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Dougherty public high schools surpass state graduate rate for fourth straight year
Georgia Department of Education releases latest graduation rate data

ALBANY — The districtwide graduation rate for the Dougherty County School System was higher than the Georgia state average for the 2018-19 school year, marking the fourth straight year the DCSS rate surpassed the state average, officials with the school system said.

The Georgia Department of Education released the graduation rates statewide on Tuesday. The DCSS district graduation rate for the 2018-19 academic year was 85.1 percent. The state average was 82 percent.

Dougherty Comprehensive High School finished with 85.5 percent, Monroe Comprehensive High School at 86.2 percent and Westover Comprehensive High School at 88.8 percent. School system officials said this is the second year in a row each of the three high schools rose above the state graduation rate.

“Our students, teachers and leaders are to be commended for the hard work and dedication they exhibit in our schools and classrooms every day,” Superintendent Kenneth Dyer said. “The graduation rate is just one of several indicators of the success we’re seeing in our classrooms. In addition to our graduation rate, we also saw nearly 70 students walk across the graduation stage with a college degree or technical certification thanks to the dual enrollment program.

“Although we’re pleased with our progress, we are not satisfied. Our ultimate goal is for all DCSS students to graduate high school on time and equipped with the knowledge and skills needed to compete and succeed in a global economy.”

This year’s state rate is an all-time high since the state began using the four-year adjusted cohort calculation now required by federal law. Georgia’s graduation rate has increased by 12 percentage points since 2012, with steady increases each year.

This year, 71 Georgia school districts recorded graduation rates at or above 90 percent. Twenty-four districts recorded rates at or above 95 percent.

“I’m proud today of Georgia’s teachers and students, who are doing the on-the-ground work that leads to increases in our graduation rate and other indicators — including NAEP and Georgia Milestones scores,” State School Superintendent Richard Woods said. “Moving forward, we must continue to focus on offering a relevant education and preparing every child for their future — not a one-size-fits-all system that sends every student in the same direction, but a tailored and personalized pathway based on a student’s academic and career interests and future goals.”

The graduation rate is defined as the number of students who graduate in four years with a regular high school diploma, divided by the number of students who form the adjusted cohort for the graduating class.

For more information on the state’s graduation rates, visit gadoe.org.

Albany Tech selected as site for pilot adult GED program

ALBANY – Albany Technical College will be the site of a pilot program to help students struggling with completing their GEDs stay on track and enter the work force.

The program was unveiled Wednesday during an annual report given by ATC President Anthony Parker.

Cayanna Good, assistant commissioner of adult education with the Technical College System of Georgia, made the announcement following Parker’s address.

Often, Good told the audience of several hundred, students seeking a GED fail one or more sections multiple times and get discouraged. That leads them to give up on their education.

“We’re interested in exploring alternatives (to) depending on a single test,” she said during an interview following the program.

Good said the pilot program should be up and running in early 2020.

Prior to Good’s announcement, Parker laid out some stark economic numbers from a report prepared for two U.S. senators.

ATC’s service area includes a number of counties that are among the bottom rung in the state in the number of unemployed adults and poverty. Those include Baker, Clay, Dougherty, Randolph and Terrell counties.

Parker said those numbers correlate with high percentages of the counties’ populations that did not complete high school.

For example, 17.9 percent of adults did not complete high school in Dougherty County, where the poverty rate is 30.5 percent, according to figures Parker presented. Lee County has the smallest percentage of adults without a high school diploma at 11.5 percent, and the lowest poverty rate among counties served by ATC at 11.9 percent.

“If you look at poverty, there’s a direct link between inability to graduate and poverty,” Parker said. “You will see a direct correlation between keeping a student in school until they graduate and (later success).

“A lot of these figures are, I’ll say, depressing, but there are some things we can do immediately about it.”

In Dougherty County, 38.8 percent of adults are not in the work force, and in Calhoun County that number is 63.4 percent. Those numbers include retirees.

Parker said that each year employers request job applicants for between 300 to 600 jobs that ATC can’t supply. It’s important that more adults get a GED and continue their education to fill those jobs, he said.

“Albany Tech’s single most important program is adult education,” Parker said. “If our community is going to be successful, if our region is going to continue to grow, our 20- to 40-year-olds must be retrained for these jobs.”

The pilot GED program is one of the immediate steps to which Parker referred. Graduates who get good jobs not only help themselves, they help support the jobs of others when they purchase goods and services.

“We have jobs with good income that people can fill in one to years — with CDL (Commercial Driver’s License) in eight weeks,” Parker said.

Economic forum in Albany focuses on sewage system issues

ALBANY – “Ask not what your sewage system can do for you; ask what you can do for your sewage system” emerged as a theme during a Tuesday economic forum organized by Albany Mayor Dorothy Hubbard.

