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Four top educational leaders in Albany gather to address secondary education

The goal of the group is to create a roadmap for improving academic achievement in the Dougherty County School System

Darton State College Interim President Paul Jones, left, and Albany State University Interim President Art Dunning joined Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker and Dougherty County School System Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely in a second round of discussions Thursday on how to improve academic achievement in improve academic achievement in the Dougherty County school system. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

Darton State College Interim President Paul Jones, left, and Albany State University Interim President Art Dunning joined Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker and Dougherty County School System Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely in a second round of discussions Thursday on how to improve academic achievement in improve academic achievement in the Dougherty County school system. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

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Dougherty County School System Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely, left, and Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker joined Darton State College Interim President Paul Jones and Albany State University Interim President Art Dunning in a second round of discussions Thursday on how to improve academic achievement in the Dougherty County school system. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

ALBANY — Albany State University and Darton State College Interim Presidents Art Dunning and Paul Jones joined Dougherty County Interim Superintendent Butch Mosely and Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker Thursday for talks on how to increase academic achievement in the DCSS, leverage resources and provide mentoring for under served students to dramatically impact graduation rates in the region.

The meeting was the second in what is called an “educational collaboration” among the four institutions. Dunning, Jones, Parker and Mosely believe the new collaboration will identify and help solve the challenges faced by under-performing students.

“We’ve looked at what they’ve done at the University of Texas at El Paso over the past 10 years,” Parker said as the group met with The Albany Herald Editorial Board. “They have more problems than we do. The demographics are similar with a large minority population, but they also had the additional challenge of having a large number of ELS (English as a Second Language) students.

“Every indicator they use shows substantial improvement in every statistical category over that period. We have all the resources available to fix this problem, and it starts with this collaboration.”

Parker did not go into what specific steps UTEP President Diana Natalicio employed to help improve the county’s graduation rates and get students into the school, but he said talks will continue (with UTEP) until the local collaborative can flesh out a similar plan.

Dunning said numbers show the Dougherty County School System fails to graduate an average of four out of 10 students and that the rate is unacceptable.

“If a person thinks he or she can get through life with just nine or 10 years of education, then they are seeing something we aren’t seeing,” Dunning said. “We feel it (working to improve the community’s secondary education success) is part of the civic rent and community engagement we must pay. Of course, we have an organizational self-interest, but this is a problem for all of us; it’s a community problem.

“Do (Dougherty County students) have the capacity to stay in school and to learn? Yes, they do. If we pull all of our academic resources together, we can make it happen.”

After a little more than a year as the county’s interim superintendent, Mosely says he now has a better grasp on the situation facing the district.

“Our challenge is to change mind sets around here,” Mosely said. “But our biggest challenge is getting high-quality teachers into every classroom. We are also working on getting a 15:1 student-to-teacher ration in our pre-k to third-grade classrooms, and I am also optimistic that you will see our end-of-year test scores improve.”

Dunning added that in today’s technologically-driven society, employers are looking “for people who cannot only work with their hands, but with their heads.”

Jones said it was up to the people sitting around the table to get things started.

“The community has to buy into this and we have to demonstrate leadership,” he said. “People are looking to own this discussion and it’s time for all of us to change. We have incredible intellectual capacity in this community. We just need to focus and take advantage of it.”

It was then pointed out that three of the four educational leaders sitting at the table were interims.

“Well, when you think about it, we are all interims,” Jones quipped.

Dunning added, “I don’t think being an interim is a disadvantage for us. We are not part of the local establishment and that makes us more open to new ideas.”

“And this is just the beginning of the conversation,” Jones said.