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A Message from the Superintendent - February 2020
Posted on 02/17/2020
Superintendent Dr. Terry OattsIt’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly two years since I was sworn in as Superintendent of Rockdale County Public Schools. I must say that it has been a remarkable two years. I am fortunate to have an incredibly talented Executive and Senior Cabinet comprised of outstanding leaders that support their respective departmental personnel as we all work to achieve world-class results for our students.  I am also privileged to have some tremendous site-based administrative and teacher leaders who are accomplishing some remarkable results at our schools. 

What have we accomplished within the last two years? We’ve established five Strategic Priorities that concisely capture our district’s strategic plan commitments. Those strategic priorities are as follows:

•    A common understanding of the Georgia Standards of Excellence (GSE) and formative instructional practices
•    The implementation/maintenance of a balanced system of assessment
•    The delivery of effective standards-based instruction/instructional strategies
•    The integration of appropriate digital resources that extend and/or enhance students’ learning experiences by achieving meaningful differentiation and personalization
•    The implementation/maintenance of a viable, multi-tiered student support system that is responsive to students’ learning needs

We immediately committed to accelerating capital projects that were designed to enhance our students’ and staff’s safety at each of our school sites. I made a commitment almost immediately upon being sworn in that we would have all the remaining safety vestibules constructed at each of our schools before students returned for the 2019-20 School Year. We kept that commitment, and we continue to establish additional layers of security at each of our school sites. One such additional layer of security that I approved on my arrival to the district was the unprecedented strategic sharing of surveillance access to each of our district’s schools to local law enforcement in the event of an active shooter incident at any of our school sites. I’ve also directed that an active shooter drill occurs later this spring so that our local law enforcement partners can work with us on active preparation for such emergency situations.

As Superintendent of Schools, I take our finances very seriously as we’re all committed (i.e. Board of Education, Office of Superintendent, and Finance Department) to being good stewards of our taxpayers’ dollars. As one of the few debt-free school districts in the state, we thank our citizens for their overwhelming support of our ESPLOST V Referendum in November of 2018. I’ve been able to successfully recommend two consecutive millage rate reductions to our Board of Education in Fiscal Years 2019 and 2020.  I am very proud of many decisions we’ve made in my tenure regarding our district’s finances. From eliminating unnecessary part-time positions from our current fiscal year’s budget, strategically inactivating certain positions by way of attrition, providing constant and collaborative oversight of our budget development process, and personally eliminating millions of dollars of budget requests from our current fiscal year’s budget while working closely with our Finance Department and the Board to retain high priority budgetary request items, we’ve moved from having insufficient reserves to having more substantial reserves which affords us more financial latitude. Our fiscal management as a governance team is to be celebrated and touted.

We’ve recruited some exceptional administrative personnel both internally and externally to usher in new and innovative instructional leadership designed to achieve our district’s strategic priorities.  Also, we’ve implemented R.E.A.L. Academy (Rockdale County Educational Academy for Leadership), a multi-tiered leadership development program that has been recognized by Hanover Research as being unique nationally for school districts of our size. What makes R.E.A.L. Academy distinct from prior leadership development programs is its evidence-based emphasis and structure and the provision of both an internal mentor and an external executive coach for our new principals. As Superintendent, I’ve expanded advisory councils to include inaugurating teacher and student advisory councils to hear directly from two of our most important stakeholders. Additionally, we have begun a multi-year reorganizational effort that seeks to achieve greater organizational effectiveness and efficiency by ensuring optimal school improvement support. Specifically, we have added Assistant Superintendents for Elementary, Middle, and High Schools, who are experienced and successful former school principals, for purposes of achieving a concentrated focus on providing continuous instructional leadership and school improvement support. 

We have punctuated our commitment to youth mental health and positive school culture and climate. Specifically, we secured additional staff within our Student Support Division to ensure more focused and seamless support at the school level with high impact initiatives such as the implementation of Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) which is an evidence-based multi-tiered framework to improve and integrate all of the data, systems, and practice affecting academic and behavioral student outcomes daily. Also, we have trained over 1000 individuals from our school district and within Rockdale County on Youth Mental Health First Aid (YMHFA), and I have personally communicated my expectations that all RCPS employees receive YMHFA training.

A foundational commitment within our district’s vision is to be a world-class learning community where all students graduate college and career ready. To that end, we have accelerated efforts to afford our students comprehensive advisement support designed to enable them to achieve their postsecondary aspirations. Such support includes the addition of PreACT as a complement to PSAT which are tools designed to inform advisement. We’ve also increased our dual enrollment institutional providers and retained our partnership with the University of Georgia’s Georgia College Advising Corps to ensure the continuity of the provision of advisement services to our high schools.

Most significantly, we’ve partnered with Georgia Military College (GMC) and Executive Vice President Brigadier General Curt Rauhut to not only expand our dual enrollment institutional partnerships but also to facilitate a collegiate presence right here in Rockdale County on the main campus of the current Rockdale County Public Schools Central Office Complex. During the last year, I’ve been in constant communication and collaboration with GMC on the prospect of bringing GMC to Rockdale County. As Superintendent, my main objective is to afford our students an accessible and seamless postsecondary education opportunity. Additionally, Rockdale County and the surrounding region could benefit from such a strategically located collegiate presence. I commend the Rockdale County Board of Education for their unwavering support of this initiative to bring a viable collegiate presence to the students and citizens of Rockdale County and beyond.

While we have much more work to accomplish, we have already begun to see some improvement. In the fall, we formally received our 2019 College and Career Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) Accountability Data which showed Rockdale County Public Schools’ first aggregate increase in its CCRPI Score in nearly four years. Additionally, we saw net gains in content mastery for the first time in several years, and our middle schools saw significant increases in achievement and progress which resulted in our middle schools exceeding the state performance by more than six points. Our Readiness scores increased at the elementary, middle, and high school levels as measured by the CCRPI which included a significant increase at our high schools in our CTAE pathway completion rate. Lastly, we saw an increase in our Four-Year Cohort Graduation Rate from the previous year.

What I am confident in is that our best days are ahead of us, and with the continued support of the Rockdale County Board of Education and our community, we will most definitely achieve world-class results for our district’s students!  

Dr. Terry O. Oatts
Superintendent, Rockdale County Public Schools