Whitesburg Elementary’s STEM Education Coalition is so productive and driven that it has been described as similar to private school-level education, school officials said Monday.

The school’s STEM program was considered mediocre a year ago, but thanks to Principal Dr. Marissa Ogando and her staff, it is now internationally and state awarded. The school has been recognized as an International STEM Association School of Excellence and Technology Association of Georgia Best in STEM for Georgia STEM Day.

STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and mathematics.

“With being recognized as an International STEM Association School of Excellence, we were one of three schools in the nation , but we were the only elementary school as well as public school,” Ogando said at Monday night’s Carroll County Board of Education work session. “The other two schools recognized were standard academies.”

Ogando told the board that Whitesburg Elementary is the only elementary school in the nation whose instructional staff is 100 percent Google Certified. It typically takes seven months for one to be certified.

“What [Google Certified] means is, there has to be a way for our age group to reach the younger generation,” Ogando said. “They are visuals, they have learned technology at a very young age. Being the only elementary school 100 percent instructional staff certifies, next year we hope be level two Google Certified.”

Ogando said her entire staff has the same mindset to being committed to work with students in the classroom.

“The intent of STEM is not to build things,” said Ogando. “Yes, that is a part of STEM but truly STEM is about teaching children how to think. It is taking them through the engineer design process model because if you can think like an engineer, you can solve any problem.”

School board member Sandra Morris asked what Whitesburg disciplinary problem statistics are and Ogando said that last year the school year ended with less than 40 office referrals. This year there have been only nine.

In other agenda issues discussed Monday:

Within the next week or so, the school board will be expecting the delivery of the new pedestrian bridge that will be placed behind the Performing Arts Center. The plan to place a bridge to connect from the Juvenile Adolescent Center parking lot to the arts center will help with parking space for heavy attended events.

Once the bridge is completed the school board will then be able to construct and focus on the amphitheater which will be placed between the arts center and the school board office.

When the board viewed the list of school field trips to approve for Thursday’s board meeting, Morris asked for the board to make sure that there are enough buses and that students are not arriving home late in the evening.

“Previously we have a had a lot of problems with not having enough buses but also we have had students arriving home late,” said Morris. “I want to ask if we can make sure that we are not pulling the routes the children are using to go home, even if we have to use charter buses.”

Assistant Superintendent Terry Jones said there is a limited number of bus drivers and that there are not enough bus drivers for the existing routes.

“What we do is that we work with principals so that when students do go on field trips, it is during the school day,” said Jones. “That way we do not pull a bus off of its route.”



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