AUGUSTA, Ga (WJBF) The leader of the Richmond County School system is our guest on The Means Report. Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw talks about school security, the Pandemic learning gap, and bus service among other big issues. Please watch our interview and join us every Monday afternoon at 12:30 for The Means Report.

Hello everybody and welcome, once again, to “The Means Report.” As always, we appreciate you spending part of your day with us. Today we are going to tackle two subjects that I know you will find of great interest. First of all, the state of our schools, the Richmond County School System. How are things going this year? What can you do at home to help these children get the best education possible? The superintendent of the school system will join us. Also, it seems like it’s our top story every night for the past couple of months or so, ambulance service in Augusta. Do you honestly understand what’s going on with ambulance service and the potential need to switch companies? I’m not totally sure I do. So I’ve asked Commissioner Sean Frantom to come to “The Means Report” and explain things to us, in the middle of all he is doing with ambulance service, he and his colleagues on the commission, he is going to be with us in our next segment. And then of course we wrap it up with ways that you can help keep in touch with “The Means Report.” It’s easy, we’ll show you at the end of this broadcast. But first, let’s welcome to “The Means Report,” and welcome back to Augusta, really an overdue welcome back, Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw. He’s the superintendent of Richmond County Schools. Dr. Bradshaw, you’re no stranger to the school system. You left for a bit to go to Chattanooga. You’re back, obviously, for the past three years or so. Welcome back, and thanks for being with me.

Thank you.

All right, here’s my first question, and it’s really about the move back to Augusta, because you were like just this lifelong, it seemed, fixture in the Richmond County School system, broke away to go to Tennessee for a while, came back. What’s it been like as you transitioned back to Augusta? A lot of the same faces at the BOE and at the schools? Was it easy for you?

Yes, it was a easy transition. I served as the Deputy Superintendent for approximately four years, left, went to Chattanooga for one year and then returned to Richmond County. And the welcome was warm. It just feels like I have some unfinished business. The school system is moving in the right direction, and I wanna be a part of that. I have three goals, improve student academic achievement, number two, I want to make sure that we have a safe, secure school environment. And number three, I wanna make sure that we engage our students and they’re part of co-curricular and extracurricular activities.

All right, let me ask you about safety, security. That was a big focus when you were deputy superintendent, as you mentioned, it’s a huge focus now. I guess we can never be secure enough, but how do you feel about the safety and security of our schools right now?

I feel very good. Unfortunately, following the Uvalde, Texas, that’s a superintendent’s worst nightmare.


An event like that happening in their school system. After that incident, we decided to do a security survey where we reached out to all of our principals to make sure that that our access control points were secure, or if they needed additional security points. We discovered that while we were safe, we can enhance or improve our safety, so we invested it in an emergency response platform where every teacher now have, at a fingertip, where they can press a button and then emergency personnel will know exactly where they’re located and be able to come and provide support.

And I think most parents have probably figured this out by now. It’s not easy to walk into a Richmond County School from the outside. There are several things you have to go through, right?

Yes, there is there, there are checkpoints throughout the building. We wanna make sure that as soon as someone enters our campus from the parking lot through the athletic facilities, that they feel secure.

And let me just say this, you will not find a better law enforcement body than the Richmond County School System police. They are awesome, and I just wanted to give a shout out for them. Great experience with with them as well. They’re wonderful men and women. Let me ask you about the bus system, Dr. Bradshaw. We see our school buses everywhere. Do we have enough good working buses? Do we have enough drivers out there? What are your thoughts about transportation?

Well, I’m proud of my transportation department, but with all components of the school system, you can improve. And while we have enough buses, the issue is having enough drivers. So we have to do a better job of communicating with our community. Anytime a bus is late, we wanna identify the community so that a parent will not believe that the child is in any danger, but the bus is simply running late. But our primary focus, and we made that a goal, is to recruit and retain our drivers because they’re very important to the operation of the school system.

It seems like it’d be a great job. The pay is decent, the hours are okay. Am I missing something here? Why don’t people, and I’ll ask you this about teachers in a moment too, but just bus drivers, what do you think the hold up is as far as getting people interested in the job?

Well, the economy has changed. When a person can have a CDL, they have multiple opportunities. But we want to make sure that we incentivize and support our bus drivers. They are critical to our operation.

You know, just a few months after you got this job as Superintendent, the pandemic hit, everything changed. Do you feel like most of that is behind us, or are we still kind of just cautiously moving forward on our campuses away from the pandemic?

