John Jackson - Jefferson City Schools Superintendent Blog

Exposure to Excellence Promotes Excellence

Educational Achievement

The State Department of Education recently released the Georgia Student Achievement Scores (CCRPI) from this past school year. The Jefferson City School System did very well, registering the second highest overall scores in Georgia. At the conclusion of the previous year, Jefferson's scores were the highest in the state. Georgia public schools are required to give a large number of student achievement tests, a fact that regularly garners considerable criticism. Prior to 1980, no achievement tests were required whatsoever other than those associated with federal programs and college admission. What happened to bring about this change in direction?

Between 1983 - 1987, I served as principal of Jefferson High School. During the summers, I served as an on-campus administrator for the Georgia Governor's Honors Program. It was my responsibility to implement and monitor the contractual agreement between the State of Georgia and Valdosta State University. This provided me with a statewide perspective I would not have had otherwise.

The Georgia State Department of Education began its required achievement testing program in 1980. Prior to this, Georgia school systems wrote their own curriculum guides and all student tests were written locally. Considerable differences often existed regarding student academic preparation. This was subject to being the case even within the Governor's Honors Program, which was designed for the benefit of the most capable and talented students throughout the state.

The first state-required assessment instrument was named the Georgia Basic Skills Test. It measured rudimentary skills in reading and mathematics. The following set of events actually occurred at Jefferson High School. I believe that it serves as a good example of why the Georgia Basic Skills Test proved a springboard to a much more expansive assessment program. A student transferred to Jefferson High School from a location in middle Georgia. The student's report card displayed the grade of "B" in an advanced mathematics course. The teacher assigned to teach the same course at JHS was Jack Keen. Jack was soon convinced that an error had occurred in the transfer process. When the student's official transcript arrived by mail, it agreed with the report card. However, attached to the transcript were the student's Georgia Basic Skills Test results establishing that the student had twice failed the mathematics section of the test. Somehow, a student earning the grade of "B" in an advanced mathematics course being taught in a Georgia high school had been unable to pass a test designed to measure basic mathematics skills.

This year's state allocation for public education in Georgia is $9,637,739,075.00. Competition with other states hoping to recruit business and industry is a continuous process. A state or community claiming to offer a quality educational program is not sufficient. Verifiable and credible evidence is expected. In addition, the degree of student intrastate mobility increases annually. There must not be major gaps and expectations between one Georgia school system and another.

Maureen Downey, a writer for the AJC, addresses public education matters regularly. One of her most recent articles touches on this very important topic. It is attached below.

Article

Probable Predictions

I believe that predictions like the one below will be proven more right than wrong. Success will come easiest to those who have "the tools necessary to retool." The ability to reason, read/write/speak clearly and concisely, predict likely consequences and play the odds accordingly, etc., etc.

To put it another way, success will come easiest to those who are, and can remain, light on their feet.

To help with the difficult next steps facing our students, Jefferson City Schools has hired a College and Career Advisor. Please see my blog post from October 18th for more information about this resource or visit her website for help with this transition and to set up an appointment HERE.

