A crowd in excess of 200 citizens turned out on November 5, 2018, at Harper Elementary for the first of two meetings to hear information about the Thomasville City Schools Strategic Facilities Plan that is mandated by the Georgia Department of Education. Board of Education Chairman, Chris Rodd opened the meeting by telling the group that no decisions have been made and that the process will begin in January. Rodd expressed that he hopes participation is this strong as the board goes through the process going into 2020 and invited solutions through letters, emails, and calls in addition to welcoming presence at meetings that are open to the public. Dr. Reichert explained the current state of district expenditures, the different sources that provide funds for the district, and considerations like comparing ‘new construction’ or ‘modernization’ of existing buildings. Multiple speakers in the audience were allowed to express their concerns and opinions on the district’s use of facilities and structure of the schools. The second meeting will be on Tuesday, November 27, 2018 at the Thomasville HIgh School cafeteria
Three eighth graders received the Georgia REACH Scholarship at a signing ceremony on Monday, October 29, 2018 at 9:00 am in the MacIntyre Auditorium: Misprecious Thomas, Robert Foor, and Brekiya McCray.
MPMS Principal Dr. Tret Witherspoon opened the ceremony by comparing the “shining star” recipients to athletes who are regularly recognized at scholarship-signing ceremonies. Representative Darlene Taylor and Assistant Superintendent Dr. Daniel Oldham spoke to the audience of parents, teachers, and seventh graders who will be eligible for the scholarship next year.
Sponsors and their representatives from Thomas County Federal and Envision Credit Union were recognized to reinforce the theme, "Banking on Our Future." Each recipient was presented with the scholarship details by Superintendent Dr. Laine Reichert, followed by the parents of each recipient signing the scholarship documents as well.
According to Georgia Futures (Georgia Student Finance Commission): REACH Georgia is a needs-based mentoring and scholarship program providing promising students the support to graduate from high school and achieve post secondary success.
Mentoring - REACH scholars will be paired with a mentor who models positive behavior and provides the student with knowledge, advice, guidance, and support related to education and beyond.
Coaching - Academic Coaches will help ensure scholars are on track to succeed through: monitoring student progress, helping students develop education and career plans, and identifying academic and social supports.
Financial Scholarship - Qualifying REACH Scholars will be awarded a financial scholarship upon graduating from high school.
Thomasville High School and Scholars Academy students joined in the annual One Book Thomas County community read that follows three generations of one family during the harrowing years of the Holocaust. As the students’ hearts and minds were captivated by We Were the Lucky Ones, some lucky ones were treated to a visit by author Georgia Hunter.
Students in Frances Thrower and Jennifer Williams’s English classes were assigned the novel based on Hunter’s own family members that were described as, “Driven by an unwavering will to survive and by the fear that they may never see one another again, the Kurcs must rely on hope, ingenuity, and inner strength to persevere” (onebookthomascounty.org).
Hunter described the process behind the nine-year “labor of love” that became her debut novel. Hunter was originally inspired to write about her family when she was given an assignment in her junior year of high school to interview a family member.
Ironically, Thrower’s students are working on a similar project that involves her students interviewing a person from another generation as a culminating extension after their reading of the book.
Williams said that her students were excited to have the best-selling author come and speak about her writing interest that was sparked in high school.
Hunter then shared how she discovered her grandfather’s Polish and Jewish heritage when she interviewed her grandmother for the assignment. She later moved forward with her project in her later years of college when her mother planned a gathering of cousins from all over the world who began exchanging shared memories of their own as well as of their ancestors.
Hunter explained to the students the extent of her research which involved global travel as well as the search for primary sources that would help to fill in the blanks beyond her interviews with family members. She also went on to explain the difference between historical fiction and non-fiction and her reason for going with historical fiction.
“Most of the people I interviewed were 2nd generation survivors; so I felt like I couldn’t give a first-hand account of the thoughts and feelings of the characters if I made the book non-fiction,” said Hunter.
Hunter read a special scene that described the escape of one character from the walls of a Polish ghetto with her daughter hidden beneath a coat that she had crafted from a wool blanket to match those that would be worn by a German wife.
The introductory pages of the novel explain, “By the end of the Holocaust, 90 percent of Poland’s three million Jews were annihilated; of the more than thirty thousand Jews who lived in Radom, fewer than three hundred survived.”
Hunter explained to the students that she felt as though she had to “time travel” as she imagined people being shot in the street for target practice. She wanted to honor and reflect what was going on with many Jews even though members of her family ended up being “the lucky ones.”
Freshman Ashley McKay said that We Were the Lucky Ones is now one of her favorite novels. It made her want to keep turning the pages to find out what happened next.