Well, I think we’re cautiously moving forward. I think we’ve had to hit a reset button. Everything we’re doing now is totally different. While education hasn’t changed, the way we provide education has. Being that we have one-to-one technology for all of our students, it does provide, calls that we have training for our students and teachers. So everything has changed, and we’re just hoping that we’re able to support our teachers and students throughout this effort.

Have we made up all the ground, and maybe it’s too soon for me to ask you this question, that we lost during the pandemic? Are you seeing a learning gap anymore with the kids who are still in school?

Well, there have been learning gaps and learning loss. Anytime students are out away from their teacher and you don’t have that one-to-one interaction, then there’s going to be learning loss. However, we’re working hard, we’re trying to be innovative, we’re trying to reteach and retool, and hopefully we’ll be able to make up some of that ground.

All right, update me, if you will, on the teacher situation. Do you all need more teachers in Richmond County? Where do we stand as far as that end of staffing?

Well, while we’re about 98% staff, the goal is is to continue to find highly qualified certified teachers. When we’re unable to find that batch of teachers, then we work closely with our waiver teachers. So we have to provide that support for our waiver teachers and continue to recruit and retain our qualified teachers.

You don’t need me to tell you this. If you go in a restaurant, it’s different than it was before the pandemic. If you go into the mall or any store, it seems like there is a reluctance among workers to go back to in-person work. Do you see that with teachers? Do you see them saying, look, you know, we figured out this remote thing, it was easy, it sort of worked, it worked. We don’t wanna come back in the classroom. Are y’all feeling any of that?

Unfortunately we’re not. Early on when we first returned after the pandemic, there were some reservations. It was just a new environment for our teachers and students, but I believe our teachers, and our staff, and our administrators have received all of our students and we’re just moving forward at this time.

Any concerns that you can share with us that teachers bring to you that maybe moms and dads and caregivers could help out with? Anything they need from you, the Superintendent, or from us, the community?

We have to remember that the school cannot live apart from the community, that we need the support of the community. We need every parent to be present at the parent teacher conference, and we need our teachers and our staff to be supported.

Dr. Bradshaw, I know that early learning is a big focus for you as well. What does that look like at home? Does it mean the minute a baby comes home from the hospital, maybe we start reading to them? How can we be a part of that early learning process at home?

That’s a great question. I started an initiative with the CSR Resa called “The Basics,” where what we wanna do, is as soon as a child is born in any Richmond County Hospital, that we provide them with five basic skills, just teaching parents how to be parents. No one’s given a playbook, so if we can give them that information early. We’ve also partnered with the Dolly Parton Imagination Library, that if a child is born in a hospital, they sign up and the child will receive a book a month all the way until grade school. So we’re trying to be proactive to ensure that our students have a literacy rich environment and that they’re prepared for school day one.

Do kids need to go to college anymore? And I know there’s probably not a pat answer for that question, but when you’re looking at your seniors graduate, and you’re watching as a whole what those kids do with their lives, is college necessarily required for success anymore?

Well, our goal is to make sure that we prepare our students for life beyond high school. Any secondary opportunities, whether it’s the workforce, the military, technical school, or college, they need to be prepared so that they will have multiple options available.

Do Richmond County Schools have a pretty decent relationship with companies around town so that if a child does wanna go into the workforce, that y’all have that connection for ’em?

Yes, sir. We have a strong CTA program and we’re trying to develop relationships and partnerships with many businesses and organizations around the city.

Listen, I know you mentioned a few minutes ago that education hasn’t changed really for the most part over the years. Have children changed? There are so many distractions. There are these devices, there are so many other things for kids. Have children changed in your career?

I don’t wanna say children have changed, but I do wanna say that the way we teach children, we have to change. Things are totally different. I didn’t learn the same way. And children today aren’t learning the same way. They have new devices, and we just have to be pretty much up to speed in the way we deliver education to our students.

My last question, I know that your life is fast paced. I know that you oversee thousands of students and staff, et cetera, but do you ever allow yourself to stop and think about why you took this job, why you got into education? And if you do, are you glad you made that choice?

I am so happy I made that choice. I’m happy to be in the city of Augusta, the County of Richmond. This is an opportunity, it’s a privilege to provide support to families, to teachers, to children that are in need. I want to be their voice and I want to provide them opportunities they may not could have imagined.

Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw, I can’t thank you enough for your time and for what you do for our children, it means a lot.

Thank you so much.

Absolutely, Dr. Kenneth Bradshaw, Superintendent of Richmond County Schools.