Subject: Probable Predictions

  • A gasoline engine has 20,000 individual parts. An electrical motor has 20. Electric cars are sold with lifetime guarantees and are only repaired by dealers. It takes only 10 minutes to remove and replace an electric motor. Faulty electric motors are not repaired in the dealership but are sent to a regional repair shop that repairs them with robots. Your electric motor malfunction light goes on, so you drive up to what looks like a Jiffy-auto wash, and your car is towed through while you have a cup of coffee and out comes your car with a new electric motor!
  • Gas stations will go away. Parking meters will be replaced by meters that dispense electricity. Companies will install electrical recharging stations; in fact, they've already started. You can find them at select Dunkin Donuts locations.
  • Most (the smart) major auto manufacturers have already designated money to start building new plants that only build electric cars.
  • Coal industries will go away. Gasoline/oil companies will go away. Drilling for oil will stop. So say goodbye to OPEC!
  • Homes will produce and store more electrical energy during the day and then they use and will sell it back to the grid. The grid stores it and dispenses it to industries that are high electricity users. Has anybody seen the Tesla roof?
  • A baby of today will only see personal cars in museums.
  • The FUTURE is approaching faster than most of us can handle.
  • In 1998, Kodak had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Within just a few years, their business model disappeared and they went bankrupt. Who would have thought of that ever happening?
  • What happened to Kodak will happen in a lot of industries in the next 5-10 years and, most people don't see it coming.
  • Did you think in 1998 that 3 years later, you would never take pictures on film again? With today's smart phones, who even has a camera these days? Yet digital cameras were invented in 1975. The first ones only had 10,000 pixels, but followed Moore's law. So as with all exponential technologies, it was a disappointment for a time, before it became way superior and became mainstream in only a few short years. It will now happen again (but much faster) with Artificial Intelligence, health, autonomous and electric cars, education, 3D printing, agriculture and jobs.
  • Forget the book, "Future Shock", welcome to the 4th Industrial Revolution.
  • Software has disrupted and will continue to disrupt most traditional industries in the next 5-10 years.
  • UBER is just a software tool, they don't own any cars, and are now the biggest taxi company in the world! Ask any taxi driver if they saw that coming.
  • Airbnb is now the biggest hotel company in the world, although they don't own any properties. Ask Hilton Hotels if they saw that coming.
  • Artificial Intelligence: Computers become exponentially better in understanding the world. This year, a computer beat the best Go-player in the world, 10 years earlier than expected.
  • In the USA, young lawyers already don't get jobs. Because of IBM's Watson, you can get legal advice (so far for right now, the basic stuff) within seconds, with 90% accuracy compared with 70% accuracy when done by humans. So, if you study law, stop immediately. There will be 90% fewer lawyers in the future, (what a thought!) only omniscient specialists will remain.
  • Watson already helps nurses diagnosing cancer, its 4 times more accurate than human nurses.
  • Facebook now has a pattern recognition software that can recognize faces better than humans. In 2030, computers will become more intelligent than humans.
  • Autonomous cars: In 2018 the first self-driving cars are already here. In the next 2 years, the entire industry will start to be disrupted. You won't want to own a car anymore as you will call a car with your phone, it will show up at your location and drive you to your destination. You will not need to park it you will only pay for the driven distance and you can be productive while driving. The very young children of today will never get a driver's license and will never own a car.
  • This will change our cities, because we will need 90-95% fewer cars. We can transform former parking spaces into parks.
  • 1.2 million people die each year in car accidents worldwide including distracted or drunk driving. We now have one accident every 60,000 miles; with autonomous driving that will drop to 1 accident in 6 million miles. That will save a million lives plus worldwide each year.
  • Most traditional car companies will doubtless become bankrupt. Traditional car companies will try the evolutionary approach and just build a better car, while tech companies (Tesla, Apple, Google) will do the revolutionary approach and build a computer on wheels.
  • Look at what Volvo is doing right now; no more internal combustions engines in their vehicles starting this year with the 2019 models, using all electric or hybrid only, with the intent of phasing out hybrid models.
  • Many engineers from Volkswagen and Audi; are completely terrified of Tesla and so they should be. Look at all the companies offering all electric vehicles. That was unheard of, only a few years ago.
  • Insurance companies will have massive trouble because, without accidents, the costs will become cheaper. Their car insurance business model will disappear.
  • Real estate will change. Because if you can work while you commute, people will move farther away to live in a more beautiful or affordable neighborhood.
  • Electric cars will become mainstream about 2030. Cities will be less noisy because all new cars will run on electricity. Cities will have much cleaner air as well. (Can we start in Los Angeles, please?)
  • Electricity will become incredibly cheap and clean.
  • Solar production has been on an exponential curve for 30 years, but you can now see the burgeoning impact. And it’s just getting ramped up.
  • Fossil energy companies are desperately trying to limit access to the grid to prevent competition from home solar installations, but that simply cannot continue - technology will take care of that strategy.
  • Health: The Tricorder X price will be announced this year. There are companies who will build a medical device (called the "Tricorder" from Star Trek) that works with your phone, which takes your retina scan, your blood sample and you breath into it. It then analyses 54 bio-markers that will identify nearly any Disease. There are dozens of phone apps out there right now for health purposes.

