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Cobb County Schools CLOSED this week for Fall Break

All Cobb County Schools will be closed for Fall Break September 15-19. Classes will resume on Monday, September 22.

Brumby Elementary Named School of Excellence by National PTA

Cobb County Schools

Brumby Elementary and King Springs Elementary schools have been named 2014-2016 Schools of Excellence by the National PTA. Both schools were recognized for their achievement in building effective family-school partnerships, and were among just 170 schools nationwide to receive the two-year designation.

Both Brumby Principal Amanda Richie and King Springs Principal Linda Keeney were thrilled with the honor, and were excited to hear that their schools each would receive a National PTA School of Excellence banner.

“We have an outstanding PTA at Brumby and they have worked very hard to make parents feel welcome and included in all of the decisions that impact our school,” said Ms. Richie. “This recognition really affirms the strong partnership between our school and the community.”

The National PTA often cites the strong correlation between schools with engaged, involved families, and student success.

(Source: Cobbk12.org)

 

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Cobb County Schools launch100 Days 100 Mentors Campaign

Cobb County School Districts school-based mentoring program is excited to launch their “100 Mentors in 100 Days Campaign “ for this school year. Cobb Mentoring Matters (CMM), the districts flagship mentoring program is campaigning to recruit individuals, businesses, and faith-based organizations to” join the movement” for the 2014-2015 school year. For one hour per-week, during the school year, you can change the life of a student.

A number of Cobb County schools will be displaying their own recruitment banners for visitors, family and friends of their school in hopes of developing interest to mentor a student at their school.

Schools that have requested a “Recruitment Banner” will also place a message on their outdoor marque, requesting mentors.

Aarons, Inc. will be placing countertop displays in 25 stores in Cobb County for their staff and patrons to see and hopefully “join the movement.” With Aaron’s generous gift to Cobb Mentoring Matters CCSD has created a recruitment training video and commercial that is visible on www.cobbmentoringmatters.org .

Please visit www.cobbmentoringmatters.org and click on “I Want to Be a Mentor” or call Maryellen Gomes, Mentor Coordinator for more information at 770-819-5804 x 233, or email Maryellen.gomes@cobbk12.org.

(See more at: http://cobbcast.cobbk12.org/#sthash.fuFbBIdG.dpuf)

Chime In graphic

Are you a Cobb schools mentor? Click “Chime In” to comment on our Facebook page, Facebook.com/EASTCOBBER. We’d love to hear from you!

Cobb ACT results improve

Cobb and Marietta City high school students averaged a better score on the ACT than the state and national averages.

However, only Cobb improved scores since last year, according to test results released by the districts on Wednesday.

Cobb’s average composite score rose one-tenth of a point to 22.2 in 2014, while Marietta’s average score went down one-tenth of a point to 21.2.

The ACT is a curriculum-based test designed to measure college readiness and preparation. Scores are based on a scale of zero to 36. The ACT is made up of four separate exams in English, reading, math and science and an optional writing portion.

Interim Cobb Superintendent Chris Ragsdale said he was “very proud” of students for continuing to excel on the ACT.

“The ACT is an important barometer for colleges and universities,” Ragsdale said. “Our students showed improvement in three of four subject areas, and continued to surpass their peers at the state and national levels.”

Surpassing state scores

Both Cobb and Marietta’s average scores were higher than the Georgia average of 20.8.

Although Marietta’s scores slightly dipped, Superintendent Emily Lembeck said she was proud.

“Overall, I’d say that we continue to post composite scores that exceed the state and national averages, and I feel very good about that,” Lembeck said. “Of course, I know that we do need to keep pushing to continue to improve. We were still really quite competitive regarding the state and the nation.”

Lembeck said Marietta students need improvement in algebra.

Marietta students scored an average of 20.5 in math, which was the same as the state average.

Classroom teachers are the reason for Cobb’s higher performance over state and national averages, said Mary Elizabeth Davis, Cobb’s chief academic officer.

