Catoosa Public Schools
The Catoosa County School District is Nurturing a Future-Ready Community, with a Focus on Diverse Opportunities for Students.
Business View interviews representatives of Catoosa Public Schools for our focus on school districts in North America
Catoosa County, in the state of Georgia, is home to a vibrant and growing community. It offers a mix of suburban and rural areas, making it an ideal place for families to settle and for businesses to thrive. Catoosa Public Schools plays a crucial role in the county, showcasing a commitment to student success, community engagement, and innovative educational programs, and offering countless opportunities for students to succeed.
About the District
Catoosa Public Schools serves over 10,000 students across its 16 schools, including three high schools, three middle schools, ten elementary schools, and the innovative College and Career Academy. The district is known for its commitment to excellence in education and its unique approach to student development. “Our core values are that we always do what’s best for kids,” shares Superintendent Chance Nix. “That is the anchor that guides every decision that we make. Our value promise is every child, every day, without exception.” On the subject of teaching staff, Nix asserts, “Our teachers are the backbone of our school system. Our teacher’s classrooms are where the magic happens. What they do is unbelievably amazing, every single day in the classrooms. The narrative is very clear that there are two kinds of people in Catoosa County Schools, teachers, and everybody else that supports teachers.”
Partnerships and Community Involvement
One of the strengths of Catoosa Public Schools is its robust partnership program. Marissa Brower, CEO of the district’s College and Career Academy, explains that each school in the district collaborates with businesses, community members, churches, and local organizations to support and enrich the students’ educational experience. She shares, “We have a very active mentoring program for our students that need some positive adult interaction, or maybe some extra support. Each school is very active in bringing community members in, not just the parents, but also the community members, to understand what each school needs.”
Additionally, the district became a Georgia Charter System in 2016, introducing school governance teams to enhance community involvement. These teams include parents, community members, teachers, and principals. The innovative aspect of Catoosa’s charter system is the allocation of additional charter funds directly to each school. This empowers the school governance teams to make informed decisions about how to use these funds to best meet the specific needs of their school.
Catoosa County is also part of the Communities in Schools program, a nationwide endeavor that plays a pivotal role in bolstering the educational and personal growth of students. Through initiatives like the Parents as Teachers program, they support young families, equipping them to be their child’s first teacher. Brower portrays, “We actually have somebody that goes out into the home and teaches those new parents that they are their child’s first and best teacher.” As students progress into high school, the program steps in to assist with unique challenges, such as providing prom attire for those in need, ensuring every student has an opportunity to participate. The program also tackles food insecurity by packing meals for students over weekends and holidays. “Communities in Schools is very comprehensive in the services that they provide for our students by connecting the school system with community resources,” Brower acknowledges.
From Here to Career: The Successful Launch of the College and Career Academy
The recently opened College and Career Academy, known as From Here to Career, is a driving force behind the district’s mission to prepare students for life after graduation. This initiative was the result of extensive planning involving a diverse steering committee that included members from the business community. Brower recounts, “It’s very interesting because one of the things that happened when we were interviewing our community about the pathways that we needed to open, consistently across every industry they said our young people do not have the soft skills and the work ethics to be successful in industry.”
To address this issue, the academy places a strong emphasis on these areas, and has hired a talent development specialist who has written a unique professional skills development curriculum. The acronym “MAGIC,” represents the essence of their approach to student development, as Brower conveys, “When we say ‘magic happens’ at the Career Academy, it really does. What our students are learning is M- message, they have to be thoughtful about their message, you need to be aware of the way that you’re communicating with people, verbal and nonverbal. A- accept responsibility, G- gaining respect, I- integrity, I will do what is right even when no one is watching, and C- commitment. So those are our core values.”
The academy offers a diverse range of career pathways and dual enrollment options, allowing students to earn college credits or technical certificates while still in high school. For employers, this assists with the pressing need for skilled workers, particularly for entry-level positions. “Our students are earning either college credit from Golden State College, or they’re earning Technical College certificates from Georgia Northwestern Technical College, so they can graduate and go straight into the workforce,” Brower conveys. She offers the example of a partnership with the sheriff where criminal justice students can receive 80 contact hours of training. “Those students can graduate, take a test and go to work as a detention officer, which is an entry level position, for $40,000, a year at 18 years old. We piloted it last year and 12 students completed it. He hired five of those students. So, you can see the win win there.”
Through the academy’s health sciences program, students can graduate with four certifications, including Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA), patient care technician (PCT), certified clerical medical assistant (CCMA), and phlebotomy. “And then, when we’re talking about teachers, we are growing our own in Catoosa County. We have a teaching as a profession pathway, and we’re going to teach our students the Catoosa way,” says Brower.
Another notable feature is the utilization of the YOU Science assessment, which identifies students’ aptitudes, interests, and best-fit career options. “When we were planning for the College and Career Academy and knew this tool would be available, we actually redesigned a required high school class to include the YOU Science assessment,” describes Brower. This assessment, which happens in grade nine, plays a pivotal role in guiding students, helping them discover their natural aptitudes and interests, and leading to informed career choices. “One of the things I love about the YOU Science, is it tells our students what they’re good at. They research their top three best fit careers, and work with their guidance counselor to come up with a high school graduation and a post secondary graduation plan. They’ll visit the Career Academy to see the opportunities that they have there,” she depicts.
Safety and Facilities Equity
On the subject of safety, Nix asserts, “They can’t learn if they’re hurt or afraid. So, safety is our number one concern, it even trumps academics, it trumps everything. Parents want their kids safe when they come to school.” The district invests heavily in safety measures, including School Resource Officers (SROs) in every school, ballistic glass, magnetic doors, and advanced camera systems. Halo Vape Sensors are installed in school restrooms to detect THC vapes, bullying, or any suspicious activity. They send alerts to principals’ cell phones, enabling quick responses to incidents. Catoosa Public Schools has also integrated Sielox a crisis alert system. Nix describes. “Sielox is an incredible device that connects with our cameras. They are motion sensor activated, and they are linked directly to the 911 Center. They have the ability to lock the school down in the event that there was some type of danger around the kids. That is a really, really big piece that we have in every single school.”
The Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (ESPLOST) plays a vital role in funding these resources, along with facility upgrades and maintenance. “Our facilities are absolutely incredible,” Nix boasts. “And the reason for it is ESPLOST. What that means is that anybody that buys anything in Catoosa County, one penny of that dollar goes toward our facilities and our capital projects for our school system.”
The Future is Bright
Looking ahead, Brower remains committed to working with local businesses and community members to create further opportunities for students, which she emphasizes is a win for everyone. Nix remains focused on safety and literacy as his top priorities in the year ahead. “We have to make sure that we’re doing all the things to keep our staff and students safe. And we’ve got to ensure that our kids are reading on grade level. When they’re little they learn to read, because when they’re older, they read to learn,” he concludes.
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AT A GLANCE
Catoosa County Public Schools
What: A large school district with diverse opportunities for student success
Where: Catoosa County, Georgia