In his first big media appearance since taking office, new State School Superintendent John Barge said two priorities this year would be creating multiple pathways to the state’s single diploma and responding to concerns about the math curriculum. (He said DOE had math teachers in last week — they could not come in this week for a second session — to participate in a “precision” review of the math curriculum.)
Barge made his comments at a media symposium sponsored by the Georgia Partnership for Excellence in Education. I will update this blog all day as new speakers appear.
Right now, we are hearing about Race to the Top from Erin Hames, formerly with DOE and now with the governor’s office, and Teresa MacCartney, RTTT implementation director with DOE. MacCartney just introduced Kathie Wood, a teacher who recently joined the RTTT team — she was a state teacher of the year finalist and taught at Marietta Middle School — to provide the teacher perspective. Wood is speaking now; she is very inspirational so I can understand why DOE tapped her to be part of the RTTT team.
Here are Barge’s comments:
On the state budget: “I do have a lot respect for the difficult job that Gov. Deal has. We expected the budget to be worse than it was. I think Gov. Deal took a great deal of care to prevent deeper cuts than what we even anticipated. We were encouraged by what we saw…the budget he proposed seeks to strike a fiscally sound balance in tough times. We have to do more with less. Revenues continue to decline.”
“We continue to work at better leveraging technology. We must embrace technology to deliver what we need to deliver to our students with less resources. We are already working within our department to look at efficiencies and model doing more with less for local school districts. We continue to make the Department of Education the most efficient, best customer service agency in the state of Georgia. Can we streamline? Yes, we can.”
“One of the benefits of growing up in poverty is that you figure out how to get things done with limited resources. Limited resources will not prevent DOE from finding ways to deliver the best education we can to the students of Georgia. I want to be transparent in the department. That has been one of the issues. As a person out there in field, sometimes we didn’t always have best communication from the department.”
Barge then gave his bio: Youngest of five kids. Dad was an alcoholic and abusive to his mother. Very difficult and challenging childhood in Georgia.
“I decided very early on when I was little that you know what, when I am an adult, I want better for my family. I want a better life. I want to provide for my family. And the only way I could do that is education. No one in my family ever went to college,” he said
“School gave me the opportunity to be me. It gave me the opportunity to escape home. I had scholarships to a number of schools. I ended up at Berry College in Rome where I paid the least amount of money to go. I really came to love Berry. I realized that Martha Berry understood education better than anybody I have ever known. It is about education of the head, heart and hands,” he said.
Barge said he raised his brother’s two children for five years. The youngest child was 4, and was hiding food when he first came to live with Barge and his wife because the child had never known from where his next meal would come. The child was far behind, but by second grade was the best reader in his school, said Barge.
“We are passionate about education,” he said. “I know that education is a great equalizer. It didn’t matter when I walked through the doors of Campbell High School that maybe all we had to eat that morning for breakfast was popcorn. It didn’t matter that my dad was an alcoholic. It didn’t matter what was going on at home. When I walked through doors of that school, I had the same opportunity as every other child in that building.”
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog