First, the system featured its strong commitment to serving special needs students. This commitment is reflected in an ambitious adaptive technology program and reverse inclusion program for the youngest students with special learning needs.
Thomas County was perhaps the first school system in Georgia to include adaptive technology for special needs students as a line item in an E-SPLOST program, providing funding to purchase technology specifically for special needs students.
Hand-In-Hand Primary School operates a reverse inclusion three-year old program for students with special needs. This program is the only one of its kind in South Georgia.
Second, the system featured unique CTAE programs including its automotive technology program and the award-winning broadcasting program.
Through a partnership with the Thomas County Chamber of Commerce, the audio, video, technology, and film program assists local businesses in the production of promotional videos. The broadcasting class also provides interns to each of the system’s schools. These interns assist in the production of in-house closed circuit television broadcasts at each school location.
The broadcasting program supported the efforts of the school system’s representative on the State Superintendent’s parent advisory committee to promote parental involvement through the production of a video that is posted on the system’s website.
Third, the system featured Bishop Hall Charter School, one of the state’s oldest charter schools. Bishop Hall serves students in grades 8-12 who desire a non-traditional approach to education or who have experienced difficulty in the traditional school setting.
A new E-SPLOST funded building completed in 2014 serves as the hub of Thomas County’s blended learning program which offers support for students who wish to complete high school taking on-line classes supported by evening tutorials.
In December 2014, Bishop Hall Charter School was awarded a $958,000 grant from the State of Georgia to implement its blended learning program. This grant has provided netbooks for all Bishop Hall students, new technology for teachers, an electronic library, and a host of on-line learning opportunities for students.
Fourth, the system featured its MERIT program. Maximizing Education to Realize Intellectual Transformation (MERIT) is a program designed to challenge gifted and high achieving students academically while preparing them for dual enrollment and advanced placement courses in high school.
Middle school MERIT students are served on five-member teams that include gifted certified teachers who teach Language arts, math, science, social studies, and Spanish. All Spanish teachers are high school certified, allowing students to begin earning high school foreign language credits as early as fifth grade.
Accelerated math, science, language arts, and foreign language classes allow many MERIT students to leave middle school with up to six high school credits, giving students the flexibility to complete multiple career pathways, earn a college associate’s degree while still in high school, or to begin college early through the “Move-On When Ready” Program if that is the student and parents’ desire.
The 2014-2015 Thomas County Central High School freshman class included 105 students who earned high school credits while they were in middle school; 82 of those students entered high school with two years of high school foreign language credit.
Williams concluded the presentation by highlighting new programs that are on the horizon for Thomas County Schools. “Our goal is to always strive for new heights and greater levels of success,” she said.
She announced the goal to achieve a 1:1 technology device to student ratio in the Thomas County School System for all students in grades 5 – 12 over the next three years.
She described a new partnership with the local mental health agency to offer counseling services from certified therapists to students in need of services. “This partnership will supplement the daily counseling services that our guidance department provides to all of our students,” she said.
She also highlighted the system’s partnership with Bainbridge State College which provides students the opportunity to receive an Associate’s Degree on the Thomas County Central High School campus. The system also provides transportation for students to attend and participate in the dual enrollment programs at Southern Regional Technical College.
The video presentation presented at Summer GAEL is available to view on YouTube by clicking the link below: