Welcome back students, teachers, parents, volunteers and staff.
Let me first say that it is an honor to be named as your new superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools, and I look forward to building upon the tradition of success established by the district.
I would like to express my sincere appreciation for the hard work of our entire faculty and staff over the summer break to ensure we are prepared for another great year.
Please allow me to expand on some initial thoughts for the 2012-13 school year.
I am happy to report that the Board of Education recently adopted our renewed five-year strategic plan. This plan was developed through the united efforts of our community and school personnel. Please know that this plan outlines the collective vision of the community and will serve as the blueprint for all future work and decision making.
Many bold and exciting initiatives are embedded in our new plan. One example of this is researching and creating more options for our students and families. Our goal is to give parents and students the flexibility to attend schools or programs that specifically meet student interests and/or talents.
The strategic plan specifically mentions the expansion or creation of specialty schools in the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), the arts and International Baccalaureate (IB) at the elementary, middle and high school levels. You will be hearing more about this and other initiatives as we begin full implementation of our renewed strategic plan.
As we begin this school year, it is important to talk about some of the challenges facing our school system and public education in Georgia. Current economic conditions continue to be one of our biggest challenges as we move forward. RCPS has lost $32 million in austerity reductions from state funding since 2003.
Through hard work and collaborative efforts, we are able to preserve a full 180-day calendar for our students this school year.
Legislation affecting the local control and authority of the locally elected Board of Education also has the potential to further reduce state funding for our district.
This school year we are faced with many changes, which stem from the state and federal level. Two significant changes include accountability rules, which are changing from Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) to the College and Career Readiness Performance Index (CCRPI) and changes in curriculum which will better align Georgia with curriculum across the nation.
Lastly, I will mention that keeping pace with technology continues to be a challenge. Our young learners must be able to utilize today's technology in the learning environment if we truly want to prepare them for a global society. Through our strategic plan initiatives, we will strive to meet this challenge through Bring Your Own Technology (BYOT) initiatives and increased online learning opportunities.
As always, we encourage parents and community members to become engaged in education and our schools. Research clearly shows that children do better in school when parents are involved and take an active role in their child's education. We also believe that volunteers and mentors can make a profound difference in a child's life and hope you will consider finding a way to share a little bit of yourself in our schools.
I also encourage you to learn more about public education in Georgia by visiting www.visionforpubliced.org and www.votesmartgeorgia.com.
As superintendent, I pledge to work cooperatively with you as we build a community alliance that will enable the highest level of success for your child and all children of this community.
Richard Autry is superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools.