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 ensure 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.
A School Opens
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.
A Community Restored
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 excel in academics and develop strong character.
From an initial enrollment of 148 students to over 800 in 2014, the school’s growth over the past fourteen years has been tremendous. Because of the unwavering dedication of the faculty, the governing board and the parents, BCCS continues to flourish. The school’s success is evidenced by the enrollment growth and continuing academic achievement and athletic performance. The staff now numbers 70!
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, including a discount store, a convenience store and three restaurants. New housing has developed, as well. Mitchell County 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. Nearly nine hundred people spend their days in Baconton now, more than doubling the town’s population each day!
Innovation Drives Success
The innovative instructional practices 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.
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 offers an alternative for families seeking a safe, nurturing atmosphere for their children to develop both their character and academic potential. Student success is the top priority.
BCCS maintains a strong focus on student achievement and continually works toward improving achievement at all levels. Our community needs well-educated future employees if economic growth in the area is to continue. Like a rising tide that lifts all boats, the presence of BCCS as an educational choice infused market competition into our county, providing an incentive for all schools to improve outcomes. With several options now available, the “one size fits all” model has vanished; families may select a school that best fits their children’s needs.
A Community Rallies Support
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.
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 tens of thousands of hours over the past fourteen years. Parents and teachers have many opportunities to meet with one another informally at school events and during pick up & drop off times, thus establishing a working relationship between home and school which fosters accountability and furthers student success. Parent satisfaction at BCCS is high.
Community involvement is evident in our supporting organizations. The Grandparents’ Booster Club and the PTO involve a wide range of individuals. In fact, the founder of the Grandparents’ Club didn’t even have a BCCS grandchild! Her love for children and the opportunity to be a contributing member of the community drove 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 fourteen years to improve our campus for our students. The grandparents and PTO have made the impossible possible.
The Baconton Blazers Booster Club secured donations to provide for the building of an athletic complex for our robust athletic program which competes 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.
The Boosters also secured land and a loan to facilitate the construction of our middle and high school campus buildings. We are no longer squeezed into a mobile maze; our new facility provides attractive classrooms, restrooms and office spaces.
Because of the experiences of the past fourteen 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.
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!
Forty years later, that challenge is being met. Bringing a school back to Baconton, establishing a culture 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 continue “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 fourteen years have been a challenge, a struggle, a hope, a reality. For stakeholders, the future of BCCS is promising. The groundwork has been laid; a tradition of excellence established; the work must continue.
In the elementary grades, BCCS uses Direct Instruction, a teaching method combined with curricular materials. Direct Instruction has evolved from a theory of instruction developed by Dr. Siegfried Engelmann of the University of Oregon. Direct Instruction has been the focus of much research over the past 40 years, beginning with Project Follow Through, a large-scale federal research project that funded and examined a variety of approaches to educating disadvantaged students. The Project Follow Through evaluation found that Direct Instruction was the most effective model in all three areas studied: basic skills (reading, language, math, and spelling), cognitive skills, and affective behavior.
Studies have shown, and BCCS has experienced, Direct Instruction to be highly effective for both regular education and special education students. Direct Instruction “is one specific model of teacher-directed explicit instruction aimed at increasing not only the amount of learning but also the quality by systematically developing important background knowledge and explicitly applying it and linking it to new knowledge.” Direct Instruction is distinguished from other approaches “by its emphasis on both the importance of instruction (how a student is taught) and the importance of curriculum design (what the student is taught, in what order). The goal of Direct Instruction is to accelerate student learning by maximizing efficiency in the design and delivery of instruction. Efficiency is achieved when students generalize beyond the specific material in the lesson.”
Throughout the elementary grades, Direct Instruction programs in reading and spelling are used. The scripted lessons enable each group of students to have access to the same high quality instruction. Delivery features include rapid pacing, choral group responses interspersed with individual turns, corrective feedback, re-teaching, reinforcement, cumulative review and practice, progressing from teacher-directed instruction to independent application, with ongoing monitoring of student progress and performance.
Students are placed at appropriate instructional levels based on performance, so those who learn rapidly are allowed to accelerate and those who need additional assistance receive it. For students entering BCCS without proficient reading skills, a Direct Instruction reading program is available.
