New programs kick off new year

By Johnny Jackson

Some middle school students in Clayton County will reap the benefits of a fresh new start on Aug. 8, in the newly built $10.7 million Sequoyah Middle School. They will call themselves the Warriors.

But others have reason to be excited with several new programs to begin this school year.

There will be a continuation of the kindergarten through third grade reading and math program in its second year of existence. The after-school program for grades four through eight will be continued as well.

Another new issue this year is the implementation of the Georgia Performance Standards (GPS) in kindergarten through 12th grades English/language arts and sixth through 12th grade science. The GPS are a more in-depth approach to teaching subject content, said Charles White, coordinator of public affairs and community relations for Clayton County Schools.

North Clayton and Lovejoy high schools will offer courses in the international baccalaureate curriculum.

Jackie Nguyen and America Salomon, both 16-year-old seniors at Jonesboro High School, are looking forward to the school year but both agree that fighting at Jonesboro High needs to be defused.

"There seems to be a lack of discipline," Nguyen said.

Nguyen plans a career in the medical field, and Salomon wants to study English literature and arts.

David Ashe, District VII Clayton County School Board member, said a program created last year designed to improve high school retention will be in place again this year.

"Last year we established a program to work with ninth graders to make sure we don't lose them," Ashe said. "We're losing a lot of ninth graders. We want to make sure those kids can make that transistion. We'll be trying our ninth grade program, trying to concentrate on those kids going into high school from junior high. Now we're moving forward."

Becky Stuart's 15-year old daughter attends Jonesboro High School, where Stuart admitted her major concerns were safety, fair discipline, and highly qualified teachers to teach in the county.

"It's important that we have teachers that love what they're doing," Stuart said. "I just hope that the new teachers really have a love for what they're doing and a love for the students. In turn, they should have respect."

"We're looking to have an excellent school year," said Eddie White, District IV school board member. "Our focus this year is going to be about student achievement. We're going to work in a concerted fashion to make sure that we are the best that we can be."

"Our junior high schools will be implementing block scheduling. I'm very excited about our block schedule; it gives teachers and students more time to concentrate on a particular subject," said White. "We'll be emphasizing English and mathematics."

"There will be major renovations in six campuses around Clayton County," White said. "It's part of maintaining and improving our schools."

To start, the need for the new Sequoyah Middle School arrives amid a steadily increasing population in Clayton County and overcrowding in schools.

"We are anticipated to grow by another thousand students this year," White said. "We finished up last year with 51,400 students."

He mentioned Clayton County Schools have increased by nearly 1,200 each year in recent years, and he expects as many this upcoming school year.