Question- What is the Passport to Excellence?
Answer – Passport to Excellence is simply an enhancement of programs already in place. It incorporates all learning environments, making sure every student within the Savannah-Chatham County Public School System receives a challenging, yet enriching education.
Question - How will the reorganized system create more academic options for families?
Answer - We’ve focused on expanding the programs that are not only popular but produce results--programs such as Core Knowledge, Advanced Learning, International Baccalaureate, Fine and Performing Arts, etc. Passport to Excellence makes it possible for families to choose any option and find a quality academic program that prepares them for the next level of learning.
Question - How will the reorganized system create right size schools?
Answer - Passport to Excellence will not resize schools by itself. However, it will be an assisting element as school attendance zones change in the near future.
Question – How will the reorganized system strengthen academics?
Answer - Our curriculum will strengthen academic results, not just in certain schools but in every classroom. While this plan includes focused academic disciplines in specific schools or pathways, we must engage each student in every school with heightened curricular expectations and challenges.
Question – How will the reorganized system benefit students on every level- for example, the gifted learner, the average learner and the student with special needs?
Answer – Choices for all students are expanded in the plan and are based on rigorous curriculum, exemplary teaching practices and effective support systems for students.
Question – Does the reorganization further segregate schools?
Answer – Passport to Excellence provides options for everyone.
Question – How will you protect 9-year-olds from dangerous pre-teen influences at the new 4-8 schools?
Answer – By "growing" K-8 schools (adding grades each year) instead of creating them, the students feel more comfortable in slowly expanding their cohort groups. We actually have several successful K-8 schools already within our district--Hesse as well as Charles Ellis Montessori.
Question – Do the islands area schools get all the benefits?
Answer – Under Passport to Excellence, the area will lose an elementary school (Islands) when it transitions to become a middle school. A careful consideration of the plan shows most of the specialty programs are focused centrally but with neighborhood integrity in mind.
Question – Do the high end learners get all the benefits?
Answer- Every student deserves the maximum level of educational support, and Passport to Excellence provides that much needed support.
Question – Why are you changing the elementary schools that work and not the less academically successful elementary schools that need a change?
Answer –Passport to Excellence provides the same level of support for each school.
Question – Will teachers be required to work wherever district administrators place them?
Answer – All school personnel work for the school district. While we value our teachers and are sensitive to the personal preferences of our staff, the needs of our students must be our top priority.
Question – Will there still be sibling preference?
Answer – Yes, sibling preference is part of our current process and will remain. However, siblings must meet any existing criteria for placement.
Question – When you draw up new attendance zones for JG Smith/Heard and on the islands won’t you have to shut out several current students in order to create space for specialty program kids? Won’t that result in the neighborhood kids being rezoned to less successful schools to make room for more affluent kids at the most popular and successful schools?
Answer – As we move into the mapping of our population’s residences, neighborhood integrity will be a prime concern. Parents have overwhelmingly stated they want their children to go to schools as close as possible to their homes, especially the elementary children. We want to support their requests. However, the options included in the Passport to Excellence will provide more outlets for students than ever in Chatham County.
Question – Isn’t it too much to expect small children at P-3 schools to switch schools after just four years? Doesn’t that split up siblings and require too much readjusting?
Answer – We are very sensitive to siblings and maintaining cohort groups and we will work with parents to keep siblings as close as possible.
Question - Does this plan really address the root of the academic failures in Chatham County?
Answer – Our number one goal is to increase all positive student results. The Passport to Excellence favors every student and recognizes we must encourage success by focusing on our children at the elementary and middle levels so they are prepared for the rigor of high school. The plan also involves intensive professional development in curriculum and instruction for teachers and administrators, which is essential to the academic success of all students.
Question – Will there be any traditional schools?
Answer – Traditional schools will continue to exist at all levels.
Question – What about technical or career training for middle school students?
Answer –In 2010, Hubert Middle School will add a selection of challenging technical and career course offerings. If a student would like to continue their technical or career training in high school, the student can do so at Woodville Tompkins Career and Technical Institute and receive both traditional instruction and technical/career-related training.
Question – Does this plan leave out students with specific challenges?
Answer – Every student, regardless of their ability or background, is included in the Passport to Excellence.
Question – Why are some programs offered in one or two schools but not in other schools?
