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Dougherty schools embracing new vision

Photo by Casey Dixon

Photo by Casey Dixon

ALBANY, Ga. -- New leadership within the superintendent's office for the Dougherty County School System has led to a new vision and new goals for its students.

Going into the upcoming school year, officials plan to continue to use that vision to move the system in a new direction -- a direction that carries with it a number of strategic goals such as increasing the graduation rate by 5 percent, increasing college preparatory for ACT or SAT scores, increasing the student promotion rates by 5 percent and aiming to have 95 percent of its students present on the first day of class.

Because of the economy, Dougherty will likely have to do it with the same number of teachers it has now -- as there have been no signs of funds to replace those that led to furlough days and reduced classroom days even though officials have been told the economy is improving and that mid-term reductions will not be taken.

"State funding for the Quality Basic Education Act allocation to school systems and the austerity cuts imposed on public education over the past decade have caused many school systems to increase class size and even reduce the number of school class days in the year, as allowed by waivers to state law," said R.D. Harter, public information director for the school system. "The DCSS administration has worked to become as efficient in the use of personnel as possible.

"We have managed to avoid layoffs or reductions in force through efficient staffing and adjusted work schedules."

In terms of tangible development, renovations have been done on Westover High School to allow for such things as new hallway skylights and reallocation of space in the dining areas. Playground upgrades, including pea gravel drainage and new equipment, have also been completed for several elementary schools, while remodeling was conducted at Lake Park Elementary School and Turner Elementary School.

Currently, there is work being done at the Turner Field Transportation Department to reallocate office and bus repair shop space as well as repaint and refloor the facilities -- with Phase 1 of 3 of that effort more than 50 percent complete. The Albany High School Center of Excellence -- construction of which has required new graphic arts and video space, new band and chorus rooms as well as remodeling of the main entryway -- is expected to reach substantial completion in June.

There are also several projects upcoming, such as the Dougherty High School Center of Excellence. This will mean performing arts upgrades, a theater, new space allocation, air conditioning upgrades and rework of the campus' breezeway. The $6.8 million project is scheduled to begin construction in late May.

Also, beginning in April, Dougherty Middle School should have some roof work done -- which will cost $620,000. Soon after, other modifications on the school, including work on the windows and the canopy, will commence with a price tag of $264,000. Re-roofing is also expected to be done at Northside Elementary School and Lamar Reese Elementary School during the summer months.

In April, the downtown Administration Building is expected to undergo air conditioning upgrades -- which will cost an estimated $200,000.

The school system, which this year has a graduation rate of 78.4 percent and a 3.2 percent dropout rate, now has 15,838 students enrolled -- which demonstrates a loss in recent years, but officials indicate that the decrease does have potential to soon reverse itself.

"Some of the losses may be attributable to job losses in our county, leading to families relocating in order to find employment, among other causes," said Harter. "The improving economy and the consistent improvement in quality instruction help contribute to optimism for an upward trend in service to our community."