Valdosta Daily Times

December 17, 2013

Lowndes Board of Education meeting full of celebrations

Kristin Finney
The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — Between a graduation, awards, grants and positive statistics, there was plenty of reason to celebrate Monday night during the Lowndes County Board of Education meeting.

The meeting began with Brandon Taylor receiving his high school diploma. Taylor makes 59 students who have been awarded their high school diplomas outside of the traditional graduation setting. Taylor was joined by friends and family to celebrate the memorable occasion.

"I am so proud of how much he has persevered. He has come through so many obstacles and worked so hard. I am so thankful of his character and his faith in God. I know he will go far because of what he has done," said Lynn Taylor, Brandon's mother.

The next recognition of the night was the presentation of the GREAT award. The GREAT award stands for Gratitude, Responsibility, Enthusiasm, Attitude and Teamwork. This award is presented each month to a deserving recipient. This month the award was presented to Joy Cowart, a teacher who works specifically with ESOL students.

"She always has the kids at the bottom of her heart," said Lowndes High School Principal Jay Floyd.

The final recognition of the night was a presentation from the National Council of Negro Women in Valdosta-Lowndes. For the second year in a row, the NCNW donated $200 to the homeless children of Lowndes County Schools.

During the discussion portion of the meeting, board members heard an update on the bids on the Georgia DOE Technology Grant. The Georgia Department of Education is providing a $7 million statewide grant for infrastructure upgrades to prepare for an increase in bandwidth next year. Lowndes has been allocated $82,000. The board was presented four bids, none of which exceeded the total of the grant. The board will vote on the bids in January.

The finance report was presented, and later unanimously approved, by the board for the year up to Nov. 30. The year to date (YTD) activity according to the report shows that the revenue up to that point is $30,562,901.71 and expenditures are $22,520,041.52. The ending fund balance as of Nov. 30 is $12,012,497.05.

The athletic fund was presented to the board showing that the YTD revenue up to Nov. 30 was $352,774.50 and the YTD expenditures are $211,637.90.

The board was happy with news of the 2013 graduation rate released last week. Lowndes High School, and the system as a whole, had a graduation rate of 75.9 percent, an increase of 2.8 percent from last year and 9.1 percent over the last three years.

An update was presented to the board on the Georgia High School Writing Test scores. The scores for the GHSWT administered in September showed the state with 92 percent of all students meeting the standard and 94 percent of first-time test takers meeting the standard. The results show that in Lowndes High School, 94 percent of all students and first-time test takers met the standard.

The final presentation of the evening was on the Sources of Strength/Garrett Lee Smith Grant. The Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities is providing Lowndes County Schools with $40,000 for services, support and training to middle school teachers and counselors.

"They will be training our middle school teachers in QPR (Question, Persuade, Refer), which is the suicide-prevention model that will help them be more in tune to the high-risk behaviors. Our rates of referrals for mental-health issues and students that make suicidal comments is on the rise. That's one of the reasons we qualified for the grant. The grant will also help begin a Sources for Strength Club in each of our middle schools," said Sandra Wilcher, director of social services.

The board unanimously approved the signing of the grant.

"We hope that this grant will make a tremendous impact on the students in our school system as well as our community," said School Superintendent Wes Taylor.