District maintains C grade but drops in ranking points
The Putnam County School District remains a C district but is only three points away from improving to a B, according to 2019 grades the state Department of Education released Thursday.
Five district schools made improvements to their state grades in 2019, while four schools saw drops in grades. The district ranks 62nd in the state after coming in 58th last year.
“We are definitely going to achieve our goals, and we have to do it one year at a time,” Superintendent Rick Surrency said. “We realize it is a long process. … We are doing it little by little and really trying to build that sustainability.”
Melrose Elementary lifted its state grade from a C to a B, becoming the only B school in the district. Kelley Smith and Browning-Pearce Elementary schools improved from a D to a C. Putnam Virtual Franchise improved from an F to a C.
Moseley Elementary School also improved from a D to a C, eliciting celebration throughout the school district due to how far the school has come. Moseley’s C grade is the first C the school has received since 2009 and comes only two years after receiving its second F in three years.
“They are a model school for our district,” Surrency said. “Those students have done some things that are truly remarkable. They are doing some practices as far as reading and math that is beyond what we expected.”
Surrency said a crucial piece to Moseley’s turnaround has been a culture change implemented by principal Sarajean McDaniel, who took over leadership at the school in the 2017-2018 school year.
“The love and the passion and the effort that we have seen from our teachers and our students absolutely matches that of a passing score for a school,” McDaniel said. “They have put in so much time and effort. I am so glad that their efforts have turned into a grade that we can all be proud of.”
McDaniel and assistant principal Tony Benford said positive relationships throughout the school and community have played a large role in its success. Through relationships and new programs, staff and students have become more empowered and it has so far paid off greatly.
“Everyone has a hand in this who have supported us, even those who have been rooting for Moseley who are on the outside looking in,” Benford said. “We believe we had the entire town rooting for us.”
Moseley’s success is a highlight of this year’s grades because it is one of the last of the district’s traditional public schools to exit state turnaround status, the district said in a statement.
“For the first time in almost a decade, the Putnam County School District does not have any traditional public schools implementing a state turnaround plan,” the school district said. “Schools exit turnaround status once they improve to a C or higher.”
“To get all of our schools off of that list is an amazing accomplishment for all of our schools,” Surrency said. “That is very beneficial for our district because now we are focusing on continuing improvement and sustaining some of the practices that we have in place that have helped our schools.”
Among the four schools with grades that dropped, three dropped to a D or an F, though the number of schools with failing grades dropped from five in 2017-2018 to three in 2018-2019.
The district said it was disappointed in the drops in letter grades, but it is has taken steps to reverse the trends.
“There will be additional monetary incentives to attract talented teachers and new wraparound services for students and families,” the district said in a statement. “We understand the needs of students in these buildings and are working to provide them with a better educational experience.”
Putnam EDGE High School dropped from a C to an F, becoming the district’s only F school.
EDGE Principal Emmanuel Swift said the school has strategies in place to address its failing grade, with the highest focus on bringing in staff members who can turn around the school’s culture.
“We are restaffing the building and getting people in the positions where they could provide the support for our students,” he said. “We are going to do whatever we have to do to recruit and retain high-quality instructors.”
With numerous schools improving to a C grade and others maintaining Cs, Surrency said the district has plans to keep momentum building for these schools.
One practice will be to use funds from a turnaround school supplemental services allocation bill, which will benefit seven schools in the district. The funds are intended to improve the academic performance of students and include wraparound services for families and children at each school, the district said.
“We will continue to get better because we have established some long-term practices that will continue to move our district forward,” Surrency said.