Diapers, grease — and even a bed sheet — were identified as culprits that have clogged pipes and damaged pump stations that are there to keep the waste moving. Leaves and lawn clippings disposed of in stormwater drains, along with garbage, also impede the flow of water.

Consultants are performing an analysis of the sewage system, which also handles storm runoff during heavy rains, with an eye toward finding a solution to previous discharges of sewage into the Flint River and sewage back-ups. The city plans to pursue grant funds and spend sales tax dollars on the fix.

The discussion was held during a forum on economic development.

“We should not be throwing anything in our system – diapers, paper towels,” Hubbard said during an interview following the forum. “We have to stop that. I think that we have to understand everything we do impacts economic development.

“If we can’t take care of it after we fix it, it’s going to cost us even more money. It’s important to educate people and let them know if they keep doing the same things it’s going to cost more money.”

No decision has yet been made on whether to develop separate storm water and sewage infrastructure. Whatever route the city takes, the costs are considerable.

Columbus, for example, spent $100 million on a system that treats both sewage and water runoff, and the tab for Augusta’s system that completely separates those was $200 million, Wes Byne, client services and senior project manager at The Constantine Group, told the audience.

The consultants have placed monitoring devices to determine where water flows during times of heavy rainfall and smoke tests have been performed to check for leaks.

Part of the effort is educating the public about the issue and the importance of doing their part not to damage sewage infrastructure and clog up the system.

“We’re going to reach out to stakeholders and corporations and to you as citizens,” said Butch Gallop, owner of Gallop & Associates.

The consultants plan forums at venues such as churches and also are reaching out to students.

“We have outreach from elementary to high school students,” and plans are to involve students from Albany Technical College and Albany State University, Gallop said.

Grease poured down a drain in a residential neighborhood recently clogged a 24-inch line, Assistant City Manager Phil Roberson said.

“When that happens, it’s going to come out of a manhole somewhere,” he said.

The city needs to address issues such as that, Roberson said.

“It’s going to be really critical going forward putting ordinances on the books,” he said.

Residents also can play a role by reporting it when they see someone blowing lawn debris and leaves into stormwater drains, Ward III City Commissioner B.J. Fletcher said.

“Don’t get in a fight,” she suggested to witnesses of such incidents. “Take a picture and send it to us. We’ve fined a couple of people $1,000. You guys, we need you. We are a good community.”

Flint Riverkeeper, after being informed of sewage flow into the river, has come out on the city’s side in looking for a fix, said Gordon Rodgers, executive director of that organization.

“There’s a solution to this,” he said. “Albany can’t afford to get a reputation. The economic engine that is the Flint River is extremely valuable to this region.

“Initially, this could have been adversarial. Phil Roberson, within a few minutes of conversation on the phone, said ‘you’re not going to have to sue us to correct this problem’ and that the city would fix it.”

Four qualify for nonpartisan House District 152 seat

ATLANTA — Four candidates have qualified to run in the Nov. 5 nonpartisan special election for the House District 152 seat that was recently vacated by Republican Ed Rynders.

Three Republicans, including Leesburg Mayor Jim Quinn, Sylvester businessman Bill Yearta and Lee County Army National Guardsman Tyler Johnson, completed qualifying requirements Monday-Wednesday at the state Capitol. Mary Egler is the lone Democrat to qualify for the special election, which will cover the final year of the two-year term Rynders was re-elected to fill.

The winner of the race would have to run for a full two-year-term in 2020.

“My position (as mayor of Leesburg) has always been what’s the next step?” Quinn said Wednesday. “With Ed in that seat, there has been no way I would have challenged him. But now that he has stepped down, it’s the perfect time. I feel like this gives me an opportunity to have a much broader reach and a much larger impact on our community.

“I love running for office; I love the campaign process. I’m looking forward to knocking on doors, meeting people and reaching out on social media.”

Johnson, who was a part of the Lee County High School JROTC program, has served the country as an infantryman in the Georgia Army National Guard, including a seven-month deployment during which he worked training the Afghan Army in Afghanistan. He also served a two-year term on the Byne Christian School Board of Directors.

Egler encouraged voters to cast their ballots during the Oct. 14-Nov. 1 early voting period.

“I encourage everyone to vote early from October 14th until November 1st,” Egler said in an email. She also thanked “everyone for their support, courtesy, and help” during her effort to complete the qualifying process. Egler twice ran unsuccessfully against Rynders.

Yearta, who is a principle in the Fletcher-Yearta Jewelers business, qualified to run for the seat on Wednesday, the final day of the three-day qualifying period. Yearta was traveling from the Capitol Wednesday when The Albany Herald reached out to him for comment and was unavailable to talk.

Rynders held the House District 152 seat for 17 years before announcing three weeks ago his plans to resign from the position. He said health, retirement and job issues associated with his wife’s career as an educator created a “perfect storm” that convinced him the time had come to step down.