Historical Perspective

Foreword to the 2005-2010 Charter for Baconton Community Charter School
From a simple spark in one’s imagination, a blaze of enthusiasm ignited in a community.  In an effort to revitalize the City of Baconton and north Mitchell County, a group of citizens began meeting in the late 1990s to find ways to improve the quality of life in the community.  The foremost idea, a school, quickly became the top priority.  It had been over thirty years since the public school bells had rung in this quiet town.
            The time had come for a new move in education, going back to the basics in curriculum and requiring the cooperation of the family with student work and parent volunteerism.  The need for a community school was evident.  A survey revealed that area students were attending as many as eleven different schools.  Numerous children rode a school bus nearly an hour each way to attend the Mitchell County schools in Camilla.
            The passage of the Charter School Act of 1998 by the Georgia General Assembly provided for the establishment of charter schools which could be governed locally, specifically by those involved in and affected by the school.
            This dedicated group of citizens worked unceasingly for the next two years to insure that Baconton Community Charter School would open in the fall of 2000.  The first of many hurdles to cross was the acquisition of a facility to house the school. The logical choice was the empty school which had housed Baconton Elementary School many years before.
            But funding was a problem.  After all, the charter school law allowed schools to be established, but did not provide for facilities.  That problem was left up to the citizens who petitioned for the Charter.  After hearing of the plans to establish a charter school in Baconton designed to provide a quality education for the children of north Mitchell County, Mrs. Elizabeth Ford Leary generously purchased and donated the building which now houses Baconton Community Charter School.  Mrs. Leary was a retired Atlanta School System educator with family ties to the Baconton community.
            Upon receiving the approval of the Mitchell County Board of Education and the State Board of Education, Baconton Parents & Citizens for Better Education began enrolling students and restoring the historic facility on Walton Street.  In the spring of 2000, volunteers coordinated the restoration of the school building.  In addition to a facelift made possible with a fresh coat of paint, the building needed electrical and plumbing repairs.  Portions of the old lunchroom and weight room had to be demolished because of weather damage, and numerous broken windows were replaced.  Despite many years of neglect, the building remained structurally sound.  Progress was made weekly.  With a bucket of paint and paintbrushes in hand, volunteers, both young and old, spent their Saturdays working at the school.
            Funding continued to be an issue.  Although much of the labor was donated by the parents and grandparents of children who would attend the school, materials were expensive.  Donations were sought from local citizens and from former residents to aid in the restoration.
With so many tasks, and such little time, everyone pitched in to get the work done.  The work was dirty.  The air was steamy.  Bodies dripped with sweat.  Few complained.  The effort proved worthwhile.  After all, it was for the children.
            In August of 2000, volunteers worked day and night to meet the deadline set by the Mitchell County Board of Education.  The facility had to pass inspection by the Fire Marshal in order for BCCS to be granted its charter.  Countless volunteers worked into the wee hours of the morning finishing tasks that would determine the school’s fate.  This effort resulted in a spirit of pride and accomplishment among BCCS family members.
            While each family volunteered at least ten hours, most families worked far more than that.  In fact, many volunteers logged hundreds of hours.  That’s what it took to open the doors of Baconton Community Charter School!
            Although the classrooms had seemed large and empty during the summer restoration work, as the opening of school neared, classroom necessities found a new home at BCCS.  Carpet for the classrooms was donated.  Air conditioning and heating units were installed.  Student desks were acquired from surplus in a neighboring county.  Additional classroom equipment was received from a closed school in yet another county.  Used playground equipment, too, was given new life at BCCS.
            Its time had at last come, and the doors opened to grateful parents and students alike.  Those who were a part of the summer work crew at BCCS were overwhelmed with joy when the school’s first official open house was held just days before the beginning of school.  Excitement filled the air.  “Can you believe it?!” families asked one another.  Teachers had been in their classrooms readying them for eager students.  The walls were decorated with behavior charts, character education posters, and alphabet cards.  Desks were neatly aligned.  Marker boards had been installed.  Air conditioning units cooled the rooms, while a warm summer breeze blew through the hallway. 