WELCOME TO TOMORROW — it actually arrived a few years ago.

Introducing Emily Kianka

Only the very shortsighted could fail to recognize that the nature of work and the workplace has changed exponentially over the relatively recent past. This transition will not only continue, it will become more pronounced and will ratchet up to a faster pace. Projections regarding future job market demands are as plentiful as the leaves on a tree.

The Future of Jobs Report 2018 - World Economic Forum states, "The Fourth Industrial Revolution is interacting with other socio-economic and economic factors to create a perfect storm of business model change in all industries, resulting in major disruptions to labor markets. New categories of jobs will emerge, partly or wholly displacing others. The skill sets required in both old and new occupations will change in most industries and transform how and where people work." It is estimated that in some industries the most in-demand occupations of today did not exist 10 or even 5 years ago. One report estimates that 65% of children entering primary school today will ultimately end up working in jobs that do not yet exist.

Now comes the dilemma for education. How do schools prepare students for careers that will be increasingly fluid and consistently changing? I can easily envision the Jefferson students of today having the ability to access more information through an attachment to their key chain than what is presently available in all the libraries throughout the world combined.

This is a daunting challenge for any school system. The pace is too rapid, the amount of information too voluminous, and the possibilities regarding future career options too unpredictable for school districts to manage. In my opinion, among the most valuable skills and abilities a school system can bestow upon its students would be the tools necessary to retool. This has as much to do with awareness, mindset, and attitude as anything else. The necessary level of awareness and the associated degree of flexibility are attributes that must be built into a student's psyche, not tacked on. The universal and ongoing need for retraining and reeducating are, and will forevermore be, races with no finish line. The Jefferson City School System's primary objective has always been to Graduate Fully Functioning Adults. The system clearly understands and gladly accepts this responsibility, just as it has for the past 200 years.

With that said, I would like to now introduce you to Emily Kianka (soon to be Emily Bass), the Jefferson City School System's Academic and Career Plan Coordinator for grades 6 - 12. Emily graduated from the University of Virginia, where she attended on a track and field scholarship. She received her Masters Degree in Student Affairs and College Counseling from Monmouth University. Emily came to the Jefferson City School System from the University of Georgia where she served as an Academic Advisor - Terry College of Business/Master of Business and Technology.

At Jefferson, she will endeavor to insure that its graduates have the means, opportunity and preparation to succeed in post secondary education ranging from two to four year colleges, apprenticeships, certification programs, military, etc. Emily will promote the overall mission and vision of the Jefferson City School System to graduate fully functioning adults which embraces a culture of educational excellence and commitment to ensure all students are college, career and life ready.

Attached below is a brief video of Emily Kianka discussing a career exploration exercise being implemented through her program. She is in the process of developing a webpage that will be available through the system website. The site will include contact information and additional resources for parents and students.

The BioSteam Wetlands

You have probably driven over the Middle Oconee River Bridge on Highway 11 and looked out over the wetlands visible from the road. They remain spacious, natural and unscathed by development. In fact, so natural and unaltered the area looks somewhat out of place. How this came to pass is an interesting story.

Decades ago, a group known as the Jeffco Boys, LLC, purchased the property from a family that had relocated to another state. The reason for obtaining the land was to establish a premier duck hunting preserve. Their objective was accomplished in spades.

An earthen levee containing five locks was built separating a large section of the wetlands from the river. The locks were installed to allow control of the water level in the wetlands throughout the year. With the exception of the levee and its locks, the vast majority of the remaining acreage has been left untouched.

Over time, the amount of hunting waned. In December 2004, the Jeffco Boys entered into a perpetual Conservation Easement with the Oconee River Land Trust for the purpose of assuring that the property "will be retained forever predominantly in its natural, scenic, wetland, forested and open space condition and to prevent any use of the Property that will significantly impair or interfere with the conservation values or interests of the Property."

Pursuant to this agreement, the locks were removed allowing water to flow freely between the wetlands and the Middle Oconee River. The earthen levee remains, allowing walking access between the river and the wetlands.

