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Glynn County Schools sees jumps, drops in CCRPI scores
 lmcdonald  / 

Glynn County Schools outperformed state averages in the recently released 2017 College and Career Ready Performance Index report.

The school system’s overall score increased to 77.7, up from 76.9 in 2016. Some schools improved, while others fared worse than in 2016.

Virgil Cole, Glynn County Schools superintendent, said in a press release this week the school system is proud of the improvements on CCRPI, but he said there is still work to be done.

“We’ve put a lot of hard work and effort into improving our scores,” Cole said. “As we look toward the future and revising our strategic plan, we will make sure our focus is on providing the right supports and structures to continue to build on our strengths and find opportunities where we can improve as we strive to be a world-class system that is one of the best in our state.”

The College and Career Ready Performance Index, or CCRPI, is Georgia’s statewide accountability system, implemented in 2012 to replace No Child Left Behind’s Adequate Yearly Progress measurement. The score measures schools and school districts on a 100-point scale based on multiple indicators of performance.

Nine schools in Glynn County improved CCRPI scores this year. Seven schools saw their scores drop.

The CCRPI scores for elementary schools in Glynn County rose slightly to 73.6, compared to 73.5 in 2016. Middle schools recorded a CCRPI score of 75.9, down from 77 last year.

The scores for high schools increased to 80.5, up from the previous CCRPI score of 76.5.

“We are still reviewing the data for our schools and digging into the results to see any lessons learned and areas for improvement,” said Valerie Whitehead, the school system’s executive director of strategy and innovation.

Both high schools had higher scores this year. Brunswick High scored 77.4, and Glynn Academy scored 86.

Oglethorpe Point Elementary had the highest score in the county, with a 97.5.

Out of the 99 elementary schools in the First District Regional Education Service Agency, or RESA, which includes southeast Georgia, Oglethorpe Point had the highest score for schools with the same grade cluster.

St. Simons Elementary was the highest scoring school for Title 1 schools in the county, although its CCRPI score decreased from 97.9 in 2016 to 92.1 this year. St. Simons Elementary was also in the top 10 of highest-scoring schools within First District RESA.

“Though they dropped a few points from last year, as a Title 1 school, St. Simons still showed strong results,” Whitehead said. “In the area of economically disadvantaged students, they earned all points possible in academic achievement for this subgroup.”

Golden Isles Elementary saw a significant increase in its score, going from a 68.8 last year to 83.9 this year.

Altama Elementary also increased its score, which has incrementally improved from 67.6 last year to a CCRPI score of 70 this year. That is nearly a 10-point increase from 2015.

“Their improvements are a result of content mastery and the academic growth of their students,” Whitehead said. “They have worked steadily over the last couple of years with improving the school climate and outcome for students, and we are seeing evidence of their work,” Whitehead said.

Several schools had scores below the passing mark. Burroughs-Molette Elementary scored a 46.9, Glyndale Elementary scored a 69.5 and Goodyear Elementary scored a 46.9.

Georgia saw CCRPI improvements across the board, in elementary, middle and high schools.

The overall state score is 75, an increase from 73.6 in 2016.

“These results point to the continued improvement taking place within Georgia’s public schools,” said Richard Woods, state school superintendent, in a press release. “I have seen firsthand the efforts Georgia’s educators — particularly Georgia’s classroom teachers — have made to increase the opportunities our students receive, and I could not be more pleased to see increases across so many indicators of academic achievement, from CCRPI to the ACT to the Georgia Milestones assessments.”

As part of Georgia’s state plan for the Every Student Succeeds Act, which was submitted to the U.S. Department of Education on Sept. 18, Superintendent Woods has proposed changes to the CCRPI calculation. If approved, the new calculation will apply to the 2018 CCRPI.

“Looking forward, there has been a comprehensive revision of the CCRPI and currently, we are operating on what we anticipate to be the final draft of the redesign of the CCRPI,” Whitehead said. “With the lowest performing schools, we remain focused on increasing literacy and academic growth for all of our students, working with schools on professional learning and personnel supports, and addressing our struggling areas.”

Potential football championship has Frederica buzzing
 bhughes  / 

Frederica Academy seniors Piper O’Quinn and Joe Levitan were in the seventh grade when the Knights made an improbable run to the GISA Class A state championship in 2012, the first year Frederica was eligible to win a state title in football.

“I think at that point, I didn’t really understand how incredible it was,” O’Quinn said. “It was just so exciting. Ever since then, it’s made us really excited and hopeful for another one.”

The Knights are one step away from playing for another state title, this time in GISA’s largest classification. Frederica (7-3) hosts Valwood School (8-3) in a GISA Class 3A state semifinal on Friday at the school on St. Simons Island.

Levitan said the championship game in 2012 had an electric atmosphere. That game, like Friday’s semifinal, was held on Frederica’s home field. Winning a title in the Knights’ first year of eligibility was surreal, Levitan said, but Friday’s game will be the first time since that championship Frederica has made a deep run in the playoffs. The Knights hadn’t made it past the quarterfinals until last week’s 51-14 win over The Heritage School.

“We’ve never been this far in our high school careers so it’s a pretty exciting time,” Levitan said.

Since the Frederica football team first started playing games in 2011, the sport has become an integral part of the school experience. Levitan said he usually grabs something to eat with his friends before a game and then heads over to the school to cheer the Knights on from the student section.

O’Quinn, who was crowned homecoming queen this season, can be found on the sidelines on game day with the rest of the cheerleading squad.

“It’s really great to be out there supporting all of our guys,” O’Quinn said. “We know what it was like not to have it. It’s so great because our whole community comes together.”