School uniform shirts in green and navy emblazoned with the BCCS logo arrived just in time for distribution on this late August evening.  Eager students raced to put them on.  Faces gleamed with pride.  What a night it was for BCCS families!  The dream was quickly becoming a reality.
              Baconton Community Charter School officially opened its doors to students on Tuesday, September 5, 2000.  The eight teachers and three staff members welcomed the one hundred forty-eight students on this first day.  Most parents brought their children to school as there was no bus transportation.  Many walked their children to class, helping them to feel comfortable in their new surroundings.  For most students, however, this was not a new place; many of them had helped during the summer restoration of the building. 
            Each member of the first faculty brought to the team varied experiences and a rare enthusiasm for embarking on an unknown adventure.  From the uncertainty of whether the school would actually open in the fall to awaiting the arrival of new textbooks and equipment days after school started, this group exhibited an unparalleled spirit of cooperation and optimism.
            The trail to this charter school has not been easily traveled.  Many obstacles threatened to prevent BCCS from becoming a reality.   Yet, those obstacles were overcome by the determination of the BCCS family to provide an environment where children can excel in academics and build strong character.
            The school’s growth over the past four years has been tremendous.  From an initial enrollment of 148 students to over 500 in 2004, BCCS is bursting at the seams.  Because of the unwavering dedication of the faculty, the governing board and the parents, BCCS is flourishing.  The school’s success is evidenced by the enrollment growth and continuing number of students on the waiting list.  Despite increasing the number of sections at each grade level, the demand for student slots continues.  The staff now numbers 65!
            Diversity at BCCS takes many forms.  For one, our racial diversity has increased each year as those who first doubted the authenticity of the school have been awed by its ability to meet the learning needs of those with varying learning styles. We serve a population of African-American, Hispanic, Asian, Caucasian and multi-racial students similar to the percentages residing in the north Mitchell County attendance zone.  Additionally, our school is socio-economically diverse.  Our students range from families with little or no income to single parent working families to two-parent professional families.  We also value diversity on our staff.
With the growth and popularity of the charter school, the community is thriving.  Once a town nearly void of business and traffic, Baconton is home to several new businesses.  New housing is under development, as well.  Mitchell County has built and staffed an Emergency Medical Station in town to serve the north Mitchell area.  The economic boost to this area can be credited entirely to the establishment of the charter school.  Over six hundred people spend their days in Baconton now, nearly doubling the town’s population each day!
            BCCS is a shining example that parents, when provided a choice in their children’s education, will likely become more fully involved in their children’s school.  BCCS parents have volunteered thousands of hours over the past four years.  However, BCCS not only encourages parent volunteerism, but also encourages parents to bring their children to school and pick them up again in the afternoons.  In this way, parents and teachers have many opportunities to meet with one another informally, thus establishing a working relationship between home and school which fosters accountability and furthers student success.  Parent satisfaction at BCCS is high.
            The innovative curriculum and educational philosophy at the heart of the BCCS experience has proven successful.  Because of Direct Instruction, student achievement is high and students enjoy learning at BCCS.  Parents value both the academic acceleration and remediation available to their children.  The school’s freedom to place students in appropriate instructional groups allows all children to learn to their potential.
            As a charter school, BCCS is ever mindful of its accountability.  Student success is the top priority.  BCCS maintains a strong focus on student achievement and continually works toward improving achievement at all levels.  After all, our community needs well-educated future employees if economic growth in the area is to continue.
Using Direct Instruction curriculum materials for spelling, reading, and language in the elementary grades, along with Saxon math, provides a firm foundation on which students can build further success in middle and high school.  Continuous assessment of student progress insures content mastery.  Teachers trained as coaches oversee the implementation of the program in the classrooms and assist other teachers in reaching the desired level of student achievement.
With over 100 laptop computers for student use, BCCS students have access to wireless internet service and cutting edge software. Technology use at BCCS focuses on integrating technology with the curriculum. From researching topics to preparing slide presentations, students at all grade levels are becoming competent  users of technology.
