Superintendent Autry announces retirement
Posted on 09/28/2017
Rockdale County Public Schools (RCPS) Superintendent Richard Autry has announced his plan to retire, effective October 30, 2017. “Although this was not an easy decision, I must put my family and personal circumstances first at this time,” states Autry.

Superintendent Autry has spent 18 years serving in various roles within RCPS. “It has been my distinct pleasure to serve this community as a teacher, coach, principal, Chief Academic Officer and for the past six years, your superintendent,” he stated in his announcement. “I have full confidence that Rockdale County Public Schools will continue to strive for world-class and provide all students with a quality public education.”

“We wish Mr. Autry the best with his retirement,” says Board Chairman Jim McBrayer. “We appreciate all that he has done for the children and families of Rockdale County over the years, but especially during his tenure as superintendent. His leadership brought many innovative programs and offerings to our students and families such as the school specialty and choice programs and advanced technology tools, including individual devices for students. In addition, his unwavering commitment to student success allowed RCPS to continue to see improvements in student achievement. We will certainly miss him, but as a retired person myself, I can also share his excitement to begin a new chapter in his life.”

A glance at RCPS under Mr. Autry’s leadership

Leading the way using the district’s strategic plan as the blueprint, Mr. Autry widely communicated the Vision for the Future of Public Education in Rockdale County to all stakeholders. Through collaboration, that vision is now reality. Expanded learning options for students and families, specialized programs of study based on interests and talents, new ways of learning through virtual opportunities and full implementation of a One-to-One Plan are just a few of the district’s recent initiatives that keep RCPS at the leading edge of public education.

Expanded Specialty and Choice programs of study for elementary, middle and high school students across the district have opened opportunities for students regardless of school attendance zones. Currently, over 1,000 students are transported to schools outside of their attendance zones to vertically articulated programs that they selected according to interest and talent, not zip code. These programs boast state-of-the-art classrooms, research labs, and specialized learning tools such as weather stations, interactive 3-D healthcare models, professional grade flight simulators, industry-standard production studios and radio studios, musical instruments, and newly renovated performing arts and dance theaters. In addition to the many non-traditional programs already in place (Rockdale Career Academy, Rockdale Magnet School for Science and Technology, Rockdale Open Campus, Alpha Academy, and Rockdale Virtual Campus), the following school choice programs are offered with plans for additional choice programs in the future.

Elementary School
STEAM Academy at Shoal Creek Elementary School
Honey Creek Elementary STEM
AVID Elementary at Sims Elementary School
Dual Language Immersion at C. J. Hicks Elementary School

Middle School

Center for Technology & Engineering at Conyers Middle School
Academy for Pre-medical Sciences at Edwards Middle School
Academy for Performing and Visual Arts at Davis Middle School
STEM Academy for Environmental Studies at Memorial Middle School

High School

Institute for Advanced Technology at Rockdale County High School
Academy for Performing and Visual Arts at Heritage High School
International Entertainment and Business Leadership Academy at Salem High School
Microsoft IT Academies at each high school

Understanding that teaching and learning must meet the technological adeptness of today’s student, Mr. Autry initiated a One-to-One Plan for individual devices for students and teachers. Dubbed Learning Reimagined, this initiative also includes improved infrastructure, professional learning, and digital citizenship training for students, parents and teachers. This plan has been successfully implemented with over 18,300 individual laptops given to teachers and students in grades 3-12, and Apple iPads in all Pre-K-2nd grade classrooms. Learning Reimagined includes a comprehensive professional learning sequence for teachers so they may effectively change pedagogy using technology as a tool.

In addition to the One-to-One Plan, Rockdale Virtual Campus (RVC) has more than doubled during Mr. Autry’s tenure from 12 courses and 900 classes taken in 2012 to 30 courses (including 6 Advanced Placement courses) and over 2,035 classes taken in 2016-17. The expansion affords students the opportunity for blended learning models and for some students, the ability to complete all required coursework for graduation online while being able to participate in extracurricular activities at their zoned high school.

Mr. Autry led the district to become one of the highest rated AdvancEd internationally accredited systems in the state. The district’s most recent accreditation earned an overall score of 324 on the Index of Educational Quality (average score at the time was 282). AdvancEd’s Lead Evaluator, Dr. Mike Lodico, remarked, “You’re going to be seen as one of the very highest rated districts because these are extremely high scores and ones that really are a tribute to the tremendous work that’s being done in Rockdale County Schools.”

Under his leadership, the system is performing above the State average. While research says that student achievement decreases as the number of economically disadvantaged students increases, RCPS is experiencing the opposite. Student achievement is increasing and achievement gaps are closing, even as the number of economically disadvantaged students increases. For example, in 2011-12, RCPS was 63% economically disadvantaged with a graduation rate of 72%; today, however, RCPS is 72% economically disadvantaged with a cohort graduation rate of 84%. RCPS stands above the State’s average of 80.6%. The RCPS district CCRPI score remains above the State for the third consecutive year. Analyzing data and creating a renewed focus on student growth, RCPS expects to see improvement in all areas of CCRPI. With regard to stakeholder perception and satisfaction, RCPS consistently scores above-average with a 4-star, Climate Star Rating of 87.038.

All of the accomplishments mentioned are remarkable under normal circumstances, but Mr. Autry took the helm just as the local tax digest dropped unexpectedly by 20% causing a very bleak budget outlook and the need for creative ways to maintain a debt-free system and still move forward with the Vision and all of its components. In a short time, Mr. Autry had been able to restore teaching positions, reduce class sizes, eliminate furlough days, implement a full 180/190 school calendar, provide employee pay raises, and implement the RCPS Strategic Compensation Model to attract and retain quality personnel.

The district is able to make great strides forward through the community support and passage of an $83.6 million five-year Education Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax (E-SPLOST) referendum that focuses on three major areas: Safety and Security, Technology, and Facilities. For example, in alignment with the RCPS Strategic Plan, this E-SPLOST has allowed the district to allocate additional resources to critical safety and security equipment like controlled access and entry at every school, additional surveillance and active GPS on buses. The One-to-One Plan is supported by this funding source as well as a plethora of facility improvements throughout all schools.

Mr. Autry worked collaboratively with members of the school board and helped guide the Board to achieve the highest possible designation of “Exemplary Board” by the Georgia School Boards Association.

During his 30 years (18 in Rockdale County) of service as a teacher, principal, central office administrator and superintendent, Mr. Autry has made an immeasurable difference in many lives. He will be greatly missed.