“As a district, we have had a concentrated emphasis on the skills associated with being college and career ready,” Davis said. “Teachers are more successfully integrating the content standards with the college skills like problem solving, critical thinking, technical writing and communication and that really has improved the scores.”

Davis said one example of integrating college skills into the high school curriculum is asking students to analyze documents, such as historical documents, graphs and works of art.

“We have had a heavy focus, especially in our English and language arts area on … how to use original documents as a source and really understand and analyze what is being said in those documents,” Davis said. “We’re spending a lot of time thinking about what is being communicated through that document and writing about that.”

Davis said the exercise helps students think critically about something and then express those thoughts in writing.

“Those college skills are very nicely aligned to what the ACT measures,” Davis said. “Our students are really held to a higher level of processing content and applying that knowledge.”

Davis said small variations in the composite score do not raise concern.

“We want to continue to see scores advance, but when you are performing at a high level, there will be some variance at that higher level, so (some high schools’ scores dropping one-tenth of a point), that’s not concerning to me.”

Outperforming national average

Both school systems performed higher than the national average of 21.

Nine of Cobb’s 16 high schools outperformed the national average. Davis believes that will make the students at those schools more competitive in applying to colleges.

According to freshman class profiles, the freshman with the lowest ACT score at Kennesaw State University made a 16 while the freshman with the highest score made a 31.

The middle 50 percent of the University of Georgia’s freshman class received ACT scores that ranged from 28 to 32.

In the Cobb School District, Walton High School scored the highest on the ACT, with a 25.7 average, and close behind was Pope with 24.8, Lassiter with 24.7 and Wheeler with 24.5.

Davis said Cobb students excelled in social science and biology, compared to state scores.

Cobb students scored higher than state averages in the subjects of U.S. history, world history and American government, which were combined for a total 22.2 average for Cobb and 20.7 average for Georgia.

The two Cobb schools with the lowest ACT score averages were Osborne High School with 17 and Pebblebrook High School with 18.1, which both fall below state and national averages.

Davis said there is always something more to work on, and she said the schools with low scores will attempt to do better in the future at teaching students skills to get them ready for college.

“The ACT is one of those measures of college and career readiness,” Davis said. 

“Still, it is pretty remarkable that most Cobb students did better in every area than the Georgia standards.”

Increased participation

Both school systems saw an increase in the number of students who took the ACT this year.

At Marietta High School, 191 students took the exam this year, compared to 170 in 2013. At Cobb schools, 3,663 students took the exam, compared to 3,651 in 2013.

“More and more Cobb students are taking the ACT, and it is unusual to see scores increase at the same time the percentage of test takers increases. That is a testament to the quality of our high school instruction and the commitment of our teachers,” Ragsdale said.

Lembeck agreed with Ragsdale, saying she thought more students were taking the exam because its subject matter was familiar.

“If you go back over time in 2010, we only had 155 students participating in the ACT,” Lembeck said. “I think students find it more related to the type of work that they do in their classes.” 

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Hilary Butschek, August 21, 2014. Read more: The Marietta Daily Journal – Cobb ACT results improve)

Fifth Grade Writing Scores Hold Steady

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The Fifth Grade Writing Assessment was administered to 8,061 students in March 2014, requiring fifth graders to write a  composition on an assigned topic. Trained evaluators score each student paper based on the four domains of effective writing: Ideas, Organization, Style, and Conventions. The test results are designed to help students, teachers and parents understand specific areas where students may need to focus their efforts to improve writing skills during middle school. Student composition skills are  evaluated again during eighth grade and assessed prior to graduation with the Georgia High School Writing Test.

The scale score range for the Grade 5 Writing Assessment is 100 to 350, and scores are reported in the following performance levels: Does Not Meet (100-199), Meets (200-249), and Exceeds (250-350). Summary data for the Fifth Grade Writing Assessment by may be found on the Cobb School District’s website, www.cobbk12.org. The above chart displays the scores of East Cobb Schools.

