Wednesday was a day to celebrate for local education

Published 7:43 am Friday, February 15, 2013

As we look back to Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2013, over the coming years, decades, and generations, that date will hold great significance for our community and Decatur County. Both Bainbridge College and the Decatur County School System received historic approvals and recommendations that will forever improve and enhance the educational opportunities in Decatur County.

The University System of Georgia’s Board of Regents voted Wednesday to allow a status change, at what is now called “Bainbridge State College,” to begin offering four-year baccalaureate degrees. The board also approved the aforementioned name change to reflect the new status.

With this change, Bainbridge State College becomes the only institution in the state where a student could earn a GED, earn a technical degree, earn a two-year associate’s degree, and then earn a four-year bachelor’s degree. These things can be accomplished at one institution. Now, that is a one-stop shop for students in every imaginable situation.

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With this news and the potential of more significant building expansion on campus, Bainbridge State College is well on its way to offering a more traditional college experience for area students. With on-campus residences and intercollegiate athletics included in the master plan, exciting days are ahead for our college.

Mere hours after BSC received the votes we were all hoping for, the Decatur County Board of Education received the affirmation that so many people worked diligently for about two years to receive.

After reviewing mounds of reports, test scores, and self-assessments, along with spending two days conducting interviews and observations, the External Review Team from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) decided to recommend full system-wide accreditation for Decatur County Schools.

Previously, only Bainbridge High School, Bainbridge Middle School, and Hutto Middle School were accredited by SACS. And those three schools were all one different accreditation cycles. The five elementary schools in the county were not part of the previous SACS accreditation process, but were accredited through a different organization.

Now, although the final approval will not be given until June, all of our schools, system-wide, will now be accredited on a five-year cycle.

Why is this important? Simply, this accreditation validates and confirms that our school system is offering the very best educational opportunities possible to our students. Additionally, while the accolades and confirmations are nice and warranted, this process identified areas of improvement within the system.

These are areas of improvement that, when addressed, will take our system from “good” to “better,” and from “better” to “best.”

Although hundreds of people worked hard at both Bainbridge State College and the Decatur County School System to make both of these milestones happen, the milestones wouldn’t have happened without great, visionary leadership.

We are fortunate, as a community, to have Dr. Richard Carvajal as president of Bainbridge State College and Dr. Fred Rayfield as superintendent of Decatur County Schools.

I consider both these men to be friends. In addition to both being wonderful educators and administrators, there is another common denominator among the two. Both believe in constant improvement. They believe there is no such thing as standing still; you are either moving forward or falling behind.

The two announcements this week proves that neither are standing still nor falling behind. We are moving forward, and I am anxious and excited to see where we go.