As the new superintendent of the Columbia County School System, I continue to express my deepest appreciation for the honor and privilege of serving this great community and look forward to the opportunities and challenges that lie ahead.
The primary goal of our school system is to provide every student with a knowledgeable, competent, caring teacher dedicated to academic achievement and the social and emotional well-being of children. If we are to achieve maximum success, this must be our top priority.
Because of our system's dedication to excellence in education, we are fortunate to attract families desiring the rich academic heritage the citizens of this county have grown to appreciate and expect. This year we anticipate an increase of approximately 700 new students, along with 70 new teachers, 40 new paraprofessionals, and an additional graduation coach for each middle school. Our system will serve more than 22,000 students with about 3,000 employees.
Accordingly, we continue to experience major growth and our response to the physical needs of our system has resulted in an outstanding building program. This year we will open our 17th elementary school, Cedar Ridge, and have added two 12-classroom additions - one at Lewiston Elementary and one at River Ridge Elementary. Next year, we will open our eighth middle school, and in August of 2009 we are on schedule to open our fifth high school.
Additionally, current projections indicate another elementary school might be necessary by 2010. Thankfully, we have been able to meet the demands of our growth because of our community's unyielding commitment to excellence in education as evidenced by the Special Local Option Sales Tax.
Instructionally, I would like to add that this past year every school and our system achieved "Adequate Yearly Progress" as defined by the No Child Left Behind Act - an accomplishment shared with only 51 systems across our state.
While this is an outstanding achievement for our students and faculty and one to be celebrated, it does not diminish the expectation of academic excellence for every child. Likewise, it should be noted that the standards by which we are measured for the achievement of Adequate Yearly Progress will be increased this school year and periodically over the next several years until every child at every level performs at grade level or higher. While this is a lofty goal that will require the utmost effort of every teacher, every student, every day, anything less is not acceptable and it will be our primary focus as the year progresses.
As a final note, our community can be confident in knowing that every day of the year we will strive to provide our students with a positive, safe, world-class learning environment. With parents, staff members and students working together, we will achieve that end.
Charles R. Nagle is superintendent of the Columbia County school system.
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