 

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To eat or not to eat? School lunches aim to cut calories, salt

When mom isn’t standing over their shoulder, school nutritionists are there, telling children at Cobb and Marietta schools to eat their vegetables.

Gone are the flavored milks, sugary cookies and greasy pizza from the lunch line. Federal initiatives supported by a campaign to stay fit from first lady Michelle Obama have replaced the foods readily available outside of school with healthier options, and students are rebelling.

When school started last week, so did a new lunch menu. The menu includes two large-scale changes in reaction to the 2010 federal regulation Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act Marietta and Cobb schools are rolling out in stages, nutritionists said.

Whole-wheat flour is the main ingredient in all wheat products, instead of white flour. And food is being produced differently so sodium levels are lower.

“All items need to be whole-grain rich, which means they are 50 percent whole grain, or it’s the first thing on the ingredients list,” said Kelley Toon, a registered and licensed dietician with Cobb County schools.

The restrictions are meant to keep students healthy, Toon said, but some students are on the brink of protesting the menu changes.

“The new food is good for me, but I don’t really like it,” said Ryan Moore, a senior at Hillgrove High School.

High school students complained the new regulations are too restrictive on what students are allowed to eat.

“All these kids are preparing to go to college where they’re not going to be restricted,” said Catherine Jones, a senior at Hillgrove High School. “I think for elementary school kids, it’s OK. But for high schoolers, we should be able to eat what we like.”

Jones said she plans to start a petition against the new whole-grain menu and wants students to join her.

“I guess it’s healthier, but I know a lot of kids who aren’t eating it,” Jones said.

Cynthia Downs, the executive director of food and nutrition services for Cobb schools, said she hasn’t seen any students turn down the food.

But, a few students told the MDJ during one lunch period that homemade lunches were starting to look better and better, even if it meant waking up early to prepare them.

“A lot of the things taste different,” said Hillgrove junior Mallory Griffith. “It tastes OK, but not as good as last year. I’ll probably bring my lunch more this year.”

Jones said she had already seen more students bringing their lunches on the first few days of school.

For students who still buy lunch, Jones said the deli line backs up faster than any other.

“Not much has changed in the deli line,” Toon said.

Students are free to construct their own sub sandwich in the deli line, but it has to be made on a wheat bun.

“I wish they hadn’t done this my senior year. They could have done it next year,” Moore said.

Students at the high school seemed to be facing an internal battle between their conscience and their desires. Every student the MDJ spoke to acknowledged the new menu is healthier and better for them. But none of them like it, saying it’s not what they eat outside of school.

Moore said the fries at school taste nothing like those from McDonald’s, which are his favorite.

“The fries don’t taste good at all, and the chicken tenders are different. The cookies taste like mud,” Moore said.

Jones said it doesn’t matter if the food is good for you if no one will eat it.

“No kids anywhere actually want this food,” Jones said. “The wheat cookies — those are really gross.”

Menu changes

In the past four years, schools have changed other parts of their lunches to make them healthier, such as limiting the milk selection to low-fat and skim milk and offering more choices of fruits and vegetables with every meal.

This year, the schools are focusing on keeping the total calorie count for each lunch between 550 and 650 calories for grades kindergarten through fifth, between 600 and 700 calories for sixth through eighth grade and between 750 and 850 calories for ninth through 12th grade.

Using whole wheat as a main ingredient helps maintain a low calorie count, said Cindy Culver, nutrition director for the Marietta School District.

“Our lunches have improved by providing whole-grain products, which increases the amount of dietary fiber in one’s diet,” Culver said.

Toon said students are offered choices for each side at lunch, but they must take at least one fruit and one vegetable. This helps keep the meal balanced, she said.

“Meals are planned so that students can select certain items,” Toon said. “They can choose from a protein, two fruits, two vegetables and a milk. They need to have at least three of those components.”

In an effort to reduce the amount of sodium each student receives in a meal, they aren’t allowed to have an unlimited amount of condiments, said Kelly Crossley, area supervisor of food and nutrition services for Cobb schools. Students only get one packet of ketchup, salad dressing or salt with each meal.

