John Jackson - Jefferson City Schools Superintendent Blog

Exposure to Excellence Promotes Excellence

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