Byline: TERESA STEPZINSKI
New superintendents will lend experience and bring new ideas for improving student achievement when classes resume in August in three South Georgia public school systems.
School districts in Brantley, McIntosh and Ware counties will be led by veteran educators who have established reputations in the region as administrators dedicated to helping students excel and reach their potential.
The superintendents all voiced enthusiasm for the new school year and said they have high expectations for their students and staff.
Drew Sauls takes the helm of the Brantley County School System, which has about 3,500 students. Based in Nahunta, the system includes six schools and about 500 employees. All Brantley schools have met student achievement standards for annual progress under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
This is Sauls' first superintendency. An educator for about 20 years, Sauls previously served as principal of Charlton County High School.
Sauls lauded teachers and school staff for their hard work and dedication to students, which he said is essential to academic achievement.
"Brantley County is a progressive school system ... and I want it to be on the cutting edge and a leader in education," Sauls said. "The teachers are going to work hard for the kids and hopefully together we can help them meet our achievement goals."
Math is one of the most important subjects that the district plans to focus on, he said.
Brantley is a low-wealth school system with a limited tax base. To compensate for those limited financial resources, Sauls said administrators plan to seek grants to help pay for education technology and other teaching tools to better prepare students for jobs in an increasingly high-tech world.
"It's a competition, now. They are competing to get into college and vocational-technical schools," said Sauls, who hopes to expand vocational and technical training programs offered at Brantley High School.
The district also will continue programs intended to identify and help students struggling academically, he said
To alleviate classroom overcrowding, the district is looking at building a new school in Waynesville. Construction could start as soon as next summer. The project would be paid for with revenue from a special local sales tax for education.
The current school houses students in pre-kindergarten through sixth grade.
"Right now, we've got the entire sixth grade out there in portable classrooms," Sauls said. "The new school would be for fourth, fifth and sixth grade. It would be built so we can add onto it as needed."
William "Al" Hunter, an educator about 35 years, moved about 40 miles east to become superintendent of the McIntosh County School System after leading the Brantley school district for about 10 years.
Based in Darien, the McIntosh system has four schools. It has about 1,900 students and 325 employees. All but one of its schools -- New McIntosh County Academy -- met the annual progress standards for student achievement.
Hunter said school administrators and teachers have worked over the summer break to put together their instructional plans. Consistency in curriculum and collaboration among teachers will be key to raising student achievement, he said.
"We are involved in a systemwide [instructional] improvement project," Hunter said. "Delivery of our instructional program is really our main focus this year."
Teachers will be using proven coordinated educational strategies that rely on the best instructional practices, innovative lesson plans and challenge students to incorporate skills learned in different subjects.
In addition, school officials will use assessment data to better pinpoint students' academic strengths and …