On January 1, 2017, the Jeffco Boys graciously donated ownership of the entire 189.55 acre tract to the Jefferson City Board of Education. This act of generosity allows the Jefferson City School System the opportunity to incorporate this incredible space into its PreK - 12 instructional program. Through the utilization of a retired school bus, a mobile instructional laboratory (BioBus) has been created for instructional purposes.

Attached are pictures of the wetlands, the BioBus and several student activities at the location.

My Educational Philosophy

To a laughable extent, my studies included Latin and French. The meanings behind the phrases “Omnia mutantur; nihil interit” and “Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose” remain with me to this day. Simply stated, they both mean that everything changes and nothing changes.

Take hats for example. There have been round hats, square hats, three cornered hats, coon skin hats, beaver skin hats, hats made out of feathers, etc. The fundamental purpose of the hat has always been the same; protecting the head from the elements.

Education is no different. Changes come and changes go. There was a time when the involvement of state and federal government in public schools was negligible. This has drastically changed, and I’m not being critical of the fact. The link between education and a society’s ability compete economically is crucial.

Nevertheless, there must be a level of consistency at the foundation of any school or school system. The ability to to change while remaining fundamentally sound is crucial. In pedestrian terms, football formations change regularly; however, winning still rests on the ability to block and tackle.

Through a quirky set of circumstances, a principal’s job was handed to me at 25 years of age. I had the opportunity to attend meetings with Alton Crews, the long time Superintendent of Gwinnett County Schools. Dr. Crews was incredibly intelligent and he had a basic and straight forward philosophy on what most impacted student learning. I’ve followed it for 40+ years and here it is:

  1. You can not teach what you do not know.
  2. The presentation of the material must be organized in a logical sequence, building upon itself from simple to complex.
  3. The teacher, building administrator, superintendent, etc. must establish the agenda for what takes place in a classroom, school, system, etc. Uncertainty and confusion must not reign.
  4. The teacher, building administrator, superintendent, etc. must have a fundamental liking and respect for students. If they do not, the students will be the first to know.

All four of the aforementioned variables must be present. Three out of four will not work.

There you have it. Straightforward, understandable and free from all forms of gobbledegook. God Bless Alton Crews!

GO DRAGONS

Jefferson City Schools by the Numbers

Our Jefferson City School System students returned to class on 7/27/18. The enrollment numbers are:

Jefferson Elementary School - 901
Jefferson Academy - 888
Jefferson Middle School - 880
Jefferson High School - 1,126
Total System Enrollment - 3,795

The two largest grades are:
9th Grade - 313
5th Grade - 312

The two smallest grades are:
12th Grade - 252
Kindergarten - 253

Work at Memorial Stadium continues. The installation of the home bleachers has begun and should be completed in approximately ten days. Because work on the field house can now proceed regardless of the weather, progress has picked up considerably. The natural turf field is in place and the synthetic turf field will be completed in four to five weeks.

Upon completion, the Jefferson City School System's extra curricular venues will be among Georgia's best. The William Duncan Martin Performing Arts Center, STEAM Center; AFROTC Facility, 200 acre Natural Wetlands Learning Center, Agriculture and Livestock Center, Jefferson Arena and Jefferson Memorial Stadium provide our students with opportunities that are truly remarkable.

Speaking as someone who attended school during desegregation, the importance of extra curricular programs carries a special meaning for me. While school integration is mostly a thing of the past, American public school systems remain diverse institutions. Differences in ethnicity, religion, socioeconomic backgrounds, educational experiences, etc., are prevalent. I spent considerable time in Japan studying Japanese schools. The uniformity of the Japanese society compared to the diversity within the United States is pronounced.

I believe that herein lies the biggest benefit from extracurricular programs offered by our public schools. Yes, we can put students under the same roof, and this is a good and noble objective; however, it has its limits. It is when students come together as members of a marching band, track team, ROTC drill team, one act play, wrestling, baseball, football, volleyball teams, etc. that dynamics shift. Now success rests on teamwork, cooperation, unselfishness, practice, and the collective response to pressure, failure and success. In a society as diverse as ours, such contributions are huge.

The Jefferson Community is to be commended for its 200 year commitment to providing students with such a superb educational foundation!

