VCS Meets Challenges, Looks Ahead
Through a year of unprecedented challenges Hal Chesser served as Chairman of the Board of Vidalia City Schools. Soon, he will hand over this responsibility. VCS Board of Education members rotate officer positions each year, as set by board policy. The term of office is January 1 through December 31. Chesser will rotate to Parliamentarian for 2021 and Tim Truxel will rotate to the role of Chairman. Julee Torrence will serve as Vice-Chairman, Bruce Asberry will be Treasurer, with Andy Blount as Assistant Treasurer. These appointments were reported by Superintendent Dr. Garrett Wilcox at the December 8 meeting of the Board. From Chesser’s view, he knows overcoming the challenges took the whole team within the VCS system. “I cannot say enough about our staff and faculty. They stepped up and went above and beyond the call, into unchartered territory. Our school administrators have done a great job providing support and leadership for the staff in their buildings,” Chesser said.
The beginning of the shut down in March required immediate attention for the students in at least two areas while they were at home for an undetermined time: instruction and nutrition. Chesser said, “Our teachers were flexible and adapted to virtual learning and worked extremely hard to make sure each student had what he or she needed to complete assignments at home and to stay on track as much as possible. The cafeteria staff came up with a plan to provide lunches to students from the beginning of the shut down until the end of the school year. They worked faithfully while the rest of school operations were shut down.” Additional responsibilities were handled during the months leading up to the startup of the 2020-21 school year, again, with an uncertain time frame. This time was used well as the teachers engaged in their own instruction in technology and the CDC’s public health guidelines.
“Our teachers had to learn to teach virtually and stepped up to the plate to do what they had to do.” Chesser explained. “Our teachers’ top priority is the safety of the students in the classroom while providing an environment suitable for learning and staying on track.”
All personnel in the schools succeeded in adapting to new requirements. Plant operations, the custodial staff and the bus drivers have been attentive to additional deep cleaning and sanitizing needs, he assured.
“I am impressed and am immensely proud of everyone working together to get our children back into an educational environment safely,” Chesser concluded.
The calendar for 2021-2022 is being developed. The principals of Vidalia City Schools will review the calendar in the coming weeks, as well as the Superintendents of Toombs, Treutlen and Montgomery Counties. The four school systems coordinate the calendar because students from each system also attend classes together at the Southeastern Early College and Career Academy. The plan is that the proposed calendar will be ready for the Board’s consideration at the January 2021 meeting.
Assistant Superintendent Ginger Morris reported to the Board that Sally D. Meadows Elementary School has been designated as a Promise School, one for which the Georgia Office of School Improvement gives focused support for improving learning effectiveness. With the Promise School status, a certain amount of funds are available for 2nd through 5th grades. This money has been used to add a math consultant for SDM Elementary.
The math consultant is in the school once a week to monitor the math curriculum for meeting standards within the same grade level, and to ensure learning activities coordinate from grade to grade.
Teachers at SDM are very positive about the consultation and the progress in student’s math skills, Morris reported. The funds provided by the Promise School status also help with virtual instruction as well as in school lessons using Chrome books.
Morris also noted that administrators are looking at using programs for virtual learners that will allow teachers to help keep students on-task and to protect instructional time from inappropriate content. Currently, the school system’s Technology Director Sabrina Wiggs must block certain sites that students shouldn’t access. With the use of a classroom management program, each classroom teacher will have the ability to monitor students’ computer activity and to keep them on class work. Two programs, each at a nominal fee per student, are being considered and one should be in place for system-wide use by mid-January.