If Frederica wins on Friday, the Knights would face either Gatewood or Trinity Christian-Sharpsburg in the championship game Nov. 17 at Mercer University in Macon. 

O’Quinn will be there as a cheerleader, and Levitan is making plans to be in the stands.

“We’re getting a student bus to go — a spirit bus,” Levitan said.

Like their classmates on the football team, O’Quinn and Levitan also know what its like to compete for Frederica. O’Quinn was on the girls soccer team that made it into the second round of the playoffs last season. She even had a hat trick in the first round playoff win.

Levitan is a member of the Frederica boys soccer and the golf team, which has won 10 straight GISA state championships. Both said the athletes at Frederica are very supportive of each other. It’s not a surprise to see football players at a soccer or baseball game, and vice-versa.

“Those athletes know and understand what it feels like to be out there, and they’re happy to come watch you,” O’Quinn said.

For Levitan, the school adding another football championship to go with the dozens of championship trophies already at home outside the Frederica gym would be a big boost for the school.

“It would be awesome (to win another football championship),” Levitan said. “The football team has worked so hard and football is such a big sport in our community. Having that success would help the school a lot.”

CCGA basketball players continue to kneel during national anthem
 lmcdonald  / 

College of Coastal Georgia basketball players continued their protest Wednesday by kneeling during the national anthem.

Several women’s basketball players kneeled during the anthem, and the entire men’s team on the court kneeled before their game.

Both teams played Middle Georgia State College at home Wednesday night.

The teams first kneeled during the national anthem before a game Nov. 1. The players have said they are kneeling to protest racial inequality and police brutality in America.

“We are protesting the inequality in America,” said Brandon Martin, a senior player on the men’s team during an open forum discussion hosted by the college Tuesday.

Their decision to kneel has led to criticism on social media and at the two open forum discussions hosted by the college since the Nov. 1 game.

Luis Haza, a former College of Coastal Georgia Foundation board of trustee member, resigned on Monday in response to the protest.

“In light of the recent decision by the leadership of the College of Coastal Georgia, to allow our National Anthem to be inappropriately used as a vehicle for protest, I hereby resign from the Board of Trustees,” Haza wrote in an email Monday to Meg Amstutz, interim president at CCGA, and Kevin Salaway, vice president of advancement at CCGA.

Amstutz emailed board of trustees members later Monday to share a message sent to all college presidents in the University System of Georgia in October, soon after cheerleaders at Kennesaw State University began to kneel during the anthem.

Kimberly Ballard-Washington, interim vice chancellor for legal affairs for the USG Board of Regents, said in the email that the students are protected by their First Amendment rights, as long as the protest is not disruptive.

“Our student athletes do not relinquish their First Amendment rights by consenting to participate in collegiate athletics or activities,” Ballard-Washington wrote.

During the national anthem before the men’s game, all players on the court kneeled. The coaches did not kneel. Many players kept their hands over their hearts.

All players on the visiting team stood during the anthem, across the court from the CCGA players.

A few people left the gym immediately after the anthem.

Further changes sought for coal ash plan

Changes are ahead for coal ash pond dewatering at Plant McManus, but a Tuesday night meeting showed those changes are not yet thorough enough to meet the expectations of local environmental advocates and legislators.

Jeff Larson, manager of the wastewater regulatory program for the state Environmental Protection Division’s Watershed Protection Branch, outlined at the event at Brunswick High School the draft changes to McManus’ “pollution permit,” which would govern testing and handling of coal ash and the dewatering process going forward.

He said essentially that language in the permit would change Georgia Power’s duties from managing a coal ash pond to managing the disposal of coal ash, effectively the last regulations needed at the site since the remaining coal ash is to be excavated and removed.

Further, the updated coal ash dewatering plan Georgia Power would have to submit to EPD would have increased testing of the treated water expelled into Burnett Creek, along with increased testing of the water both upstream and downstream of the outfall pipe.

At present, the creek is tested once a month and the expelled treated water — effluent — twice a month. That would increase to twice a month for the creek and every week for the effluent.

“Under the current design configuration and operation of this system, EPD has evaluated the submitted data that’s coming in, and the data indicates there is no reasonable potential to violate water quality standards,” Larson said.

Several environmental advocates spoke regarding the pending regulations, including Altamaha Riverkeeper Jen Hilburn. Hilburn began by congratulating Georgia Power on working to close its coal ash ponds, with the hope that ash gets excavated and placed into lined and capped facilities away from waterways.

“The newer plan is a lot better than we were seeing before, and as was mentioned, we’ll be looking at testing four times a month, versus twice a month, so we’re excited about that,” Hilburn said. “That’s a move forward. But, we still have some pretty serious concerns. One of those concerns is we really don’t have any exceedance limits. So, yeah, what happens if we find high amounts of arsenic?”

Southern Environmental Law Center attorney Chris Bowers also spoke at the meeting, mentioning arsenic in particular, and how evidence of it in the groundwater near coal ash ponds plummeted once the coal ash was excavated.

“There is nothing in the plan, and there will be nothing in the (pollution) permit that I am aware of — I hope to change that — to have actual limits, so they say, ‘OK, we hit a certain amount of arsenic. Now’s a time to stop and review our treatment systems,’” Hilburn said.

The EPD has yet to finalize its draft permit — hearings like the one Tuesday night are part of that process.

Rainwater and Hurricane Irma-induced marsh flooding inundated the coal ash pond and delayed the dewatering at McManus. Testing and investigations by Georgia Power, which were overseen by EPD, noted no coal ash pollution outside the pond side or off the plant property as a result of the hurricane.