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Hildreth intends to retire


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent 

  For the third time in six years, the Henry County Board of Education will be looking for a new superintendent.

  Dr. Ethan Hildreth informed the board at its monthly work session last Wednesday that he intends to retire in April. There was no comment or suggestion of immediate action from board members in response to the announcement.

  Hildreth has been with the Henry County School System since 1991 and has served as a teacher, principal and assistant superintendent before assuming his current post. He succeeded Michael Surma in January of 2011, although the board named him five months earlier, soon after Surma announced his own retirement plans, so Hildreth could be helping his successor transition into the office fairly soon if the board acts that quickly again.

  If past practice is an indicator, the next superintendent is already at work in Henry County. Hildreth is the third consecutive superintendent to be promoted from within. Surma and his predecessor, Jack Parish, each had more than a decade of experience with the Henry County School System before assuming the top job. Parish was superintendent from 2000 to 2008.

  The school board appointed its first superintendent in 1997 when Herb Garrett, Parish’s predecessor, was named. Prior to that, the position was elected.

  In other news from the work session, the board discussed the possibility of speeding up the availability of wireless access throughout the school system.

  So far 16 of the 50 schools in the district have received wireless infrastructure provided for under the current school SPLOST passed in 2011. The current plan is for about a dozen schools each year to be added to the program so that all schools have it available by 2016.

  The presentation last week was in response to a previous inquiry by the board’s chairman, Dr. Pam Nutt, about whether the wireless infrastructure installation could be accelerated. It was determined that the answer to that question is yes, provided the board approves the additional costs.

  According to the report submitted at the work session, it would require approximately $8 million to accelerate the process, and the two options available for obtaining those funds are borrowing money from the general fund or issuing additional general obligation bonds.

  While the board took no action Wednesday, the issue was also placed on the agenda for Monday’s regular board meeting. The board voted 5-0 to move forward with the wireless infrastructure installation acceleration on Monday night.

  Brian Blanton and Steve Thompson gave an update on the status of Impact Academy, the school system’s virtual school component now in its third year.

  Enrollment for the program in the past year has skyrocketed. Staff reported that the highest enrollment for the 2012-13 school year was 117, and now 338 students are enrolled. School system officials believe this makes Impact Academy the largest district-led virtual school in Georgia.

  While it is similar in many ways to virtual charter schools that have sprung up around the state in recent years, Impact Academy is unique in that it allows students to remain enrolled in the middle or high school in their respective districts, making them eligible to participate in any extracurricular activities offered by those schools.

  Most students have come to the program from public schools in the district, but officials reported that this year’s enrollment includes 52 students who transferred from either home school or private school.

  Three grade levels were added for the 2013-14 school year, and enrollment at Impact Academy is now open to grades 6-12. As the program has grown, a number of services have been added or enhanced, including webinars with teachers, face-to-face field studies, community building experiences, and home visits.

  As for the county’s brick-and-mortar schools, assistant superintendent Rodney Bowler gave a school safety update at the work session, and principals from schools in the Eagle’s Landing corridor were also on hand to address the board. Those schools have been in lockdown twice in the first month of the school year due to incidents that occurred off-campus in nearby businesses, such as a convenience store that was robbed during school hours. Staff highlighted a number of new safety response measures that have been implemented of late.



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