“While she [Hunter] was talking to the class and showing pictures of the characters, it dawned on me that this really happened to real people,” said McKay.
“Getting to ask her personal questions about her travels and discoveries and experience writing the book was so cool,” said freshman Laine Oldham.
Thrower said that her students enjoyed reading the novel, and meeting the author was a special treat. They learned about the dedication that goes into writing.
“Students saw that following your dreams can be a lot of work, but that great rewards are possible,” said Thrower.
“Georgia Hunter’s visit was an inspirational and motivating to my students,” said Williams.
Kindergarten through 3rd grade science teachers at Scott Elementary engaged in professional development to learn how to implement “Project Lead the Way (PLTW) Launch” in their classrooms. The program empowers students to adopt a design-thinking mindset through compelling activities, projects, and problems that build upon each other and relate to the world around them.
Kindergarten teacher Sarah Black said, “The PLTW training was fun and exciting! Taking on the role of the students showed me exactly how engaging these units are going to be for my students. The units integrate multiple content areas while using 21st Century skills, such as computer programming to create games.”
PLTW Launch teachers inspire, engage, and empower PreK-5th grade students by delivering PLTW Launch in their classrooms. They engage students in real-world learning experiences as students apply knowledge and skills to solve open-ended problems.
“I am looking forward to sharing the PLTW modules with my students. The modules are full of engaging activities and solving real world problems. The modules will enhance learning of my science standards,” said third grade teacher Jennifer Lester.
Scott Elementary students already have the qualities of great designers and innovators. PLTW Launch taps into their exploratory nature, engages them in learning that feels like play, and encourages them to keep discovering. Launch Lead Teacher and Trainer, Faith Shiver, is happy that the teachers now have more resources to implement STEAM into their curricula. As students engage in hands-on activities in computer science, engineering, and biomedical science, they become creative and collaborative problem solvers ready to take on any challenge.
MacIntyre Park Middle School’s Principal Dr. Tret Witherspoon is setting high expectations while providing the support to vest his male middle schoolers with the skills needed for success through the Young Men’s Empowerment Program.
Students in 6, 7, and 8th grades meet by grade level once a month in the MacIntyre Auditorium to interact with each other, hear speakers, and receive a charge for future meetings.
At the first meeting on September 4, 2018, Dr. Witherspoon initiated the students by asking them to stand up and shake hands with and introduce themselves to at least five other young men in their grade. This was especially important for sixth graders as the middle school students from three elementary schools merge in middle school. Members are asked to keep a notebook at each meeting, and the expectations for the note-taking were also explained at the first meeting.
The young men watched a video by nationally renowned educator and motivator, Principal Kafale, entitled “Confidence in Yourself is Essential to Your Success.”
“We are facing a crisis with our youth, specifically with our males. We must be intentional in implementing curriculums and programs that will prepare them for success. Traditional classroom strategies don’t work for everyone. We must work on closing the “attitude gap” of our students,” said Dr. Witherspoon.
The attitude gap, as defined by Kafele, occurs between those students who have the will to strive for excellence verses those who do not.
Students next heard from their guest speaker Reverend Curnell Henry who serves at the Parent Involvement Coordinator at MPMS.
A “Public Notice” section was a discreet conversation about how males should treat females. Witherspoon addressed the need for respecting another person’s personal space and for only calling girls by their given names.
“I told them that our girls are to be treated with the utmost respect, even if the girls are sometimes not nice to them,” said Witherspoon.
Students were given a “homework assignment” to research careers. They were asked to return to the next meeting with two careers that they are interested in knowing more about. Dr. Witherspoon asked the students to think beyond sports when choosing the potential careers.
The young men closed their meeting with a student creed:
I am a student seeking to be a scholar.
The standard is excellence today and tomorrow.
I am disciplined, focused, and on-time.
I am organized, respected, and responsible.
I am on a mission to elevate myself, my family,
My community, and humanity.
Dr. Witherspoon has also instituted “Tie Tuesdays” for the young men to dress for success. Participating young men receive incentives for wearing ties on Tuesdays.
On September 11, 2018, in accordance with Governor Nathan Deal's executive order, Thomasville High School Air Force ROTC raised, and then lowered to half-staff, our nation's colors in recognition of Patriot Day and in memory of those lives lost on September 11, 2001.
THS AFJROTC Corps Commander Cadet Lt. Col. Cameron Johnson led the ceremony, while Cadets Azaria Bell, Shemekia Clark, and Jackson Mims made up the color guard. THS band member, Samuel Watts played “To the Colors” as the flag was raised and “Taps” as it was lowered to half-staff. THS was honored to have in attendance Troy Rich, Thomasville Chief of Police and Tim Connell, Thomasville Fire Marshal.