Memorial Stadium Renovation

This entry is dedicated to the renovation of Memorial Stadium. I will begin with the soccer and practice football fields and work my way towards the swimming pool.

The soccer field bleachers have been installed and the gravel base needed for the synthetic turf field is down. Today, contractors began sodding the football practice field. We will be granted access in approximately four weeks. Lighting for these areas will be installed at the appropriate time.

The field house is a sizable facility and will serve football, boys and girls track/field and boys and girls soccer. It is anticipated that we will be cleared to use the facility prior the first home varsity football game on September 7th. Most of the roof has been installed and the brickwork is underway. Driveways and parking areas will be developed in later stages.

A considerable part of the total project is out of sight and, hopefully, soon to be out of mind. I refer to the underground drainage system that required enlarging, redirecting and a total replacement. It carries creek and runoff water around the field house and out of the back side of the stadium. This aspect of the project was significant. If it functions properly, multitudes of fans will come and go and never know it exists.

Regarding the home side, footings for the new section of bleachers located to the left of the press box were poured today. New bleachers will soon be installed in this section and the main seating area. The new press box will occupy the same space as the former.

Thanks to everyone for your continued interest and support of the Jefferson City Schools. GO DRAGONS!!!

2018-2019 School Year Almost Upon Us

The Jefferson City School System's 2018-2019 administrators meetings are underway. New teacher orientation is scheduled for July 20th, teacher pre-planning begins July 23rd and students report July 27th.

School system calendars have undergone a significant transition over time. When I grew up in Pittsylvania County, Virginia, the school year never began until after Labor Day. Georgia schools operated in much the same fashion. My answers as to what brought about the change are as follows:

  1. For centuries, tobacco ruled Pittsylvania County, Virginia. Most tobacco farms required that all hands be on deck until the crop was out of the field. The traditional September opening of the tobacco sales warehouses was cause for great celebration. There were high school and college Tobacco Bowl football games, harvest parades, Miss Tobacco Beauty Pageants and barbecues topped off by political speeches made from the back end of pickup trucks. The two crown jewels of these festivities were always the first day of school and the county fair.

    This world no longer exists. Much less tobacco is grown, no tobacco warehouses are in operation, no more Tobacco Bowl football games are played and the last Miss Tobacco Beauty Queen probably works for the Virginia Heart and Lung Association. While Northeast Georgia did not produce tobacco, its past is similar to Virginia's. Agriculture ruled the day and families generally worked on their farms throughout the summer. As things changed in Virginia, they likewise changed in Georgia.

  2. There are advantages to be gained by ending the first 90 day semester prior to Christmas holidays. Jefferson High School operates on a block schedule, and students in grades 9-12 receive new class schedules at the beginning of each semester. It is advantageous for both students and teachers if second semester schedules are balanced, validated, and printed prior to returning in January. Prior to the change in school calendars, the first semester ended approximately 10 days after returning from Christmas.
  3. An earlier starting time has impacted student vacations in ways that have been well received. Examples would include a fall break, a full week at Thanksgiving, a winter break and graduation on the third Friday in May. These offerings were not practical using the format of the prior calendar.
  4. Air conditioned buildings. No elaboration necessary.

Thanks to all of our Jefferson supporters. Stay tuned for an update on Memorial Stadium.

A Loss to the Dragon Family

On June 15th we lost Hope Meredith, a wonderful science teacher at Jefferson High School. Hope came to our system from Buford High School in July 2006. She was an outstanding chemistry teacher and a wonderful individual. We will miss Hope tremendously and will be forever grateful for the fact that she came our way.

Funeral services will be held at 2:00 P.M. on Wednesday, June 20th at the Galilee Christian Church. The family will receive friends from 12:00 - 2:00 P.M. at the Church prior to the service.

Baseball State Championship

Winning a Georgia High School Association State Championship is exciting and very tough to accomplish. Georgia is a big state, with many outstanding teams and talented student competitors. In such an environment, a school will gladly take a state title whenever, and wherever, it can manage to scratch one up.