All the deep-fat fryers in school cafeterias were replaced with new ovens over the summer, Downs said, to replace fried chicken and french fries with baked chicken and baked fries.

“Everyone knows fried food is not good for you, so this is a healthier way to prepare food,” Downs said. “They create a similar product without the oil. (The ovens) actually blow heat across the product, giving it a crispy outside without frying it.”

State P.E. requirements

In connection with a federal push for healthy foods, physical education requirements are still in place.

Kindergarteners through fifth-graders have to spend at least 50 minutes in a health class each week and at least 100 minutes in a PE class each week.

Although sixth-, seventh- and eighth-graders don’t have to take a PE class, it is offered to them at Marietta and Cobb schools.

Those in seventh- through 12th-grades have to take a PE and a health class at least once, and they are offered a chance to play on 13 different sports teams in the districts.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Hilary Butschek, August 17, 2014. Click HERE to read the original MDJ article.)

School Board Approves Fiscal Year 2015 Budget

The Cobb County Board of Education approved a $900 million balanced budget for Fiscal Year 2015 during its May 29 meeting, funding a full 180-day school year and adding more than 300 teachers to reduce class sizes district-wide. The new budget includes no furlough days, a 1 percent partial salary restoration and provides for full step pay increases for eligible employees. A boost in both  state funding and additional local property tax revenue helped bolster a more positive financial outlook for the 2014-2015 school year.

Fiscal Year 2015 begins July 1, 2014 and runs through June 30, 2015. The FY2015 General Fund budget anticipates $862,429,012 in revenue and $900,243,511 in expenditures, based on an anticipated student enrollment of 111,459
(including two charter schools, the Devereux Ackerman Academy and Pre-Kindergarten). Following several years of declining state and local revenue that resulted in cuts in personnel, salary reductions and furlough days, the FY2015 budget represents a much brighter fiscal outlook as revenues have returned to the positive. The General Fund budget includes significant boosts to the district’s two main sources of revenue – an additional $20.1 million from the state and $21.3 million in local property taxes – both a product of an improving economy.

The budget also includes more than $13 million in carryover “lapse” funds that were budgeted for the current fiscal year but were not spent due to frugal management. Finally, to balance the budget the school board approved using at least $24.6 million in reserve funds, which still leaves the district with more than $95 million in fund balance, safely above the recommended one-month’s operating reserve.

The additional teachers that will be hired will help reduce class sizes by approximately one student on average across the district. With no furlough days, the 2014-2015 school year will be the first complete 180-day school year since 2009-2010. The newly approved budget includes funds to hire additional administrators at 15 schools, as well as additional police officers to enhance school safety. Detailed information and documentation about the approved Fiscal Year 2015 budget and development process are available under the Finance and Budget section of the Cobb County School District website: www.cobbk12.org.

 

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Heightened security: Cobb middle, elementary schools locking public out

Cobb County School Campus Police Officer Chris Ayers chats with sixth-grader Bo Benincosa during a classroom change Tuesday. Ayers is making his first week on the job at the school a pleasant one for students as he reassures them he is present for their safety. Staff/Kelly J. Huff

 

Elementary and middle schools in the Cobb School District will now be locked to the public at all times.

This year, anyone wanting to go inside a school will need to state their name and reason for entering in front of a camera and intercom monitored by front desk staff, said Ron Storey, the system’s public safety director.

The front desk staff at each school monitors the camera and can choose to press a button to unlock the doors of the school to let the public in. Anyone who works at the schools has a keycard that allows them access during work hours.

“It’s an added level of security,” Storey said.

A total of 93 elementary and middle schools had the cameras installed, which cost $279,000, said Jay Dillon, district spokesman.

He added high schools don’t have these cameras because students go in and out of buildings many times during the day to go to different classes.

Storey said the cameras were put in place to stop intruders from entering school buildings unnoticed.

“There’s no fool-proof system out there,” Storey said. “There’s always the possibility of someone intruding, but this cuts down on that possibility.”

