Irwin County Schools
a school district that cares
A vibrant school district committed to nurturing minds and inspiring futures, Irwin County Schools puts its students first
Nestled in the heart of southeast Georgia, Irwin County offers the serene ambiance of quintessential small-town America. With picturesque farmlands and quaint rural charm, the county embodies a tight-knit community of close to 10,000 residents, bolstered by a shared vision for a promising future. At the center of this is Irwin County Schools, dedicated to fostering a nurturing and inviting learning environment for the county’s youth.
“We’re very proud of our community, and our school system,” School Superintendent, Kerry Billingsley boasts.
“We work well with our city and county officials, and we do everything that we possibly can to benefit the citizens and all stakeholders in our community. We recognize that a good school system helps drive the economy. So, that’s our charge, along with challenging our students not to look at their zip code but look way beyond that and dream big.”
A mission to CARE
With 1,649 students, the district has a mission statement which is to CARE, an acronym for College and Career Readiness, Academic Support, Relationships, and Excellence. “We’re doing everything we possibly can to challenge our students and provide them the education needed for them to be successful in whatever endeavor they deem to tackle in life,” Billingsley asserts.
In such a tight-knit county, the community takes precedence above all else, as emphasized by Assistant Superintendent Jessica Sirmans.
Every decision is made with thoughtful consideration of the community’s needs and benefits.
“It’s the number one priority,” she maintains. “I was born and raised in Ocilla. I’ve got a lot invested in this community, and I always knew I was going to raise my kids here. We know how important it is for our community to be involved.”
A Winning Combination of Athletics, Arts, and Academics
As a Class A school district, Irwin County Schools provides an extensive array of athletic opportunities, spanning football, cross country, softball, cheerleading, tennis, soccer, wrestling, track and field, and baseball. At the high school level, students can participate in JROTC, and the district also offers an esports team that has garnered scholarship opportunities for two students.
The bass fishing team has achieved remarkable success, securing state championships for the school. Embracing a well-rounded approach to education, the district cultivates a nurturing environment that encourages students to excel in various creative and academic pursuits. The literary team of Irwin County Schools has garnered remarkable achievements, boasting multiple regional winners, and achieving state runner-up status in 2023.
As well, the district proudly showcases the high school’s active involvement in show choir and band competitions. The one-act thespians club also holds significant prominence in Irwin County, consistently ranking among the top in their region and participating in state events for both one-act performances and literary competitions.
Modernizing Irwin County School Facilities: A Testament to Community Pride and Support
Irwin County High School boasts a state-of-the-art auditorium, constructed in 2008. The school administration prioritizes the maintenance of this facility, and recent upgrades, including sound and lighting enhancements, and air conditioning improvements, were completed using SPLOST funding.
Billingsley conveys, “It’s important, as all of our facilities, even our high school, and our elementary schools, are 37 and 30 years old. We’ve done a great job of keeping those facilities up, doing things that have shown the kids that we have pride in our community.” Other recent investments that have been possible due to SPLOST dollars include the construction of a track and football field house, weight room and JROTC building.
“We only got the JROTC program in 2016, and we broke ground that year,” says Billingsley. “The last SPLOST that we passed was an approval for a wrestling facility. We’ve had a lot of support from our community, and it’s allowed us to utilize it and upgrade facilities.”
Prioritizing Safety with Proactive Measures and Collaborative Efforts
Safety has always been a top priority for Irwin District Schools, which employ a resource officer at the middle/high school and the elementary school. Ongoing upgrades to the camera and locking systems are also in effect, along with gates at entrances and exits on all student parking lots.
Teachers and administrators wear digital badges with the ability to request immediate help if required, ensuring that any potential emergencies or safety issues can be addressed promptly. SPLOST funds were also used to add a push-button system in all classrooms, providing direct communication with the main office.
When it comes to safety, Billingsley admits, “We’re continuing to try to improve that. We have an administrator who was a former military, former police officer and is still an officer of the court, who is now our safety coordinator. He directly supervises our SROs. We have bimonthly meetings, not only with SROs, our safety coordinator, and administrators, but our sheriff and our police chief, and their direct second in command, just to make sure that we’re still on the same page. We are blessed because everywhere doesn’t have that kind of relationship when it comes to the school system, with county and city officials working together.”
Empowering Students through CTAE Programs
Using a Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education (CTAE) focus, students at Irwin County Schools can work toward careers in various fields through relevant knowledge, skills, and hands-on learning experiences. Irwin County’s CTAE department offers a diverse range of strong programs, including robotics and engineering, early childhood education, business pathways, and JROTC.
Agriculture stands as the largest pathway, with the Case Farm being a significant part of the program. Assistant Superintendent Candice Cobb describes, “Case Farm is a 20-acre, fully operational school farm. It teaches children of all ages from pre-K through 12th grade how to grow food, harvest it, preserve it, and add value to those agricultural products.”
At the farm, students engage in various agricultural activities, including operating a grist mill. They grow corn, harvest it, process it into grits and cornmeal, and then package and sell it.
Irwin County Schools’ agricultural program goes beyond traditional farming, teaching students the business aspects as well.
Two students became national and state champions in a FLEX competition, which Billingsley describes as similar to the popular Shark Tank competition, but for high schoolers to showcase their business and marketing skills. “That’s a direct reflection of the work that those teachers do on a day-to-day basis, and we’re proud of that,” Billingsley remarks. “I can tell you that we haven’t focused as much on STEM, but we have pushed what we do best, and Ag is one of those things.”
Nurturing Academic Excellence and Broadening Opportunities for Students
Academics are also prioritized at Irwin County Schools, and all students are provided with diverse opportunities to explore their interests. The district’s goal is to meet students where they are and help them discover their passions, whether it’s pursuing a four-year college, technical school, or entering the workforce directly.
“We’re proud of the fact that for the last seven years, our graduation rate has been 90% or better,” says Billingsley “Academics is extremely important just like competing on the football field or in one of these competitions with CTAE. We have a unique opportunity with being small that our kids can participate in a lot of different things.”
An advanced academic pathway is available to students through Wiregrass Technical College, which is conveniently located on the school campus. Additionally, students have the opportunity to earn college credits before graduation through partnerships with Abraham Baldwin Agricultural College and South Georgia College, as well as associate degrees through dual enrollment at Middle Georgia State University. Other valuable partnerships include those with entities such as South Central Primary Care, which operates a health clinic on the elementary school grounds, and whose presence has led to improved attendance. The county and city also collaborate to share resources and reduce costs, dedicated to enhancing the community’s well-being and efficiently utilizing tax dollars.
Moving forward, the main focus of Irwin County Schools is to provide students with a strong education and address literacy gaps from an early age.
“Our mission statement is that we care, and we want every child to know that they’re important, and we can meet them where they’re at. We have to provide some things outside the box, and we’re very willing to do that in that sense of caring and letting our kids know that we’re there for them, and we’re pushing them to be the best,” concludes Billingsley.
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AT A GLANCE
Irwin County Schools
What: A K-12 school district with 2 campuses and 1,649 students, committed to fostering student success.
Where: Irwin County, Georgia
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