But what about the other 179 days of the school year? Diligent groups of students and the teachers that lead them are responsible for the proper raising and lowering of the flags at several Thomasville City Schools.
Five fifth graders at Scott Elementary were organized by teacher Adrienne Angry: Tyler Carr, Eddie Coleman, Isaiah Jones, Chanel Mascoe, and Jaylen Thurman.
Carr says that it’s important to be a part of the flag team because it shows respect for the flag and respect for the United States of America.
“You have to be really responsible to be a part of the flag team,” added Mascoe.
Students not only practice discipline in these groups but also learn proper etiquette for handling and displaying the U.S flag.
“I learned that a flag should not be left out in the rain, and that it should not be allowed to touch the ground,” said Jones.
Jerger Elementary’s flag team, organized by Allison Dewell and Debbie Griner, is made up of four rotating teams of four: Team 1- Mac Hunt, Rudra Patel, Ethan Griffin, Cazyah Dyson; Team 2 - Sellers Newman, Adanya Smith, Emma Gebel, Bryce Rieck; Team 3 - Connor Pringle, Nick May, Bella Kitchens, Izzy Ward; and Team 4 - Madison Clark, Ella Parker, Clair Jones, Brando Baggett.
Hunt explained that he now knows that if the flag is hung upside-down that it means ‘distress’ and that it must be lowered to half-staff to honor those who have died.
For others, they decided to participate for simple reasons.
“I joined the team because I wanted to learn something new, and I like helping my school,” said Patel.
“I just like trying new things, and it’s really cool to handle the U.S. flag,” said Dyson.
Alan Maples takes pride in his flag team at MacIntyre Park Middle School: Cameron Criswell, Nyriannah Forbes, Aidan Hunt, Kaneija Russ, Brekya McCray, Alyssa Morabito, Noah Snipes, Kemyah Tucker, and Shakyra Walker.
Russ is the student-leader of the group, and aspires to join AFJROTC when she reaches high school.
“I love the marching part of it,” said Russ.
Russ also recalls that she, at one time, was the only girl on the team and thought if she enjoyed it, maybe some other girls would enjoy it, too.
“Kaneija inspired me to join and then I inspired Kemyah [Tucker] to join,” said Walker.
Several students reported using the skills that they have learned on flag team in settings beyond school.
“We raise the flag at home, and my dad was really proud when I found the group and learned even more about it,” said Morabito.
A small group of students have taken on the Scholars Academy daily flag duty according to Gina Bennett: Whit Fennell, Rhys Garland, and Brayton Hanna.
Fennell said that he wanted to do something for his school and independently learned about flag protocol and practiced folding the flag. He soon discovered that it wasn’t a “one-man” job to keep the flag from touching the ground, so he asked Garland and Hanna to join in the responsibility.
“I really have to be at school or else I have to let someone know that I won’t be here, or it might not happen,” said Fennell.
In addition to rotating the flag duty throughout their organization, THS AFJROTC cadets teach flag protocol to younger cadets and at local churches and elementary schools.
Jarrett Daniel said that he has taught freshmen cadets the symbolism of raising and lowering our nation's flag.
“To me it's all about being a symbol of guidance. Many people look at our school's flag when they drive by, and I get to be privileged enough to know I am a part of their experience,” said Daniel.
Jack Wood explained that he raises and lowers the flag because he believes in representing his country to the best of his ability.
“I've taught the freshmen because I believe in passing that on,” said Wood.
Jordan Bonar contends that he raises and lowers the flag to start his day productively.
“Raising the flag is one of the first tasks completed signifying the start of the day and the hope that many more tasks will be completed. Raising the flag is like raising the spirits of my peers for that day and many more to come,” said Bonar.
Shemekia Clark, who served on the color guard at the THS Patriot Day ceremony, reiterated the basic purpose of her position.
“Raising and lowering the flag means respecting our country,” said Clark.
Harper Elementary School’s groundbreaking ceremony for its new cafeteria on September 13, 2018 was a morning of celebration for Thomasville City Schools. Superintendent Dr. Laine Reichert addressed the assembled group of students, administrators, teachers, parents, and school board members by acknowledging that the groundbreaking for the cafeteria has been a long time coming. Dr. Reichert thanked all of the past and present administration at the school and district levels for the planning and work that went into making the new cafeteria project possible. Principal Melvin Hugans also expressed his gratitude for the factors that came together to make the needed multi-use facility a reality.
Scholars Academy sixth graders in Djuana Rinehart’s social studies class reinforce their learning of economics and the four factors of economic growth that make up a country’s GDP (gross domestic product). The students create hats that represent natural resources, capital goods, entrepreneurs, and human capital. The culminating event includes a red-carpet and fashion show celebration with prizes for design in each area of economic growth and, of course, “Best Strut!”