The Pickens County School Board filled three top positions at a called meeting Thursday, hiring a PHS graduate from 1978 as the principal for his alma mater.
Eddie McDonald was hired as the high school principal; Dr. Lisa Galloway was hired as the personnel director and Dr. Lonnie Trahan Dikowski was hired as a full-time special education director for the system.
See complete story with comments from administrators, board members and McDonald in this week's print edition.
Eddie McDonald stands in front of the class of 1978 photo on the wall at PHS. He is the first graduate to return as principal in the modern era.
Last Friday, the Creative and Performing Arts Academy presented its 40 young campers to their family and friends in a Mad Hatter's Camp Celebration performance of scenes from the musical Alice, based on Alice in Wonderland.
With five different Alices, two white rabbits, and four Tweedles plus many more characters, this fun display was a great chance for more young actors to perform on stage. See more about this group in this week's print edition.
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.