Chattahoochee County School District
Champions of Georgian Educational Excellence
Investments in community, diversity of education, and infrastructure tell a story of triumph at Chattahoochee County
Amid the scenic state of Georgia, the landscape of education is ever-evolving.
To be effective, school districts must first and foremost recognize the value of unity and cultivate a collaborative spirit that binds educators, students, and families together. It is in the face of these challenges that the true grit of the Chattahoochee school district shines through.
It stands as a model of resilience, demonstrating how a strong sense of community, innovative educational programs, and strategic infrastructure investments can overcome any issue.
As a district, Chattahoochee County dives deeply into the nuances of its educational system, and the innovative measures it has taken are certain proof of that. Its presence is a staunch reminder that with the right approach, even the most formidable obstacles can be transformed into opportunities for greatness.
A District Operating Under Unique Conditions
Nestled in the heart of Cusseta, Georgia, the Chattahoochee County School District has embraced ingenuity and development through adherence to a set of three core values.
These three pillars are Teaching and Learning, Workplace Organization, and Community and Family. These pillars are largely influenced by the nature of the school district’s surrounding region.
“We are quite the unique community,” Superintendent Kristie Brooks begins, “we are a small rural, low-wealth community, but we are also located by one of the largest cities in Georgia, Brooks says, referring to the city of Columbus.
Because of this unique blend, schools within the district operate with a dual awareness of the smaller, personalized aspects that are necessary for student development without ever forgetting the larger picture of future planning that is necessary for workforce development.
Additionally, the Chattahoochee community is home to Fort Moore, which was originally Fort Benning. The unique thing about this is that Fort Moore actually comprises roughly 80% of Chattahoochee County, so the majority of it is federal land that belongs to the base.
As a result of all of this, the county is a collection of local rural citizens and federally connected military families who all shop and do business in the nearby metropolitan area of Columbus.
The Multi-Path Method of Successful Education
Chattahoochee County is home to an incredibly diverse array of people with equally diverse needs and perspectives, and the district has crafted a spectrum of educational pathways to confront the diverse needs of its students.
These pathways are tailored to individual interests and abilities and represent its proactive approach to identifying the individual journey of each child, which underscores its dedication to ensuring no one is left behind.
Not only are the traditional subjects taught to students, but the district curriculum also places a heavy emphasis on fields directly related to STEM sciences.
“In 2020, we initiated our five-year strategic plan, and one of the aspects of teaching and learning for us specifically involved STEM… How [would] STEM actually become part of the day-to-day?” Brooks asks.
The present-day solutions are the skilled trade and career pathway programs that all district schools employ today. “We have a College and Career Academy… so that all students can work on pathways that will lead them to future opportunities as they become adults,” Brooks explains.
The district’s College Career Academy has thirteen different pathways students can participate in that are designed to lead students to have industry credentials by the time they graduate.
For example, due to Georgia’s large film & media industry, students within the Audio-Visual Pathway spend a lot of time getting hands-on experience. Schools in the district rely on them to livestream monthly business meetings and sporting events.
But going beyond that, the district is also partnered with professional establishments like WRBL and WTBM, two local newscasts that students get to work with in order to gain practical knowledge about the technologies they’d otherwise only encounter in the workforce.
There is also Business Pathway partnered with Perry Brothers, an oil and gas company, where students can work to gain specific operational knowledge regarding what it takes to run a multimillion-dollar venture.
Many of these pathways are available to students at even the earliest stages of their development, as even students who are interested in engineering and robotics have blended curricula that include things like 3D simulations and a Lego League with building competitions that are fully integrated into their math and science classes.
The goal behind these pathways is to keep students engaged with education as early as possible while reducing the time it takes to figure out what they want to do with themselves as they get older.
This is a big motivator behind the district’s decision to not require every student to take the SAT. The foundational belief is that every student’s path should be honored, so if a student is part of something like the JROTC path and is scoring high on that path’s unique assessments like the ASVAB, then there is to take another standardized exam like the SAT.
A Curriculum Intertwined with Community
The effects of these pathways reach even beyond the minds of the students participating in them and even touch the families and homes the students are a part of.
“We experience a lot of poverty in our school system… and being educated is intended to be the great equalizer,” Brooks says, referring to the profound economic effects the district’s pathways can have on a student’s life.
The two best examples lie with the Automotive and Healthcare Pathways, in which students participate in work-based learning. Chattahoochee County has a partnership with Riverside Toyota in Columbus and Magnolia Manor, a local nursing home.
After taking normal classes, students in this tract will be able to train with both of these organizations in an employment setting. “As high school juniors and seniors, they’re earning $20 to $22 an hour,” Brooks says, emphasizing that, at times, many students on these paths would be earning more than members of their own families!
So not only do they earn while they work as apprentices, but if they stick with the pathways, students will graduate with many of the credits and training needed to easily transition into full-time employment as automotive mechanics or nursing professionals.
This also helps students figure out exactly what they want to do and what course they’ll need going forward so that, in case they decide to attend post-secondary school, their families don’t suffer excessive debt.
Investments in Secure Infrastructure for a Secure Student Body
Other than safeguarding its students’ minds, the Chattahoochee County District has also made key investments in several layers of infrastructure to enhance the overall experience of its students.
The district has made key investments in expanding its internet infrastructure, as its previous bandwidth couldn’t keep up with the growing population of its student body. By partnering with the local county commissioner, Chattahoochee County has been able to substantially upgrade the availability of internet access to its students.
The next layer address was regarding its transportation systems, which Brooks described as a major issue of efficiency and safety. “Five years ago, we had a completely outdated transportation fleet… the majority of our buses were from 1999 and were constantly needing to be repaired.”
Since then, the district has made massive strides by collaborating with the State Department, which granted it a “bus bond” to put toward new transportation. Today, the district has a batch of several new buses built in 2020 or 2021.
This marks a definite step in the right direction, as students could be ensured a higher level of safety when on the road. To complement that, the school district most recently invested in a program called Gaggle, a program that allowed staff and faculty to monitor and identify keywords of interest or concern in the chats of any students communicating over school-provided programs and networks.
“So many times these students are in chats on, on different programs that they have. And if a keyword is identified, even for self-harm or for a situation of some type of abuse that they may be in their home, that 24/7 support from Gaggle alerts our key responders so that we can assist and intervene as necessary,” Brooks explains.
Chattahoochee County has also made attempts to improve not just its student’s safety but their overall comfort as well. The district recently signed a lease for a multimillion-dollar investment that had its HVAC system overhauled because, at one point, close to 50% of the system’s machinery was either inoperable or nearing the end of its life cycle.
While it was hefty, it was one that, according to Brooks, “needed to happen.” Chattahoochee County’s investment in school infrastructure is a testament to its commitment to excellence.
In the future, it’s seeking to provide students with an even larger and more stimulating environment in which to learn, as it’s currently planning to build an entirely new school to replace the high school that was built two decades ago.
With a commitment to fostering the intellectual, emotional, and social development of its students, this district stands as a beacon of educational excellence.
The Chattahoochee County School District’s dedication to strong community bonds and innovative educational programs has surely carved a successful path toward nurturing the young minds of the future.
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AT A GLANCE
Chattahoochee County School District
What: A unique school district fostering community, diverse education, security, and infrastructure investment to nurture the young minds of the future.
Where: Cusseta, Georgia, USA.
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