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BOE appoints new chair: March referendum allows funds to be used for technology
CN5H Screen Shot 2015 01 28 at 11.51.53 AM
BOE Board Chair Will Wade

The Dawson County School Board has appointed a longtime member as chair for the 2015-16 school year.

Will Wade has served on the board as an at-large member since 2004. This will be his third appointment as chair.

I always consider it a great challenge and opportunity, Wade said Friday.

Top goals for the chair include: implementing the new Georgia Milestones and increasing the use of technology for instruction.

These goals will be great catalysts for all our schools to improve CCRPI scores, Wade said. I have a personal goal that they will be able to be above a score of 93 in the next few years. Additionally, these goals should help yield an improved graduation rate to well above 90 percent.

I believe our school system can improve from being in the top 35 percent in the state to the top 10 percent over the next few years.

With the economy slowly improving and tax collections increasing, Wade was asked if the school board might consider a millage rate rollback. Two years ago, under then Superintendent Keith Porter, the millage rate was increased.

I believe that a rollback is very possible, but with so many funding variables unknown, it is too early to make that determination, Wade said. During the economic downturn, our community saw a reduction of over 40 percent of our tax digest, one of the worst in the state. We have also seen major austerity cuts from the state due to the economic downturn.

Our board will be reviewing the budget and considering all options. I have made it known to our superintendent (Damon

Gibbs) and our board that we need to consider an ending fund balance of 10 - 12 percent versus the current ending fund balance of 15 percent.

When asked about some Dawson County students being ill-prepared for colleges like the University of Georgia and Georgia Tech, Wade said our students are better prepared for college than when he graduated.

Its my belief that kids need to understand that education is commitment and that the hard work is just beginning in late middle school and high school, he said. The college experience is about becoming a versatile learner while also understanding the required time commitment. Our kids are as capable as any; they just need to believe it.

Teachers, parents, and multiple studies have shown that class size is the biggest determining factor to students success.

Our focus for next year is to reduce the class size at the high school, Wade said. We have made improvements

in this area this year at the elementary and middle school level.

Wade believes technology will change the delivery of education at a fierce pace.

These unknown technology advancements may be able to make larger class sizes possible in certain types of classes while at the same time, make smaller class sizes achievable in early learning class offerings, he said. It will be about balancing resources while also embracing varied instructional settings.

Regarding outdated or missing textbooks for classrooms, Wade said the board will be looking at options for next year.

If the ESPLOST referendum passes in March, we plan to utilize a portion of those funds to purchase electronic media, including text books, he said. This is where all education learning resources are going, and we will work to meet this demand so as to provide the best options for our students.

New to this years ESPLOST referendum is the ability of school boards to purchase electronic media with these funds.

In building the new referendum, we worked closely with the school board attorneys to ensure that we stayed within the law as it has changed since the last referendum, Gibbs said. We cant purchase classroom supplies or other expendable materials. We were able to add electronic media to the new referendum which includes e-books.

Technology has been a part of Will Wades school experience for years.

Wades parents, Roy and Patti were both educators in the Dawson County school system. With help from the community, the pair built the first computer lab in Dawson County.

My dad saw that computers would revolutionize the classroom environment and it was an inspiration to me, he said.

Wades wife of 14 years, Jennifer, is currently Teacher of the Year in Lumpkin County. The couple has a a 15-month-old

daughter, Jenna.

I know our daughter has inspired my wife and I to do even more to improve educational outcomes for the schools and communities we serve, Wade said.