percent maturation rate, he said, adding some students chose to enlist in the armed forces before enrolling in college.

Troup County School System

Cole Pugh, superintendent of Troup County School System, said his school system is accredited by AdvancED since February 2013.

Out of the 12,500 students, Pugh said, 11 percent receive gifted service and 10 percent receive services for disabled students. Sixty-eight percent of Troup County students receive free and reduced lunches.

Some other statistics Pugh gave:

• Forty-six percent of the students are white; 42 percent are black.

• Seventeen different languages are spoken throughout the school system.

• The school system employs 1,749 people; 933 of those employees are certified.

“Every employee we have is 100 percent highly qualified,” he said.

• The school system has 300 less employee position than it did four years ago.

• The school system is comprised of 22 buildings.

• There are 120 buses that travel around 2.1 billion miles each school year to transport more than 60 percent of the system’s students.

Last year, the state implemented a new teacher and administration appraisal systems, Pugh noted. Those, along with first-time implementation of student learning objectives, referred to as SLOs, the Georgia Milestone Test and College and Career Ready Performance Index, referred to as CCRPI, brought about the most change for the Troup County School System since it consolidated with the city school system, Pugh said.

The CCRPI is the most complicated accountability system the school system had ever seen, he added.

Budget issues also have impacted the school system, Pugh noted.

“I started work on Feb. 1, 2011, and I was told that the deficit for the following year was $5.2 million, the following year after that was $7.2 million, then $4 million, then $3 million,” Pugh said.

The results of those deficits have included the closure of four schools and the reduction of 300 personnel positions.

“As a result we are saving 4.1 million dollars a year for every year those campuses remain closed,” Pugh said. “This summer we put 3.9 million dollars back into the budget. There is a strong relationship between the 4.1 (million) that we cut and the 3.9 (million) that we put back.”

James Morton is a reporter at LaGrange Daily News. He may be reached at 706-884-7311, ext. 2154.