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Hill City Elementary receives top state and national designations. Hill City Principal Jennifer Halko and other representatives from the school were recognized. L-R Angela Kretschmar, assistant principal; Sonia Chapman, Diane Kinzer, Amanda Abbott, Abby Tippens, Kelly Proudfoot, Courtney Davis, Jennifer Halko, principal; Dr. Janet Goodman, federal programs director. They are shown in front of school board members (l-r) Tommy Gartrell, Steve Smith ( seated Sue Finley) Supt. Tony Young, Tucker Green and Aaron Holland.

Hill City Elementary receives top designations

Supply chain issues impact school food service, but food will always be available

            Hill City Elementary has received two top designations and was recognized by the Pickens Board of Education for its accomplishments at the November 11 meeting. The west Pickens elementary school has been named a Title I Distinguished School, and also received a 2021 National ESEA designation.

            “All of our staff members made the award possible by their continuous dedication, hard work, love for our students, and an unrelenting desire to see all of our students achieve their highest potential. Hill City is a wonderful place to be. We have strong teachers, supportive families, and great students,” said Principal Jennifer Halko in a later interview. “The staff, families, and students did all the hard work of closing the achievement gaps and making the award possible.”  

            The Title I Achievement Awards are issued by the Georgia Department of Education. The Title I program is meant “to improve the entire educational program in a school, which should result in improving the academic achievement of all students, particularly the lowest-achieving students.”

            Schools that make significant progress improving student achievement and closing the achievement gap are recognized. Of those, schools that rank in the top 5 percent in their Schoolwide Program and Targeted Assistance Program receive the Title I Distinguished designation. They also have the highest performance for the all-student group based on the current statewide assessments.

            Hill City Elementary was recognized in a GaDOE webinar about school improvement and consolidation of funds. Halko was a panelist on that webinar to talk about how the school manages their funding and budgeting. They have also been asked to present to the state about innovations at their school.

            “Their school continues to get statewide and national recognition for the good work they’re doing,” said Janet Goodman, director of federal programs.

            Hill City was also one of just two schools in Georgia recognized for a 2021 National ESEA designation, and one of just 100 in the country to receive the designation.

            According to Destini Shope, director of public relations for Pickens schools, Hill City submitted their application for the designation in the area of closing achievement gaps for two or more years.

            Shope presented the jump in Hill City’s CCRPI scores from 2018, at 70.7, to 2019, at 88, which contributed to their designation. The school also implemented agriculture and balanced literacy programs, and built teacher capacity.

Supply chain problems hit food service

            School Nutrition Director Beth Thompson said while they – like many other sectors of the global economy – struggle with supply chain issues, no student will ever be without a meal. 

            “The international supply chain we’re all experiencing could cause us not to always be able to follow our menu and to not always have everything we’d like to have with very little notice,” she said. “Put simply, we may not always be able to follow the published menu as planned…we might have to cut back on the number of choices or variety of items offered. We may even run out of a particular item on a given day at your school – but we will always, always have something to feed the children, it may just not be their first choice.”

            Thompson said the nutrition department has been able to work with vendors to find comparable items when items they order are out. She noted that they are also dealing with staff shortages, and she and the board asked the public to be patient and understanding as her department works through the challenges.

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