Answer – Resident academic and curricular program locations are typically based in the interest from their communities. Largo-Tibet Elementary, for example, expressed interest in the International Baccalaureate (IB) program and will join Marshpoint Elementary in this exceptionally popular yet very rigorous curriculum. For years, Beach High has expressed an interest in pursuing the Medical/Allied Health field and will do so with their new high school. Savannah High will be the most diversified school in the area; with programs in Criminal Justice and Legal Studies, Liberal Arts, and eventually, Mass Communications.
Question - What about AP courses? Are they going away?
Answer – Advanced Placement will remain and be part of the traditional schools.
Question – Will there be any meetings in the community to discuss the plan or is it finished?
Answer – Community meetings are planned and will be scheduled soon. All dates, times, and locations will be posted on the public website, notices will be issued to the media and community messages will be sent directly to families within the school system.
Question – Will transportation continue to be provided?
Answer- While there may be modifications to the transportation system to make it more efficient, transportation will continue to be provided to schools.
Question – If a student starts out in the IB program in elementary and middle school, do they have to attend an IB high school?
Answer – The IB program is an elective program and is not required. A student attending an IB Elementary or Middle School may attend any high school or participate in any program for which they qualify.
Question – What is the focus of the Maritime Science program planned for Groves?
Answer - Maritime sciences programs prepare students to operate ships over lakes, rivers, and oceans. Students will learn maritime traditions, laws, policies and the cartage of materials/cargo overwater.
Question – What are the future plans for Shuman Middle and how will those plans affect the Fine and Performing Arts program in the district?
Answer – In 2010, Shuman Middle school will become a K-5 neighborhood school rather than a dedicated performing arts middle school. Garrison will become the dedicated P-8 Visual and Performing Arts school with Core Knowledge. Students will audition into the middle grades program, and rising 9th grade students who complete the Garrison program are anticipated to be fully qualified to pass the rigorous academic, behavioral and audition requirements for competitive admission into Savannah Arts Academy.
Question – What is Riser’s Academy?
Answer - The Risers’ Academy for Young Men initially opened with nearly 25 male students entering the 6th grade at Hubert Middle School. Academy classes will remain small with an initial student/teacher ratio of below 15:1 with a core teaching staff with exemplary teaching skills in English, Mathematics, Social Studies, and Science.
The Risers Academy is grounded in the belief that education is liberation and will hold high an expectation of excellence. The program upholds a core commitment that parents, family and community are critical in the education of children.
Question - Why is there such a focus on neighborhood schools?
Answer- Parents are saying they want their children attending schools that are located closer to the homes. The reality is we have far more elementary schools than middle or high schools. The task of keeping our youngest children closer home will be far easier than with middle and high school.
Question – What if my student is not accepted at a Dedicated School? Is the only choice a Zoned Neighborhood School?
Answer – Students have the option to apply at any other Open Enrollment or Dedicated School of their choice. The plan is designed to be flexible and allow students to explore a variety of programs. If one is not available, families can apply to another school if they wish to do so.
Question – Why are more programs appearing in more schools across the county?
Answer – The school district identified the curricular programs that are producing positive academic results and have been well received within the community. Rather than introducing several new programs, existing programs with proven track records are being expanded. IB, Core Knowledge, and Advanced Learning have been in our school system for more than ten years, with positive academic results and wide acceptance. These programs will now be available to far more students throughout the county.
Question – So with so many options and programs, what will happen to the Gifted Program?
Answer – The Gifted Program is part of the traditional school setting and will continue to be supported.
– What effects will the K-8 schools have on the traditional middle schools?
Answer – Mainly, two effects- reducing overcrowding and keeping more students closer to their homes. At the same time, it will provide additional options for parents and students.
Question – What is a Small Learning Community and why is it important?
Answer- Smaller Learning Communities supports improving student academic achievement in large public high schools. SLCs include structures such as freshman academies, multi-grade academies organized around career interests or other themes, “houses” in which small groups of students remain together throughout high school, and autonomous schools-within-a-school, as well as personalization strategies, such as student advisories, family advocate systems, and mentoring programs. Studies have shown that by keeping students in smaller cohort groups the students achieve at a higher level than those in larger, less organized groups.
Question – Will schools still have to be accredited?
Answer – The Passport to Excellence will not change accreditation or impact accreditation.
Question – What about Pre-Kindergarten classes? How will they be affected?
Answer - Existing pre-kindergarten classes will not be affected.