SCS Superintendent speaks to local Kiwanis Club

Published 2:26 pm Wednesday, May 24, 2017


AMERICUS – Torrance Choates, PhD, superintendent of Sumter County School system, said changes in varied areas of the public schools are bringing good results that he believes will get even better well into the future.
Speaking to the Americus Kiwanis Club last Friday, Choates presented an interesting slide presentation to Kiwanians and guests gathered in the faculty dining room on the campus of Georgia Southwestern University. He reviewed topics that ranged from academic discipline, parental-child involvement, a higher level of expectation from students along with implementation of new initiatives and requirements. He also listed projects of the board of education.
Choates pointed out student discipline is handled much differently today than it was 30 years ago. “Suspending students from school for rules violations doesn’t work anymore therefore we’re using alternatives because teachers must be in control of students to teach in the classroom without interruption as much as possible,” he said.
He said teachers are now expected to make 30 contacts a month with parents or guardians. “I think this is making a difference because we’re seeing more parental involvement than before,” said Choates, “we’re also requiring all principals to visit teachers in the classroom to see what’s going on and check weekly lesson plans.  And we have award ceremonies quarterly for student achievement – this gives the student more motivation incentive.”
Choates is completing his first year here as superintendent of schools, having assumed the position eight months ago after moving from Baker County where he served as the public schools superintendent.
Despite his brevity of service here, Choates is making good strides in making needed changes.
“We can do more with our students by mentoring and encouraging them to do their best despite their circumstances and home environment,” he said. He considers the board’s mission of graduating all students of upmost importance. “Students need a high level of (academic) expectation. We want them to be college ready after graduation,” pointed out Choates.
Other points of discussion included the board of education’s vision to ensure that everyone – students and faculty – is on the same page to work together as a team and do the best you can to give us everything you’ve got.
He drew an interesting parallel regarding the challenges the school system faces today with the difficult time General George Washington faced in leading the Continental Army across the frozen Delaware River on Dec. 25, 1776, saying that although the army was “woefully behind schedule” Washington ignited his men to rise to the occasion to successfully crossed the river.
Like Washington’s troops, Choates said, “we have battles as well. We have to keep our teachers and students motivated; we’re making improvements and implementing new requirements; we’re prioritizing different plans but it takes a while.
“We have good schools, good curriculum and good students and the school board is doing a good job of working together,” said Choates. “Our schools have no excuse for failing – we’re headed toward success and in three or four years we’ll get there,” said Choates.
Cody King, Kiwanis vice president, welcomed everyone and Sylvia Roland, Sumter County BOE member-at-large, introduced the speaker, other board members and staff present. They included Meda Krenson, BOE District 2; Edith Green, BOE District 1; Andrea Wright, executive assistant to Dr. Choates and Jimmy Green, truant officer.
A delightful musical program immediately followed and was presented by Leah Anglin, vocalist, May graduate of the university’s school of music who sang a number of pieces while accompanied on the piano by Alwen Yeung.