It was a special night for Dawson County Schools and its supporters Dec. 10 as several elementary schools received awards from the Georgia Association of Elementary School Principals for outstanding programs and patrons during the December board of education meeting.
Each year the GAESP presents the School Bell Award to no more than 10 schools in the state to recognize outstanding programs in the area of curriculum and organizational leadership. Both Black’s Mill and Riverview elementary received a School Bell Award for its programs.
Black’s Mill Robotics Clubs
Black’s Mill received the award for the Robotics Club, which was created to encourage and motivate critical thinking and teamwork through the use of Lego models, coding and programing.
The robotics club for third through fifth graders and the advanced robotics club for fourth and fifth graders meet each Monday from 3:10 to 4:30 p.m. in the school’s media center.
Students work in small groups to learn mechanics and coding skills to build robots that work on real life problems.
“The feedback that we have received from our students, parents and staff has all been extremely positive and encouraging,” BMES principal Cindy Kinney said. “Students are engaged. They’re excited about coming to school especially on Monday mornings which is good. You can hear them as they enter the school talking about what they’re going to do in robotics club that afternoon.”
The club relies on fundraisers, donations and grants to offer engaging educational experiences.
Through a Read-A-Thon fundraiser, the program raised $1,500. BDT Manufacturing in Dawsonville also provided $1,500. The school also received a Sony Bright Ideas grant for $1,478.
The money raised was able to fund the program and purchase 12 robotics kits for the club as well as five Lego Brainstorm kits for the advanced club that will help prepare students going into the middle school program.
“It’s more than just learning about robotics and coding and programing,” Kinney said. “It’s learning about real life and working together for the future, not just the here and now.”
Riverview PALS Program
Riverview’s mentoring program was also awarded a School Bell Award Dec. 10.
When the school first opened, a mentoring program was
strong amongst elementary students, however as the schools and program grew,
more mentors focused on middle school students.
With fewer volunteers, RvES Principal Julia Mashburn saw an opportunity four years ago to implement PALS, a mentoring program that pairs students with a “pal.”
Students with attendance difficulty and discipline referrals are paired with an adult in the school who serves as their mentor in the hopes they will make a connection that will motivate the students to come to school.
“It’s not necessarily prescribed what they do. It’s just taking time with the students so that every child not only has their homeroom teacher that they connect with – but there is somebody else in the building that they can go to,” Mashburn said.
Since the program began, school officials have seen an increase in attendance and a decrease in discipline referrals of children enrolled in the program. The program currently serves 40 students.
Educational Patron Awards
Three community members were also honored as recipients of the 2018 GAESP Educational Patron Award.
Each of the GAESP districts may select an outstanding educational supporter to receive the award and to become a finalist for the Georgia Distinguished Educational Patron Award.
School Resource Officer Sgt. Steven Swofford was recognized for his service to Black’s Mill Elementary where he has served as an SRO for eight years.
Swofford has 21 years of experience in law enforcement, with 16 of those as an SRO. He was a pilot presenter for the crime prevention program CHAMPS that he teaches to fifth graders. He participates in safety talks and drills with students from fire and tornado drills to cyber bullying and social media safety.
“He is a very valued member of our Black’s Mill family and we are happy to have him full time at Black’s Mill,” Kinney said.
Brian Bliss of Liberty Mutual Insurance Company was recognized for his contributions to the school system by Riverview Elementary.
“It’s wonderful when you have community sponsors that can donate funds and help you raise money, but they’re extra special when they give so much of their time,” Mashburn said. “I think that’s the thing that stands out for us with Brian.”
Bliss has served on governance counsels for Riverview, Robinson Elementary and Dawson County High School. His knowledge of school system operations and his willingness to help and provide research to jumpstart initiatives at the school have been valuable to the school, Mashburn said.
Brooke Anderson, general manager of Etowah Water and Sewer Authority, was the third recipient of the Educational Patron Award for his contributions to Robinson Elementary.
Anderson has served on the governance counsel at Robinson and Dawson County Junior High School and as well as the system-wide governance counsel.
Through the Rotary Club, Anderson spearheaded a donation of large touch flat panel screens at every school media center. He personally installed the one at Robinson.
Anderson, along with his staff at EWSA, has helped manage the parent drop off line in the cold mornings.
He was also instrumental in the creation of the Day of Wonder for fifth grade students. The Day of Wonder, based on the lessons from the book Wonder, stresses to students the importance of being kind. During the Day of Wonder, all four fifth grade homerooms found service projects and went outside the school to serve the community. Anderson and his staff provided lunch and T-shirts for the students when they returned.
“He has a truly vested interest in the students and the community here in Dawson County,” said RES Principal Page Arnette. “I’m challenged by Brooke in a really great way. He celebrates with us when we’re successful. He really takes it to heart.”