DCSS Superintendent talks goals, vision for new school year

Published: Jul. 27, 2017 at 9:33 AM EDT|Updated: Jul. 28, 2017 at 7:54 AM EDT
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Kenneth Dyer (Source: WALB)
Kenneth Dyer (Source: WALB)

ALBANY, GA (WALB) - A new school year starts for Dougherty County students on August 1. This will also be a new school year for Superintendent Kenneth Dyer.

Dyer filled the position after the former superintendent David Mosely retired.

A new vision for the school year

Dyer said his focus this year will be to continue building on the success the system has seen in the past few years, including an increase in graduation rates and a decrease in drop out rates.

He said test scores have shown improvement in some areas, though there are some areas of concern. The system has developed a continual improvement plan which it will implement this school year.

Dyer said the system will be taking advantage of the flexibility of being a charter system to make necessary changes. He said his primary goal is to improve literacy at the elementary level to create a foundation of success for students.

"There's a lot of reading in social studies, a lot of reading in science, and believe it or not, a lot of reading in math," said Dyer. "You have word problems, those infamous word problems, that we enjoyed growing up, they start those as early as third grade now. So if students can't read and comprehend the word problem, they can't answer the math question."

Dyer said he will also be focused on preparing students in Dougherty County for college.

This will be the first year for the Commodore Conyers College and Career Academy. The 4C Academy will also hold the Move on When Ready Program.
Around 400 students will start on August 1. Once construction finishes, the academy will be able to hold 1100 students.

Addressing declining enrollment

Dyer said DCSS is nearing around 14,500 students enrolled for upcoming school year.

This is a drop from where enrollment stood this winter at around 15,000. Some families moved out of Dougherty County following the storm.

He said enrollment is on a steady decline. The state estimates the system will lose around 150 students yearly for the next 3 to 4 years.

The system won't have exact numbers on how big of an impact that will have on enrollment until school officially starts.

Dyer said, though, they are prepared to accommodate incoming students who were impacted by January's storms.

"We want them to have a sense of normalcy as much as possible," Dyer said. "We don't want school to be a place where they're trying to figure out what to do. We want them to be in a comfortable environment at school so we're going to make every effort to make sure they are there."

Families who are displaced with students should call 229-431-1264 if they haven't been contacted already by a social worker.

He said enrollment is on a steady decline. The state estimates the system will lose around 150 students yearly for the next 3 to 4 years.

Closing Albany High and Southside Middle

Dyer cited declining enrollment as one of the reasons why DCSS made the decision to close Albany High School.

He said he was a student at Albany High in the past and understands the history behind the school and why it was an unpopular decision to close the school.

However, he said DCSS had a necessary financial decision to make.

Dyer said the funding is declining. Albany High wasn't at the needed capacity to receive full funding from the state. Dyer said this is due to the district losing  students in the past 10 years.

The local tax base is also declining, bringing in less revenue.

Dyer said closing and repurposing Albany High, as well as Southside Middle, saved the system around $1.7 million. Of that, DCSS will save $1.1 million by closing older buildings and moving those functions to Albany High.

The district plans to redirect those funds saved toward student achievement.

"Eventually, it would have negatively impacted students because we would have had to cut resources that we could put in the classroom," Dyer said. "So as unpopular as the decision is, as it was and still is in some circles, it was a decision that was necessary. We want to make sure we provide our students with the best opportunities in the future."

The community will be able to rent Albany High for events and meetings.

Meshing the cultures

Superintendent Dyer said part of the challenge of this year's realignment will be meshing the cultures.

He said safety and security are always their top concern as they strive for unity in each of the schools. Most students from Albany High have been rezoned to attend Dougherty High this year.

On Thursday, Dougherty High will host an event today called "We Are One" to welcome students to Dougherty's "Trojan Nation."

Dyer said the district is focused on making this year's realignment a smooth transition.

He said he is aware of the concerns parents have about possible conflicts between students, but stressed that each school has taken several safety measures including security cameras and security storefronts to keep students and staff safe.

"Parents, they care about the quality of education, and we do too," he said. "But if they don't know their kids are safe, what they're being taught in the classroom, really don't matter to the parents. So we want to make sure we take care of safety and security first and then they can learn in a safe and secure environment and that's what we plan to do."

The first day of school for Dougherty County students is August 1.

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