Many of the classes visited demonstrated the district’s “visionary” leadership, according to Barge, in the areas of college and career readiness as well as the district’s new Cherokee Academies initiative, which includes two Fine Arts academies and four Science, Technology, Engineering and Math, or STEM Academies.
One of the first classrooms Barge visited with Principal Bill Sebring was Kelly Burke’s Advanced Placement Physics class, where students learned about Newton’s first and second laws through a lab involving geometry skills to measure inclines.
Barge, Superintendent Dr. Frank Petruzielo and district staff went on to visit Karen Zayance’s engineering concepts class where a handful of students were constructing a go-kart while others worked on computer-based projects.
“Anything they want to do in here besides cooking they can do,” Zayance said.
Barge also visited Krista Webb’s AP World History class where students were learning about the Great Schism. Burke was Cherokee County’s Teacher of the Year and a top 10 finalist for the state in 2010, while Webb won county Teacher of the Year in 2011.
While at Woodstock High, Barge also toured a broadcast production lab, and English class, a graphic design class, a JROTC class and a nutrition and wellness class where students wore chef’s jackets and hats to prepare a meal with fresh ingredients like mushrooms and bell peppers.
In a graphic design class, Barge watched Isobel Mason work with students on a project where students created a menu board for a hot dog stand using all self-created graphics.
“I’m amazed by what they can do,” Mason said. “Some of them are better than me.”
The tour then led through the connected campus to Woodstock Middle School, where Principal Mark Smith took Barge to other classrooms, including two special education classrooms that were using Smart Boards to learn how to read traditional and analog clocks as well as learn the continents.
Smith and Barge discussed student achievement, engagement, the Common Core curriculum during the tour.
“It was great for him to just walk right in and go straight into all the different classrooms, all the grade levels and see our hard-working students and staff,” Smith said.
After a short drive to Acworth, Barge met Principal Jennifer Scrivner at one of the district’s newest schools, Clark Creek Elementary School STEM Academy.
Scrivner told Barge that approximately 90 percent of Clark Creek’s teachers are in the process of receiving district-level accreditation in STEM 21, which is a 60-hour certification program that utilizes the district’s federal Race to the Top funds.
A highlight at the school was the global classroom, where a group of third-grade students used video-conferencing technology to speak with other third-grade students at a school in Ghana.
“It’s really good for kids to be able to see there’s a world out there other than what they know,” Barge said.
The students in Ghana performed a dancing and singing presentation, putting their “flavor,” according to one female student, on a traditional song.
The Ghana students then took questions from Clark Creek students about what the weather is like and what types of houses are in Ghana.
One student asked if the students in Ghana had ever seen snow.
“I’ve never seen actual snow, but our principal brought back snow in a can from her visit to the United States,” a male student in Ghana said.
Barge also visited a STEM lab where students built a “rocket”—a spinning top—to show how gear ratios affect speed and learned about the students’ participation in an upcoming robotics contest next spring.
Petruzielo said the early focus on STEM changes the paradigm of which students will attend technical universities and go on to degrees in physics—meaning the program gives more female students the opportunity to pursue a passion for science.
“There are a shortage of women in STEM fields,” Petruzielo said. “This goes a long way in closing that gap.”
Scrivner said a majority of the 100 students who chose to attend Clark Creek for the STEM program are male students, but she plans to look into that trend and identify how to attract more females.
In ending the tour, Petruzielo said he is pleased to have Barge’s leadership in the state’s education and appreciated his visit to Cherokee County.
“Dr. Barge is a strong advocate for Georgia’s public schools and educators, who speaks up for the students and families that we serve,” Petruzielo said. “We were proud to welcome him to our schools and let him see how dedicated our students and employees are to success.”