John Adams, the chief of human resources for Cobb schools, said he thinks parents are happy with the security measure.

“We’ve had really good feedback from parents on that, so they did not mind that at all,” Adams said.

Another new addition will be more campus police officers.

Cobb will now station one police officer at every middle and high school after hiring 11 new campus police officers this year, Storey said.

Those 11 officers were hired using $402,000 from the school board’s general fund on May 29, Dillon said.

The campus police force that patrols the school district’s 114 schools is made up of 52 officers and four supervisors, Storey said. Middle and high schools have dedicated officers, and elementary schools are covered by middle school officers.

The officers patrol the schools for potential danger and respond to calls from faculty, Storey said.

“Most of (the calls) are anything a student does that disrupts class, whether it be fighting or drugs or if they try to skip a class,” Storey said.

Storey said three officers are assigned to work the evening shift from 5 p.m. to 1 a.m. and respond to alarms in schools or problems on campus after school ends.

Every officer will have a police car in the next month. The department had 16 fully-equipped police vehicles, but this year, another 37 were ordered and are expected to arrive by the end of the month.

“If you weren’t looking, you’d think it was a Cobb County police car,” Adams said.

At its May meeting, the board approved purchasing the marked police vehicles for $1.1 million using special purpose local option sales tax funds.

Safety in Marietta Schools

The Marietta Police Department dedicates three officers to schools in the Marietta School District,

said Officer David Baldwin, police spokesman.

There are two officers who patrol Marietta High School full time, and there is one officer at Marietta Middle School, Baldwin said.

“They work hand in hand with the school administrators to find out if there’s any problem with anything and respond to it,” Baldwin said.

Marietta High School has over 100 security cameras police have access to at all times, Baldwin said.

“Every camera is recorded. So if an incident occurs, it’s there on the record,” Baldwin said.

Dayton Hibbs, Marietta’s associate superintendent, said every school has security cameras installed throughout the hallways.

Marietta High School was particularly designed to be safe. The building was designed to be “flat,” Baldwin said, with no corners for anyone to hide in.

“Marietta High School is designed with flat hallways so you can’t hide behind lockers. It was designed like that after the shooting at Columbine,” Baldwin said.

Each school also has panic buttons faculty members can use to alert police to an emergency at a school, Hibbs said.

(Reprinted from the Marietta Daily Journal. Written by Hilary Butschek, August 06, 2014. Read the original MDJ article HERE.) 

Learn how to conduct business with county and school district

Register now for the “How to do Business with Cobb” seminar scheduled for 5-7 p.m., Wednesday, Aug. 20. Participants will learn how to become a vendor with Cobb County Government and Cobb County Schools, about business opportunities and network with other business owners and government personnel who make purchasing decisions. The seminar will be held in the BOC Room on the second floor of 100 Cherokee St., Marietta.

Space is limited. To RSVP send an email to inger.eberhart@cobbcounty.org or call 770-528-3317.

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On our August cover: Chris Ragsdale, Interim Superintendent Cobb County Schools

Flip Through August2014

We thought a great way to kick off the school year would be to feature Mr. Chris Ragsdale, recently named interim Superintendent of Cobb County Schools, on our cover this month. Mr. Ragsdale previously served the District as Deputy Superintendent for Operations from 2011-2014 and Chief Technology Officer from 2006-2014, managing plant operations, safety, transportation, maintenance, and overseeing technology integration. He has also been responsible for planning and execution of capital projects approved by Cobb voters and funded by the Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (SPLOST).

As interim superintendent of the second-largest school system in Georgia, Mr. Ragsdale states, “I will have a laser focus on work going on in the classroom. The success of the district rests on the shoulders of our teachers. The great work our teachers are doing has allowed our district to be successful and will continue to make it successful.”

Mr. Ragsdale’s term will run from May 2014 to May 2015.

Front cover photograph taken by East Cobb resident, Greg Mooney, Atlanta Photographers.

 

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