Forsyth County hosts State of the Schools event just in time for back-to-school season

Kimberly Bond

(Forsyth County, GA) County leaders, parents, educators, and other staff members of Forsyth County Schools (FCS) met Tuesday, July 25, for the 2023 State of the Schools address to hear news about the FCS performance.

Opening Remarks and Announcements

New Hope Elementary, Forsyth County’s newest elementary school, hosted the event. New Hope students kicked things off with a performance of “The Circle of Life” from The Lion King. The students wore colorful costumes, sang, and even helped produce the performance.

Next, Andrew Walker, the chair of the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, welcomed the crowd and shared that the county’s school system has the highest College and Career-Ready Performance Index (CCRPI) scores, the highest graduation rate, the highest SAT scores and ACT scores, and the highest financial efficiency ratings out of all metro Atlanta school systems. He also cited the strong foundation that FCS provides for its students, pointing out that 55.9% of adults in Forsyth County have an undergraduate degree compared with 33% of adults in Georgia.

James McCoy, President and CEO of the Forsyth County Chamber of Commerce, next acknowledged community leaders and the event’s sponsors before introducing Lori Gold, who was representing the title sponsor, Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta (CHOA). Gold announced that CHOA is building the Arthur M. Blank Hospital in North Druid Hills in Atlanta. When complete, it will be the largest pediatric hospital in the nation and will give Forsyth County parents another option for care in the metro area.

“We look forward to providing the best care for kids,” said Gold.

State of the Schools Address
Light presented the State of the Schools address at Tuesday's meeting.Photo byForsyth County Schools

Darla Light, the chair of the Forsyth County Board of Education, presented the State of the Schools Address. Light, who proudly noted that she has three grandchildren in Forsyth County schools, focused on highlights from the 2022-23 school year such as opening New Hope Elementary, building a new support facility, and breaking ground on the new facility for Midway Elementary.

“This year we will be celebrating 150 years of Forsyth County schools,” said Light.

This year, FCS encompasses 42 schools: 23 elementary schools, 11 middle schools, 7 high schools, 1 college and career high school. With more than 54,000 students and 7,000 employees, it is the largest employer in Forsyth County and the 5th largest district in Georgia.

“Highly motivated students come to our classrooms locally and from all over the world, representing 129 countries and 69 languages,” Light said.

Light’s presentation also included information about diversity. This year, the breakdown of FCS students is 47% white, 30% Asian, 14% Hispanic, 5% black, 4% multi-racial, and 1% American Indian and Pacific Islander.

Progress Report Panel

After Light’s presentation, a panel of FCS staff members took part in a Q&A session. The panel members were Heidi Avila, FCS Health Services Facilitator and the 2023 Georgia School Nurse of the Year; Morgan O’Leary, New Hope teacher and the Forsyth County Teacher of the Year; and Richard Toomey, Kelly Mills Head Custodian and the 2023 National Custodian of the Year. Derrick Hershey, the Associate Superintendent of Human Resources, moderated the panel.
A FCS teacher, custodian, and school nurse gave a "progress report" during the event.Photo byForsyth County Schools

Each panel member took turns answering questions about their area of expertise. O’Leary, who teaches 1st grade, explained the importance of making sure each student felt welcomed to her classroom.

“I’ve tried to build a classroom community that’s focused on belonging,” she shared.

Avila revealed some interesting information about school nurse visits, dismissing the idea that most of the job is just applying Band-Aids.

“School nursing has really changed over the last decade,” she declared.

Avila went on to say that each school clinic receives 50-70 visits a day. School nurses serve children with special medical needs who require oxygen or feeding tubes as well as children with chronic illnesses such as Type 1 diabetes, severe asthma, or seizure disorders. She also pointed out that the school clinics also serve teachers, other staff members, and visitors.

“There’s definitely a direct connection between meaningful health and successful academic outcomes,” Avila said.

Finally, Toomey, who won National Custodian of the Year, shared his perspective about his FCS role.

“I approach each day not just as a staff member but as a parent and a member of the Forsyth County community,” Toomey said.

Toomey explained the critical role that custodians play in providing a positive educational environment.

“We understand the importance of keeping every student safe and healthy,” said the custodian.

Jeff Bearden, the superintendent of the Forsyth County Board of Education, wrapped up the event with a few more words of praise for the teachers, staff members, and other leaders who make the FCS one of the strongest school systems in the state.

“Our vision is a safe, connected, and thriving community for everyone,” Bearden said.

How are you getting ready for back-to-school season? Comment below or email to let us know.


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I'm a writer, editor, and journalist with a background in law and science. I love writing about interesting local places and events in Forsyth County, especially new businesses or family-friendly experiences.

Cumming, GA

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