Butts County Superintendent Dr. Todd Simpson had some good news for the Board of Education at their Nov. 10 meeting — Jackson High School’s 2020 graduation rate was 87.76%, the highest graduation rate since at least 2012, and almost 4 percentage points higher than the state rate. In terms of the number of students who graduated, out of a class size of 237 students, 208 of them received a diploma.
“The graduation rate as it continues to climb is a team effort, all the way from high school on down to elementary school,” Simpson said. “It is a proud moment. As you look back over time, just eight years ago the graduation rate was 67.3%. We have every intention of keeping it going up.”
The Georgia Department of Education released graduation rates for school systems and for the state overall last week. The state’s graduation rate increased again in 2020, rising to 83.8% – an all-time high since the state began using the adjusted cohort calculation now required by federal law, and up from 82% in 2019. Georgia’s graduation rate has increased by 14.1 percentage points since 2012, with steady increases each year.
Butts County has increased its graduation rate by 20.46 points during the same time period.
Simpson said after the meeting that the school system is proud of the progress that has been made increasing the percentage of students completing high school, and believes the $3.9 million literacy grant the school system received in May will aid with continuing to grow the graduation rate through improved reading and comprehension level in the early grades.
The school system was awarded a $3,917,325 L4GA (Literacy for Learning, Living and Leading in Georgia) grant to support literacy in the community for the next five years. Plans for the grant, which equals $783,465 a year for five years, include a book a month for children ages birth to 5 years, providing every teacher with a classroom library, and developing a library on wheels — the BCSS Express — to take books and technology out into the county.
“High school readiness is certainly an important factor in raising the graduation rate,” Simpson said. “Improving literacy skills is critical to preparing students for success in high school and post-secondary courses.”
He added that his staff and teachers also believe it it important to prepare students for the transitions they face as they move from elementary school to middle school and on to high school, and finally from high school to college or career.
“We are really focusing on increasing exposure to the opportunities that are available to our students in the area,” Simpson said. “We want to encourage students and parents to begin evaluating those opportunities earlier so that they are prepared to pursue programs and related coursework that matches their interest and/or skill set.
“Finally, we think it is important for students to become involved with extra-curricular or co-curricular programs. Students who are active members of their school community tend to graduate and demonstrate high levels of achievement in the classroom.”
Whitney Farmer was named the 2020 Jackson High School Homecoming Queen Friday night. Gavin Glass was named the Homecoming King, Chelsey Gotel was named the Homecoming Princess, and Trey Hawley was named the Homecoming Prince.
Pomp and circumstance surrounded the halftime event, as each class representative was escorted through an archway of swords provided by the Jackson High NJROTC Unit, as the Jackson High Red Regiment band played.
The class representatives were:
♦ Aleea Nail
♦ Sheriyah Roberts
♦ Mariah Jester
♦ Lia Watts
♦ Braelyn Mayfield
♦ Krupa Patel
♦ Carson Biles
♦ Jay Cosby
♦ Gavin Glass
♦ Trey Hawley
♦ Xavier Moore
♦ Tommy Pettus
♦ Jaylan Roberts
♦ Lauren Boling
♦ Daylen Eison
♦ Whitney Farmer
♦ Chelsey Gotel
♦ Emily Hyson
♦ Lara Maddox
♦ Ellie Mercer
Once the contract details are worked out, it is expected that Brad Johnson will become the new Butts County manager.
After having discussed the final four contenders for the position — Johnson, Kelvin Lewis, Michael Nagy and Jeffery Nix — in executive session at their meeting on Nov. 9, the Butts County Board of Commissioners came back out into open session and county attorney Ben Vaughn gave a summary of issues discussed.
“The board discussed several personnel issues, one of which included selecting a finalist for the county manager position, which is Mr. Brad Johnson,” Vaughn stated. “That selection is subject to the current county manager, Mr. (Steve) Layson, finalizing the details for the contract with Mr. Johnson.”
Layson said after the meeting that once the contract is finalized, the BOC will probably hold a called meeting to vote on hiring Johnson.
Butts County began advertising for a new county manager in July after Layson, who has been in charge since October 2017, announced his plan to retire at the end of 2020. Deputy County Manager Michael Brewer said the county received 12 applications for the county manager position and winnowed the candidates down to the final four.
Johnson is a Butts County resident and is already familiar with the county government, having served as Butts County Fire Chief/Emergency Service Director from 1988-2003.
Johnson also served as the Henry County Fire Department Deputy Fire Chief from 1988-2017, and in 2017 was named the Henry County Deputy County Manager, the position he is currently serving in.