When she took over as the attendance officer 16 years ago, Shelley Cantrell never thought she would one day be asked if it were possible to bring dropout levels down to zero in the Pickens school system.
But after wrapping up the past academic year with a mere 14 dropouts from a student population of 4,345, it will be hard to make much further progress without eliminating the problem completely.
“Problems are opportunities. I always try to set the goal high,” Cantrell said. “Zero dropouts is possible. Last year we had a couple of months with no dropouts, and that was something I never thought I would see when I started this 16 years ago.”
But zero dropouts, while possible, won’t come easily, as at least two of the 14 who quit school last year didn’t have much choice. One was expelled and one incarcerated, according to the reasons listed on the statistics provided each month to the school board by Cantrell.
Considering that the high drop out rate in Pickens County schools was a regular subject of jokes less than a decade ago, having the number whittled down to 14 last year is remarkable.
Last year’s total 14 more than cut in half the 37 who elected to leave school in the previous (2009-2010) academic year. Each of the past five years, the schools have seen more students follow the motto, “School’s in, don’t be out” with drop out numbers dropping in solid steps from a record number of 84 in the 2005-2006 year down to the 14 of last year.
READ MORE ABOUT THE DECLINE IN DROPOUTS IN OUR PRINT EDITION NOW ON SALE
The summer reading activities at Pickens County Library will soon start, Children’s Coordinator, Olivia Hattan-Edwards said her top three favorite events will be: The Summer Reading Club Kick Off Events with Barry Stewart Mann, "Cultureman June 2 at 2:30 p.m., The Old West Show with Jim Dunham, July 7 at 1:00 p.m. and Juggler Extraordinaire with Adam Boehmer, June 29 at 1:00 p.m.
Children under nine years of age must be accompanied by an adult.
Teen events include: Teen Movie Monday, June 6 at 3:00 p.m. featuring the story of a little girl who falls down a rabbit hole, light refreshments provided. This event is for teens 12 and up.
Duct-tape Designs on June 20 at 3:00 p.m. teens are invited to design jewelry, wallets, bookmarks and more. Registration is required and sign-up begins two weeks prior to the event.
Mad for Mad Libs! on July 11 at 3:00 p.m. This event is for teens to be creative and have fun.
Reference Coordinator Carmen Anne Cosner Forsee said her top three activities for adults will be the murder mystery play on July 21, “great fun”, a movie starring Humphrey Bogart August 11, and Heritage Quilting (registration required June 16 at 6:00 p.m.
The adult programming will begin May 20 and end July 31, participants must come in to receive their passport and after every three books read they will be entered into a raffle.
Participants for the adult events must be high school graduates and up. Forsee said, “Everything is free, their biggest expense will be the gas to get here.”
For more information on summer events at the Pickens County Library call 706-692-5411.
Commissioner Robert Jones announced he has contracted for test bores to be drilled around the courthouse property in downtown Jasper as part of “the pre-planning” for future construction and expansion of the Main Street marble landmark. Jones’ announcement came as part of a very brief May commissioner’s meeting Thursday, May 26.
The county signed an agreement with Moreland Altobelli Associates, Inc. for “geotechnical drilling sub-surface investigation.”
The cost of the work is $5,400 and Jones said it is necessary to determine the suitability of the site for future construction. Jones said in this case, the sub-surface work is important, as it is known the Main Street location has held earlier buildings and may hide old “coal-bins,” unknown utility lines or other buried structures.
Jones said seeing if there is anything buried around the courthouse property that may have to be removed or dealt with in some other way will be important as an architect begins designing an expansion of the marble courthouse.
Plans call for six test holes, with the deepest going 36 feet. Jones said infrastructure and buried utilities aside, it is important to check the condition of the soil as the county continues to plan for a courthouse renovation project, budgeted as a $17 million item in a sales tax referendum approved by voters in 2008.
Dr. Ben Desper, along with his wife Laura, are looking for a home here during regular work trips the new superintendent of schools for Pickens County makes from his current residence in Bartow County.
The new superintendent must work through June in Bartow’s school system before starting here full time in July.
Desper, who is mixing house hunting with work to familiarize himself with the local schools, said his new home will preferably be near the school system’s central office.
In Floyd, Habersham and Bartow counties, where Desper has worked previously in education, he looked for “places where you can see the school from the house when the leaves are off the trees.”
Read the rest of the profile of the county's new superintendent in this week's print edition now on sale.
Organizers of a community assessment on families in Pickens County speculate that employment and job issues will be the number one need identified for the forthcoming five-year plan.
At a public input meeting Monday, representatives from different social agencies discussed the 2013-2018 Comprehensive Plan for the Advancement of Families and Children in Pickens County.
This effort will identify the top “barriers” families here face and will work to develop strategies to address these barriers over the next several years.
Pickens Family Connections is hoping for a broad range of input, setting a goal of 500 completed surveys from all areas of the county.
“This thing can go in any direction people want,” said Matt Moore, director of Pickens Family Connections. “It just depends on the input.”