CONYERS -- State School Superintendent Brad Bryant visited the Rockdale Career Academy this week to help Rockdale County Public Schools kick off a new initiative for safer and healthier schools.
"As we look at decreasing resources that we all have ... we've got to start thinking about how we can work together," Bryant said at the event. "If we are willing to help our children, we will thrive when others may be struggling."
RCPS administrators and community members gathered together Wednesday to kick off a new community partnership called STARS, or Support Team for All Rockdale Students.
"Recently we have seen this community come together after violence and death," said RCPS Superintendent Samuel King at the event. "Young people need our help now more than ever. ... As a public school system, we must provide each child, each student, with learning opportunities."
RCPS already has partnered with such entities as the Department of Juvenile Justice, mental health organizations, law enforcement agencies and other area organizations.
The project is being implemented through a $4.5 million Safe Schools/Healthy Students grant that was received last year. Since receiving the grant, a team has spent one year planning how to create safe school environments, promote healthy development and prevent violence and substance abuse among students.
"Our teachers do a great job educating our students, despite many distractions our students are faced with ... but there is still much work to be done," King said. "It takes a village to raise a child, and this village will succeed if we come together."
Project leaders in the system and schools already have developed programs and community programs to promote safe and drug-free schools, provided staff training and helped expand the early childhood program at Rockdale Career Academy.
For at least the next three years, programs will be continued and implemented. RCPS plans to implement more student opportunities for peer mediation; alcohol and drug awareness, prevention and intervention programs; and anti-bullying programs, among others.
"We can and must do more to meet the needs of our students and the community," said project director Susan Paul Smith. "We want the school environment to be a safe place."
The program's advisory council, which is made up of community members and RCPS officials, will meet monthly to discuss programs. Individual schools also have program leaders.
Any individual or business interested in partnering with the initiative should contact the department at 678-551-3134.