One helpful part will be the transformation of Westchester Elementary School back to a working educational facility, after being the hub of the school system’s operations for the last 10 years.
Also, eight classrooms have been added at 4/5 Academy at Fifth Avenue; seven classes were added at Renfroe Middle School and the maintenance facility has moved to Talley Street.
Projected student enrollment is 4,364, which Edwards said does not include about 350 children from birth to age 4. The school system is at 97 percent enrollment.
The Decatur school system has been lauded with many academic achievements and Edwards said her plan is to continue professional development with Common Core, as they have had several instructional training sessions for principals where they uncovered pieces they need to understand for their instructional coaches and teachers.
She added they are interested in the science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, program as well as continuing with the successful iPad project at 4/5 Academy.
The plan is to have each child from fourth grade on with access to an iPad, said Edwards.
This will be the second full year for the program. Also in the pipeline is infusing more service learning into the core of students’ curriculum.
“We had several instances where classrooms or students have conceived of their own projects and then the point is that you’re learning by doing and giving back,” said Edwards. “This community and City Schools of Decatur are meant to do that.”
With the success of the school system, Edwards said they tend to have a low turnover rate on teachers, but she hired 70 new educators for this upcoming school year. There are 291 classroom teachers. Noel Maloof — formerly of Dunwoody High School — is now principal of Decatur High School, Robin Fountain will begin her first full year as principal of Oakhurst Elementary School after taking over in the middle of last year and Rochelle Lofstrand is the principal of Westchester Elementary School.
With so much on teachers’ plates these days, Edwards said she feels there is enough for them to handle as far as new curriculum.
“I think when you’re in a school system you have to be careful you’re not running out and picking up the flavor of the month,” she said.
“You really overwhelm your teachers when you do that … they have enough with Common Core and the new teacher evaluation system.”
Instead, Edwards said she has asked her teachers to make sure they teach the standards, but not to teach to the test.
“I’m interested in really creating an exciting and engaging instructional opportunity for all kids,” she said.
“If you’re a high school or middle school teacher and that bell rings, I’d like to see kids want to stay in the classroom. If we make it authentic, then the measurements will take care of themselves.”
Edwards said she feels they have driven the school system to an excellent place and would like to keep up the level of standards set in previous years. To keep that level and the hometown atmosphere, she said they will lean on and reinforce the concept of a team and how each employee is critical to the vision and mission of the school system.