Back to school season is here!

Habersham County School Superintendent Matthew Cooper.

The following is an open letter to students and parents from Habersham County School Superintendent Matthew Cooper:

Ready or not, it is time to start thinking about that time of year we call “back to school”.  There is nothing like the excitement that surrounds the start of a new school year. As I started writing this letter, I reflected back on my own school days and remembered the great anticipation that came with a new school year. It was always tough going to sleep that night before the first day of school. The only thing that compared to the excitement of the night before school starting was the night before Christmas.

The arrival of a new school year meant it was time to start thinking about school supplies, school clothes, and discovering who your new teachers were. The start of a new school year also meant that high school and college football were just around the corner. A new year announced that fall would arrive soon, and for me, this meant that I would soon get to spend some time in the woods hunting.

I still love the smell of autumn woods.

The “back to school” season should be a happy time for everyone. It is one of the things I like best about the education profession.  A new school year is an opportunity for new beginnings and better things. As I remember my days as a Principal, I recall the message I always shared with students on the first day of school. I reminded our students that the new school year was an opportunity to start with a “clean slate”. A student with past attendance issues could attend school more this year, a student who had previous discipline issues could improve their behavior or a student who lacked effort in the classroom last year could now set a goal to make the honor roll.

I encourage our teachers, students, and parents to realize that hope exists in a new school year. I have witnessed many students embrace this chance for a “clean slate”. On a lighter note, if the parents in Habersham County are anything like my wife and me, they probably think that the best part of a new school year is that their children will be back on a normal routine and going to bed earlier – sorry to say that kids.

As crazy as the world around us seems these days, it is encouraging to know that good things remain here in Habersham County. One of these good things is our quality public school system.

I am pleased to provide evidence to our community that our school system is accomplishing its mission of “Success for All Students”.  In 2015, we achieved a record graduation rate of 88.5 percent!  The 2015 graduation rate improved by more than 20 points from the year 2011!  On the 2016 Georgia Milestones assessments, our students outperformed both the state and region in most areas. At the elementary level, our 3rd and 4th grade English/Language Arts scores beat the state by 10 points! At the Middle School level our 8th grade Math and Science students also beat the state by double digits. At the high school level, our Coordinate Algebra scores are #1 in the RESA region and are Top Ten in the state of Georgia. As a system, we beat the state by 30 points in Geometry!  We also had our best student attendance rates ever this past year.

In 2015, our school system had a record number of Georgia Department of Education Reward Schools. In 2016, Habersham Central High School was named an Advanced Placement Honor Roll School.

This year, Habersham Central High School will open the only “Move on When Ready” cosmetology program in the entire state.

Our school system also continues to make great strides in the areas of safety, financial efficiency, and facilities.

Habersham County has a school system it can be proud of. Because of the quality public schools here in Habersham County, all of our boys and girls have real opportunities for success. As Superintendent, I am looking forward to the 2016-2017 school year with great optimism. We have just had one of the best years ever for student achievement. Our school system has capable leaders, effective teachers, hard-working staff members, and parents that support our schools.

The future of public education in Habersham County is bright!  Communities like Habersham County that support their local schools show what is right with public education.

The first day of school for students in Habersham County will be Friday, August 5th.  Please be on the lookout for our yellow school buses and use extra caution in all drop-off and pick-up areas at our schools. As we enter the “back to school” season, I encourage everyone to slow down and take it all in. Reflect back on the days when you yourself looked forward to a new school year. Do not let our fast-paced world steal the joy of something as wonderful as “back to school”.

May God bless Habersham County and may He bless our new school year!

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