The FAST department at GCA; Photo Courtesy of Georgia Cyber Academy
Wendy Oleksinski is a high school advisor at Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA)
As families become familiar with the virtual education model, the benefits are immediately apparent. Flexibility in the learning environment, individualized instruction, curriculum resources, and highly-qualified, certified teachers are just a few of these aids. But what supports are in place for students and learning coaches who may need additional assistance with organization, workload, time management, and modifications? At Georgia Cyber Academy (GCA), a high-quality public school program that offers the innovative use of technology and a rigorous curriculum from K12, the administration offers an additional layer of support for their families. The Family Academic Support Team (FAST) serves all grade levels (K-12), in a variety of support structures.
Ashley Cline, who serves as a high school advisor lead within the FAST department, explains, “Our team prepares for the school year by planning and implementing our Strong Start program, which is how we ensure that our new families are welcomed, have the tools they need to succeed, attend orientations to familiarize themselves with our platforms, answer any questions they have, and ensure that they feel comfortable logging into our systems before moving on to their homeroom teacher for the year. We pride ourselves in being that “smiling face” behind every call we make to welcome our new families.”
Each member of the team makes personal phone calls to provide one-on-one support in all initiatives.
The FAST at Georgia Cyber Academy is a team that is growing due to high demand. It is comprised of Family Academic Support Liaisons and Advisors, Family and Regional Engagement Coordinators, Compliance Liaisons, Social Workers, and even a Community Partnerships Manager. Advisors work with at-risk students helping them become more successful with time management, aiding in navigating the online systems, or setting up a schedule. Cline passionately adds that the team members are ready to “pull out all the stops” to reach each individual student and family.
Liaisons offer mandatory EPIC (Empower, Prepare & Inspire Confidence) sessions where students follow a curriculum designed to reengage and return them to the path of success. The Family Engagement Team works hard around the state to provide opportunities for families and teachers to work together in person and also to introduce potential new families to what the school has to offer in their educational ventures. The Compliance Liaisons contact students who need support with attendance. Social Workers help families that are in need of resources outside of school, offering critical advice and resources for housing, internet access, etc. Finally, the Community Partnerships Manager plans activities all around the state of Georgia (mostly free!) and creates partnerships within communities to donate their facilities, time, and resources to GCA’s students and families. This wrap-around approach to helping students and families become acclimated to online education is working.
With an enrollment of more than 14,000 students in grades K-12, GCA continues to identify the need for an extra layer of guidance and assistance each year. Families can feel certain they are supported and have a team of professionals waiting to help them in a “FAST” way!