         BCCS’ fiscal responsibility demonstrates its efficiency.  Not only are students achieving at a high level, but the school is getting these results while carefully maintaining a budget.  Salaries and expenses remain low as compared to other school system figures.  Several administrative responsibilities are shared with classroom teachers, thus avoiding additional costs.  Maintenance and custodial staff is minimized by the use of volunteers. Paraprofessionals are trained in the use of the Direct Instruction curriculum to the same extent that teachers are.
            The opening of Baconton Community Charter School signaled a return to high standards of teaching, study and conduct that once existed in our schools.  BCCS has provided an alternative for families seeking a safe, nurturing atmosphere for their children to develop both their character and academic potential.
            BCCS has been made possible through the determination of a few.  Its ultimate success depends upon many.  With every passing day, the fire burns brighter and stronger.  The commitment to these children and to their success is evidenced by the actions of parents, faculty, grandparents, and citizens within the community. 
            Community involvement is evident in our supporting organizations.  The Grandparents’ Booster Club and the PTO involve a wide range of individuals.  In fact, the president of the Grandparents’ Club doesn’t even have a BCCS grandchild!  Her love for children and the opportunity to be a contributing member of the community drive her dedication to BCCS.  Both organizations fundraise throughout the year to provide for our students. These organizations have pulled together to provide many of the things that state and local government monies cannot provide. PTO and the Grandparents’ Club have worked throughout the past four years to improve our campus for our students, including air conditioning the auditorium, building a ramp for the lunchroom, installing an awning over the ramp, and purchasing an ice machine, to name just a few. The grandparents and PTO have made the impossible possible. 
A newly formed organization, the Baconton Blazers Booster Club, secured donations to provide for the building of an athletic complex for our growing athletic program which is competing in the Georgia High School Athletic Association.  Students, parents and community volunteers have spent many hot, sweaty hours clearing land and building baseball and softball fields.
BCCS has developed an array of extra-curricular programs.  Students may participate in interscholastic competition through cheerleading, golf, tennis, cross country, track & field, softball, baseball, academic team, literary and one-act play.  In addition, students may develop leadership skills and civic responsibility through membership in 4H, FCA, and Y Club. Other activities in which BCCS students often participate include ballet classes, gymnastics, karate, scouting, band and clogging.
            Because of the experiences of the past four years, lives have been forever changed.  Students who may never have found academic or social success have been provided with the tools and skills to achieve lifelong success.  Families that may never have participated in civic or volunteer activities have become actively involved in their children’s school.  Grandparents and community residents have found BCCS to be a source of pride and meaning in their lives.  One example is that of a grandparent who gave up alcohol completely three years ago because of her newfound love, the children of Baconton Community Charter School.
            The last principal of Baconton Elementary School, the late Mildred Jackson Cole, went on to record the history of Baconton in her 1976 book From Stage Coaches to Train Whistles.  In the foreword she wrote, “We leave the next recording to generations to come, with love as we challenge you to
Hold high the torch!
You did not light its glow;
‘Twas given you from other hands you know,
Be yours to hold it high!
Twenty-eight years later, that challenge is being met.  Bringing a school back to Baconton, establishing a standard of excellence, and sharing the vision with the many who pass through these doors, the torch is being held high.  BCCS is ablaze with pride and a love for learning.  Our spirit glows throughout the community.  Appropriately, BCCS adopted the blaze as its mascot.  Baconton Blazers are truly “blazing the trail to excellence in education.”
            The BCCS family and surrounding community have invested time, energy and expertise in the success of this school.  The commitment to educational excellence is evident daily. The determination, perseverance and passion for excellence exhibited by BCCS parents, students and employees are unmatched. 
This school has brought families together, creating a warm community in which people work together to provide an environment where children can learn in a safe and nurturing atmosphere. BCCS acknowledges the awesome responsibility of educating these students and engaging their families in meaningful volunteer experiences.
 From a vision for a better Baconton, to the opening of this charter school, the past few years have been a challenge, a struggle, a hope, a reality.  For stakeholders, the future of BCCS is promising.  The groundwork has been laid; the work continues.  The renewal of the charter for Baconton Community Charter School is crucial.

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