Yesterday, the Dragon Baseball Team won the AAAA State Championship. To win out, they had to defeat a number of highly ranked opponents - two of which were ranked in the top 5 nationally. Jefferson was the underdog during much of the way. Winning a state championship under these circumstances makes one's head spin even faster.

Congratulations to the Jefferson High School baseball players (especially the seniors), Head Coach Tommy Knight and his fine staff of assistants. What a way to close out 2017 - 2018!!!

Speaking of closing out the year, the student achievement test results are steadily arriving from the Department of Education. Thus far, they appear to be as high, if not higher, than last year. The mathematics scores are especially impressive.

A HUGE THANK YOU TO ALL!!!

2018 Graduation

The 2018 Jefferson High School Graduation Ceremony will take place tomorrow evening at 8:00 p.m. in the Jefferson High School Arena. Doors will open at 6:00 p.m. A ticket will be required to gain admission.

First come, first serve on-campus parking will be available. Attendees may also park at the Jefferson Police Department, Jefferson Elementary School, Jefferson Academy, Jefferson Middle School and the Baseball/Softball Parking Lot. Shuttle buses will run every 5 - 10 minutes beginning at 5:30 p.m. and ending at 11 p.m.

The ceremony will be streamed live on the following link: http://www.esenetworks.com/live-events.aspx?id=126588

A live stream will also be shown in the William Duncan Martin Performing Arts Center. Doors will open to this facility at 7 p.m.

Other Activities of Note

BEST OF LUCK TO THE JEFFERSON HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL DRAGONS IN THE STATE CHAMPIONSHIP SERIES WITH CARTERSVILLE!!!

The WWll European Tour took place over spring vacation. During the summer, additional students will visit Scotland while others tour several of America's National Parks.

Graduation and Memorial Stadium

Hello friends,

First off, let us offer a hearty "CONGRATULATIONS" to our fine seniors. We are so very proud of you!! Enjoy the moment and everything it has to offer. Be careful, use good judgment and finish strong. Remember the words of that wise and scholarly American philosopher, Yogi Berra. "It ain't over till it's over."

We regret that we will not be graduating in Memorial Stadium. The primary reason for this is that there's nowhere to sit. The bleachers in the main home side seating section have been removed due to renovation. Thus, our graduation exercises will be in the Arena. Two years ago the Arena housed the graduation ceremony due to rain. Everything went fine.

While I'm on Memorial Stadium, let me briefly speak to the work taking place. The stadium was constructed almost 60 years ago in accordance with the building codes in effect at that time. As the system grew, the need for additional aisles, hand railings, handicap accommodations, seating capacity, etc. also grew. In order to bring certain components of the facility up to present day codes, the entire facility had to be brought up to today's codes. Also, a large underground pipe has existed running from Memorial Drive, underneath the visitors stands to the opposite end of the stadium. This pipe carries away creek and runoff water. The entire line had to be replaced with an even larger pipe because the old line was failing and sink holes were appearing.

Not many schools played boys and girls soccer when the stadium was constructed. Soccer has become quite popular and many of our students play the game. A 1983 field house that served primarily football and boys track and field, now serves football, boys and girls track and field, and boys and girls soccer. Thus, a larger field house along with the addition of soccer fields became necessary.

In conclusion, ideas, suggestions, revised policies, etc. regarding school security have sprung forward like a flower in bloom. There have even been hints that state and federal funding might be forthcoming. Thus, for a period of time we are going to wait and watch to see how this school security matter plays out. To whatever extent possible, we will continue upgrading security systems, modifying doors and building entrances and fine tuning emergency procedures. At this time, no action will be recommended on the adoption of a new policy.

Thanks to everyone for your interest and support.

200 Year Patch

Proposed Policy Regarding Arming JCS Employees

Welcome friends to my blog. My intentions are to use this capability to share with you updated system information in a timely fashion.

I am sure there is quite a bit of interest in the proposed weapons policy (attached). It deals with whether the school system should have the authority to arm selected personnel in response to recent school shootings in the United States. Adopting the policy would not, in and of itself, authorize any employee to be armed. It would make it possible for an employee to be legally armed in accordance with the enumerated stipulations should it seem advisable.

Decisions such as this are hard and anything but fun.

Proposed Weapons Policy