Superintendent Cochran addresses school issues at Rotary

Published 5:54 pm Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Rotarians had an opportunity to get to know more about new Decatur County School Superintendent, Tim Cochran, when he spoke at the Rotary meeting on Tuesday.

He has been in the position two months, and said he has lived in South Georgia all of his life, thus he feels right at home in Bainbridge. Actually, his family has not yet moved here, but expect to close on a home in two weeks. At that point, his wife and two sons will join him in Bainbridge.

Cochran said the school year is off to a good start with 4,920 students enrolled, excluding 283 pre-K students. This is down 50 students from last year, which results in a $250,000 loss in state revenue. Cochran said there has been an attendance decrease over the last 10 years and the schools are making adjustments in scheduling children in an effort to maximize state funding.

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Looking at the district, he said many of the facilities, especially the older elementary buildings, are in need of attention. They are currently conducting long-range planning with the principals to determine an in-depth five-year plan. He said state money and SPLOST funds are used to address facility needs. Although the district is still retiring the debt for the new high school, he stressed that no local property taxes are used for buildings. That money comes from the state and SPLOST funds.

Another goal of the district is to expand technology in all buildings. Citing figures that it is cheaper to expand technology than buy new text books, he explained that text books cost an average of $100 per book and they are outdated rapidly. Teachers and students can access any book on-line. Technology should be regarded as a tool that is as good as the teacher makes it in the classroom.

Cochran said the ultimate goal of all teachers and the system is to make sure all kids are prepared to compete in the global market.

Along that line, Cochran expressed his concerns about the upcoming constitutional amendment, HB 133, which will appear on the November ballot. Voting “Yes” on the issue would allow the governor to intervene in chronically failing schools. Cochran said he did not support any political faction, but merely wanted to tell the facts. He said the language is purposely misleading and gave detailed information on why he believes the issue should not be approved.

He said the ultimate goal of the state is to privatize the schools, and warned, “You will have no control over your local schools. It will give the governor full power over the school systems.”

He acknowledged that there are schools that are failing, but said the term “chronically failing” would be determined by the governor and the legislature, using a complicated matrix, including scoring, that even the Department of Education has declared “not valid and reliable.”

Cochran said the problem with schools is poverty. The poverty rate has increased from 40 percent in 2006 to 60 percent, adding, “It is more difficult to educate with the growing challenges that accompany poverty.”

For more information on this subject, refer to an article appearing in this issue written by staff writer, Brandon O’Connor. It is a follow up to a story that appeared in Saturday, Sept. 3 issue of The Post Searchlight.

In response to a question from the audience about his “pop-up” visits to classrooms, Cochran replied it was his job to know how things are going in the classroom, and as time permits he will continue to visit as often as he can.

“I feel it is my job.”