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Dougherty School Board listening session focuses on dropout rate, academics

The University of Georgia Fanning Institute gatherd information on how to improve K-16 education in Dougherty County

Clockwise from front left, Dougherty County School Board members Darrel Ealum and Robert Youngblood, board member-elect Melissa Strother and Board Chair Carol Tharin are shown during a listening session held Thursday by the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

Clockwise from front left, Dougherty County School Board members Darrel Ealum and Robert Youngblood, board member-elect Melissa Strother and Board Chair Carol Tharin are shown during a listening session held Thursday by the University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development. (Staff Photo: Terry Lewis)

ALBANY — The University of Georgia’s J.W. Fanning Institute for Leadership Development held a short listening session Thursday with several Dougherty County School Board members. The purpose was to gather feedback from the board as to the direction the DCSS would like to proceed in stemming the county’s dropout rate and improving academics.

The meeting is part of the educational collaborative of Albany State Interim President Art Dunning, Darton State College Interim President Paul Jones, Albany Technical College President Anthony Parker and DCSS Superintendent Butch Mosely to address local K-16 (kindergarten through fourth year of college) education issues.

The institute and collaborative held the first of several planned public listening sessions two weeks ago at the Monroe High School cafeteria, and earlier this week had similar meetings with ASU, Darton and Albany Tech officials.

Much of the talk from board members revolved around establishing a college and career academy, the system’s perception problems, getting the community more involved in the school system and finding a grant writer for the district.

“I’m a nuts and bolts type person,” board member Robert Youngblood told Fanning facilitator Martiza Soto Keen. “We do suffer somewhat in the perception of the system, but we also have programs that work, like our Partners in Excellence program that has a major impact on us and the community.

“We don’t need to lose emphasis on programs like that because they are invaluable to us.

Board member Velvet Riggins agreed.

“That program allows people to come in and see what is going on in our schools. Many had no idea of all the good things that are going on, plus those visits help increase mentoring opportunities,” she said.

Board member Lane Price suggested the district seek out assistance from the medical community.

“We need to be aware not of just the big things but the small things as well. We’ve seen big things come out of small groups of dedicated people” Price said. “There are people in our medical community who are willing to do things to help our children.”