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Bowler shares vision as
new school year looms


By Monroe Roark
Times Correspondent

  While a new school year is getting started for more than 40,000 students in the Henry County School System’s 50-plus schools, officials are looking at long-term improvements that they hope will benefit students for years to come.

  Superintendent Rodney Bowler, who began his tenure in the district’s top administrative office April 1, spent some time Saturday morning at Henry County Commissioner Bruce Holmes’ monthly town hall meeting and was pleased with the reception he got from the 60 or so in attendance as he laid out the school system’s 2020 Vision, which reflects where he hopes it will be six years from now.

  “Our mission is to ensure success for each student,” Bowler said Monday as he recounted the plans he shared at that gathering. “We are focused pretty clearly on what the word ‘each’ means and we’ve identified that we have to know who our students are. Between now and 2020, each of our schools will further develop and define what we’re doing to meet our mission.”

  The multi-faceted plan includes a growing emphasis on personalized learning, Bowler said.

  “We are working on a learning profile tool so that teachers can have access to information about the students they are serving. That profile will continue to grow on an annual basis and we will just add information to it.”

  The superintendent added that more emphasis is being placed on competency-based learning and giving students more flexibility amid the structure of the typical day, so they can master what they are learning.

  “It doesn’t always happen within a semester grading period,” he said. “For some it takes more time, and for others it takes less.”

  As society is changing constantly and with it the demands for success in the workplace, school system officials are trying to make learning more relevant for students, whether it be through project-based learning, internships or any other experiences that can add a real-world flavor to an academic subject.

  “We are focusing very strongly on 21st-century skills, making sure our classrooms build on strong communication and cooperation skills, creative thinking, critical thinking, and incorporating that into whatever they are doing on a daily basis,” said Bowler. “The goal is for each of our students to be college-ready or career-ready when they graduate.”

  Of course, that absolutely cannot happen in 2014 without technology, and Bowler added that the district is working to give students more technological access so they can take advantage of learning opportunities inside as well as outside the classroom.

  Enrollment in Impact Academy, the school system’s online program for grades 6-12, is skyrocketing according to Bowler, as is participation in the Academy for Advanced Studies, located adjacent to Henry County High School, where students in grades 9-12 can choose from specialized classes in dozens of career pathways that may not be offered at their respective schools.

  “We are just trying to provide more and more options for students so they can engage in learning about things they find relevant to them,” said Bowler. “To be able to take classes at the Academy for Advanced Studies or through Impact Academy and still be attached to the school in your district is just a great thing for these kids. The students who are availing themselves of that are the right students, and they are seeing it as a solution that they really feel powerful about.”

  Pre-planning for teachers began Monday, but last week was the traditional orientation period for new employees and Bowler was very encouraged by what he saw.

More than 420 new educators took part, a number that reflects the renewed growth in the school system after enrollment plateaued for a few years.

  “We spent all week with them, sharing with them where we are heading as a district and how we will be giving them the tools they need to be successful in the classroom,” said Bowler.

  “The exciting thing is that all of them were hired through the lens of what we are looking to do in the future, so we know they are committed to being successful in that work. It was a great week.”



©Henry County Times, Inc.