The Barrow County Board of Education was selected by the Georgia School Boards Association (GSBA) for the Leading Edge Award for the third year in a row. This year, BCSS received the recognition in the Culture, Climate & Organizational Efficacy category for developing "safe, orderly, supportive learning environments built on respect and encouragement where all individuals believe they can make a positive difference."
The nomination for the GSBA Leading Edge Award highlighted our Graduation Specialist program and how it helps keep students on the Grad Track. Our Graduation Specialists lead the collaborative Grad Track program to help ensure students at risk of not graduating are guided back to a diploma.
Funded by the Federal CARES Act III Grant, the three Graduation Specialist roles were added to the BCSS team during the 2021-2022 school year. District Administration’s goal was to improve graduation rates within each high school, a challenge especially after COVID-19.
To achieve that goal, the Graduation Specialists work with teachers, counselors, social workers, and school administrations to create and maintain supportive and encouraging learning environments to make a positive difference for students who are at risk of not graduating high school and/or who are not on track for an on-time graduation with their cohort. From there, they develop a support plan and interventions for those students and monitor grades, attendance, behavior, and progress. They work with students on individual graduation and achievement plans and connect them with mentors and community organizations to help. Through the work of Graduation Specialists, students get education and career plans to guide them to meet academic and graduation goals.
GRAD TRACK STUDENT NUMBERS
During their first year, our Graduation Specialists -- Alyson Cramer, Andy Dean and Amber Hagy -- worked with more than 300 students and helped guide them to graduation. During the 2023-2024 school year, the team is working with a total of 343 students.
- Apalachee High School: 114
- Barrow Arts & Sciences Academy: 84
- Winder-Barrow High School: 105
- Horizon Program: 40
The Graduation Rate for BCSS for the 2022-2023 school year reached a record high for our district for all three high schools. Our Grad Track Students are a part of this number. Their families share what this means best. “My daughter is now on track to graduate with her high school diploma in May. We have watched her grow from a girl with no hope for her future, to a young lady who wants to be a social worker and help kids work through their trauma. I can attest that she wouldn’t believe in herself as much as she does today without Mr. Dean. She would not currently be in dual-enrollment and looking forward to walking across that stage in May.”
Along with mentors, the program brings together teachers, counselors, and student ambassadors to offer encouragement and support. This collaboration is a critical key to the success of the student.
The Graduation Specialists say, “We have become familiar faces to the staff and a trusted resource to the students and their families at our respective high schools. This has resulted in more faculty and staff approaching us with students who are not on our caseload who may need short-term support or may become part of our caseload.”
The student ambassadors, called BASA Buddies at the Barrow Arts and Sciences Academy, serve as supportive peers to students on the Grad Track and team together to help welcome and acclimate younger students to high school. They visit our elementary schools to read to the students and talk with them about what it’s like to be in high school. They also visited middle school during 8th grade orientation to share what to expect for the 9th grade year. The Graduation Specialists and student ambassadors even helped host pep rallies and tours for the rising freshmen to show the spirit of the school and welcome the younger students to high school.
Activities of Student Ambassadors include:
- Seniors Mentoring Freshmen
- Relationship Building & Peer Mentoring
- Games and Celebrations
- Help with Organization, Communication and Respect
- Community Service Opportunities such as helping with field day and Special Olympics, etc.
School administration, teachers, counselors identified which upperclassmen would be best to serve as student ambassadors based off their grades, extracurriculars, and personalities. Being ambassadors also helps the volunteering students grow their leadership skills.
- Apalachee High School: 22 Seniors
- Barrow Arts & Sciences Academy: 19 Seniors, 19 Freshmen – total 38
- Winder-Barrow High School: 24 seniors, 17 Freshman – total 41
The Grad Track program wouldn’t be the success it is today without the positive cooperation and support of all our Barrow County School System teams, led by the Graduation Specialists. From the district office to the student ambassadors, each person understands the importance and fulfillment of being on the Grad Track.
About Leading Edge
The GSBA Leading Edge Award highlights school districts that are leading the way in ensuring students are competitive in an ever-changing global market. The Barrow County School Board will be recognized during the Georgia School Boards Association Annual Conference on December 1, 2023.