Blazer College & Directed Study
The transition to high school can be difficult and intimidating. We have created a freshman course to ease the transition by providing instruction in study skills appropriate to the high school content, development of necessary work habits, and the use of technology as a learning tool. The course outcomes support continued student achievement. Our goal is to ensure that every student is on the path to college and career readiness, hence the course “Blazer College.”
Seniors complete a capstone project (Directed Study) in which they develop a resume, research a career interest, explore post-high school options for continuing education and employment, and hone their presentation skills. A recent graduate, now attending Kennesaw State University, reported that her capstone portfolio “got her a job” with a political candidate’s campaign this semester.
Through partnerships with nearby colleges, BCCS students have the opportunity to earn nearly thirty semester hours of core college credits while remaining on the high school campus. As we move forward, our desire is to increase the percentage of students who graduate having earned some college credits. As an alternative to remaining on our campus, some students may elect to attend classes on the college campus.
BCCS maintains flexibility to operate on a five, six or seven period daily schedule. In most cases, one-credit courses span the entire school year. BCCS may elect from time to time to offer block style scheduling for selected courses, providing a two period class in which a full credit may be earned in one semester. High school students have the opportunity to earn at least six credits each year. The yearlong course plan is in keeping with the Direct Instruction philosophy in that repetition and practice over a period of time is necessary to ensure content mastery and to develop critical thinking and problem solving skills. BCCS believes that students must have ample opportunities to practice their learning.
Yet another feature of the BCCS experience is student uniforms. BCCS students will continue to wear the official school uniform adopted by the Governing Board. Research has shown that uniforms aid in orderliness and in maintaining a positive school climate.
Tutoring is offered at BCCS for students in need. Teachers are available after school to assist struggling students. Computers are available for student use every day after school. The After School Program employs teachers from every grade level to ensure that students have access to teachers who can help them with homework.
BCCS invests an unusual amount of time and energy into students. Teams of educators meet with parents and students as needed or requested. Through these academic conferences we devise individualized plans to increase and monitor student success.
The Spirit of Giving
As part of our mission, BCCS endeavors to create a sense of civic responsibility and commitment to volunteerism in each student. One of our core beliefs is that citizens should give more than receive. To achieve this end, our students participate in numerous service activities. For example, through Dollar Jeans Day each week, students & faculty may contribute to a charity fund that has enabled us to provide Christmas gifts for families that otherwise would have none, to assist needy families with electricity bills, and to purchase necessities for families when homes have burned.
Our student organizations often engage in service activities, as well, and several high school students and faculty members are trained volunteer firefighters and emergency responders. Volunteerism is modeled by our parents and grandparents who generously give of their time and talents each year to improve our school and by our faculty who participate in service projects and donate to our annual scholarship fund.
Believing that involvement in school activities promotes academic achievement, satisfaction with school, and personal development, BCCS encourages all middle and high school students to participate in at least one extra-curricular activity. For some students, this could be playing a sport; for others, it may be participating in club activities.
BCCS currently fields GHSA competitive teams in football, softball, cross country, cheerleading, baseball, track, tennis, golf and literary. Middle school athletic teams include football, softball, cross country, cheerleading, and baseball. Students also may compete on our Academic Team, which holds a #11 National ranking.
Organizations on campus include FFA, Beta Club, Student Government, Y Club, 4H, and FCA. As student interests arise, additional organizations are formed. Students as young as 5th grade may participate in 4H. Elementary students may join the science club.
Every Friday seniors meet with the senior sponsor for a time of fellowship and food. These half hour gatherings strengthen the Blazer esprit de corps. We want our students to remember their formative years at BCCS as integral to the person they become, and to know, beyond any doubt, that the faculty and administration at BCCS care about each one personally and that they will always be a part of the BCCS family.
The BCCS Graduation celebration is like no other. Our graduates decide who will have parts in the ceremony, which faculty member(s) they want to deliver a final address, and other special details of their choosing. Our BCCS faculty, PTO and grandparents, as well as local businesses and civic clubs, award thousands of scholarship dollars. This formal academic ceremony takes every attendee down an emotional memory lane as we celebrate each graduate’s accomplishments before sending them into the world of post-secondary education and careers. Graduation is the pinnacle of our BCCS family experience.
Baconton Community Charter School
260 East Walton Street Baconton, Georgia 31716
"Blazing The Trail To Excellence In Education"