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Rockdale increases CTAE graduation rate, exceeds state rate
  • Updated

CONYERS — The graduation rate for Rockdale County Public Schools students involved in Career, Technical, and Agricultural Education programs increased to an all-time high of 98.23% for 2021, rising above the statewide rate, which held steady at 97%. This rate applies to students who complete a Career Pathway.

“I congratulate our CTAE Department under the leadership of RCPS CTAE Director Dionne Johnigan as well as all our amazing CTAE instructors for the passion and zeal with which they engage students on a daily basis in a variety of viable Career Pathways,” said Superintendent Dr. Terry Oatts.

“Notwithstanding the public health crisis of the last couple of years, our CTAE students have persisted in their pursuit of meaningful and relevant career pathways of interest by completing rigorous study in defined career pathway clusters that equip them with advanced career readiness and industry standard employability skills,” Oatts added. “In fact, many of our CTAE students are not only taking challenging academic and pathway courses, but they are also acquiring invaluable work experience through apprenticeship opportunities, practicum, internships and actual part-time employment aligned to their CTAE Pathways”

RCPS offers 31 Career Pathways in high school and has eight middle school CTAE program offerings. The high school Career Pathways include Audio-Video Technology and Film, Automobile Maintenance & Light Repair, Business Accounting, Business & Technology, Companion Animal Systems, Computer Science, Construction/Carpentry, Culinary Arts, Cybersecurity, Early Childhood Care and Education I & II, Engineering and Technology, Entrepreneurship, Fashion Merchandising & Retail Management, Financial Services, Interiors Fashion & Textiles, Law Enforcement/Criminal Investigations, Lineworker (electric power lines), Manufacturing, Marine Corps JROTC, Nutrition & Food Science, Programming, Sports & Entertainment Marketing, Teaching as a Profession, Therapeutic Services/Allied Health & Medicine, Therapeutic Services/Exercise Physiology, Therapeutic Services/Patient Care, Therapeutic Services/Surgical Technology, Veterinary Science, Web & Digital Design, Welding. The middle school CTAE program offerings include Business Management & Finance, Communications, Computer Science, Engineering & Technology, Family & Consumer Science, Healthcare Science, Marketing, Transportation (Aerospace).

“While we rightly celebrate our district’s highest CTAE graduation rate to date at 98.23%, what we celebrate most are our CTAE students’ readiness and viability for careers that provide critically important services to the community while strengthening our economy and earning our students competitive salaries and wages,” said Oatts.

Georgia’s CTAE program leverages partnerships with industry and higher education to make sure students are ready to take their next step after high school. Students can take courses in more than 100 Career Pathways within 17 Career Clusters, earn recognized industry credentials, participate in work-based learning and apprenticeship opportunities, and serve as leaders through membership in co-curricular Career and Technical Student Organizations (CTSOs).

CTAE is for all students, and Career Pathway completers are prepared to pursue higher education (through the University System of Georgia, Technical College System of Georgia, or another institution), enter the military, accept an apprenticeship opportunity or immediately begin their career.

For more information about CTAE Career Pathways offered at RCPS, contact RCPS CTAE Director Dionne Johnigan at For more information about Work-Based Learning at RCPS, contact Work-Based Learning/Youth Apprenticeship Program Coordinator Tami Maddox at

Georgia-grown tree graces Vice President Kamala Harris' home for Christmas
  • Updated

COVINGTON — If you think the most beautiful Christmas trees come only from more northern climes, think again.

Chuck and Lori Berry of Berry’s Tree Farm in Newton County were honored by Newton County recently after one of their locally-grown Leyland cypress trees was selected for display at the Washington, D.C., home of Vice President Kamala Harris. The tree was chosen for this honor after being named Reserve Grand Champion in the 2021 National Christmas Tree Contest conducted by the National Christmas Tree Association.

The Berrys were honored again last week when Newton Board of Commissioners Chairman Marcello Banes presented them with a certificate of excellence.

Chuck Berry, whose family has farmed in Newton County since 1894, growing everything from “cows to corn to Christmas trees,” said the selection of a Georgia-grown tree was a point of pride for growers in the Deep South.

“It was quite an honor, not only for the family, for the county, even for the state, and for Christmas tree growers across the South because everything is based on the Fraser fir out of North Carolina,” Berry told commissioners. “That’s what most people think of when they think of a real Christmas tree, and that is the Cadillac. We’re not fortunate enough to grow Fraser fir Christmas trees here. We rely on cypress trees, pine trees and cedar trees. Most of those Fraser fir growers in North Carolina think of our cypress tree as a landscape tree. They don’t think you can grow a landscape tree into a Christmas tree, let alone be awarded Reserve Grand Champion and get to pull your truck and trailer up into the front yard of the vice president’s house in Washington, D.C., and show her what Newton County can do.”

Berry represents the fifth generation of his family to run their 206-acre farm just west of Covington. The land was initially cultivated for row crops and used for a dairy operation. With the demise of the dairy operation in 1969, the Berrys turned to other farming endeavors. The first Christmas tree crop was planted in 1977, and the family has been expanding its choose-and-cut operation since then.

The Berrys have also expanded into agri-tourism, offering train rides, a petting zoo, a concession stand and pictures with Santa during the holiday season.

In 2020 Chuck Berry was appointed to the national Christmas Tree Promotion Board for a three-year term. The purpose of the board is to expand the market and uses of fresh-cut Christmas trees.

Berry’s Tree Farm, located at 70 Mt Tabor Road, Covington, offers fresh cut trees, including Leyland cypress, cedars and pines. Berry said the farm sold about 4,000 Christmas trees this year.

“It was another good year,” he said.

Former DA Richard Read appointed to State Court judgeship
  • Updated

CONYERS — Former Rockdale County district attorney Richard Read has been appointed to the new State Court judgeship created in the 2020 session of the General Assembly. The appointment was announced Friday by Gov. Brian Kemp.

Read served the Rockdale Judicial Circuit as district attorney for five terms, having first been elected in 1998. He decided not to run for re-election in 2017 and has served as senior assistant district attorney since 2018. Read also previously worked as an attorney at Schneider, Read, and LaMalva from November 1996 — December 1998, and was chief assistant district attorney for the Rockdale Circuit from June 1992 to October 1996.

Read is a member of the State Bar of Georgia and has also served as a Georgia high school mock trial coach since 2008. Read received his bachelor of arts in political science from the University of Georgia and received his juris doctorate from University of Georgia School of Law.