Melanie Reed is a lifelong resident of Gwinnett County and superintendent of Buford City Schools. She was expecting her firstborn when she and her husband decided they wanted to raise their family in Buford. A Buford graduate himself, Reed’s husband appreciated the academic edge he’d been afforded at his alma mater district, and he and Reed wanted the same for their own kids.
After the move, Reed worked in several roles in Buford City Schools, from elementary school teacher to principal to assistant superintendent. Then in February of 2022, she was named superintendent after the existing superintendent announced his retirement.
Although she might appear a rookie to her role, Reed knows the school system inside and out, holding high visions and standards for the district, its teachers and its students.
“Our goal is for our students not to just be locally or nationally competitive, but to be internationally competitive,” says Reed. “And our district is putting focus in areas where we can make that happen.”
Examples include expanding advanced placement and gifted opportunities, stem opportunities, supporting ESOL students and also expanding career technical pathways to get students career ready after graduating high school.
But Reed doesn’t believe the efforts should end at academia. “We want to ensure that students not only achieve but also feel their best,” says Reed. “Our focus is also on promoting mental health and wellbeing, creating a supportive community, and amping up safety.”
The Birth of Buford City Schools
A popular misconception about the district is that at some point, it broke apart from Gwinnett County Schools. But the BCS district actually predates the formation of Gwinnett County schools with BCS dating back to the 1870’s. Cities managed their own school districts and operated independently prior to consolidations.
In 1956, cities in Gwinnett County were given the option to vote into a county-consolidated district. While the rest of the cities in the county chose to conjoin, Buford decided to continue operating as its own independent district, and it’s remained that way ever since. Today, the Buford City Schools cluster includes Buford Elementary School, Buford Academy, Buford Senior Academy, Buford Middle School and Buford High School.
The unique advantage of this structure, according to Reed, is the cohesive collaboration it fosters vertically among teachers. For instance, it’s not uncommon to find middle school teachers syncing up with high school teachers to craft and bolster curricula to benefit and challenge students.
“We want to ensure that students not only achieve but also feel thier best.”Melanie Reed, Superintendent of Buford City Schools
A Novel Approach to School Structure
Did you know: where most districts include several grades under an elementary school title, BCS segments the population into three different schools? Buford Elementary School is exclusive to Kindergarteners, while Buford Academy hosts first through third graders and Buford Senior Academy is home to fourth and fifth graders.
Buford Elementary School (Kindergarten): BES has a brand new media space in the works, which will provide staff and students a place to integrate coding, robotics, and STEM activities into the curriculum.
Buford Academy (Grades 1-3): In Fall of 2022, BA looks forward to debuting Odyssey of the Mind, a program that aims to cultivate students’ problem-solving skills with creative and unique challenges. Additionally, BA (and BES) teachers have begun Orton-Gillingham training, which is a highly structured, multi-sensory, sequential, diagnostic, and prescriptive approach to teaching literacy.
Buford Senior Academy (Grades 4 and 5): BSA students, parents and staff raised over $93,000 during their October fundraiser to purchase new playground equipment, enabling the school to install interactive educational boards to enhance classroom teaching and learning.
Buford Middle School for music excellence: In March 2022, BMS Symphonic Band participated in a Large Group Performance Evaluation at Central Gwinnett High School. The band played a sight-read piece and three various pieces of music in front of a judges’ panel. The results? All A’s in fifty categories of scores!
A behemoth for Buford High School: Back in the 1990s, Buford High School (BHS) was a 1A classification school. Now, it’s set to be reclassified from 6A to 7A, indicative of the tremendous growth in its student population and signaling the need for a bigger, better sports venue. With the current Tom Riden stadium tracing its roots back to BHS’s 1A days, the high school is excited to announce a brand-new replacement that will be situated across the street from the school. Construction is set to start in January 2023 with an anticipated completion of fall 2024. To lend glory to its upgraded status, the stadium is expected to tout 10,000 seats, a pedestrian crosswalk connecting BHS and the complex, expanded concessions, a press box, as well as a large parking deck to accommodate both players and visitors.
With football winning state championships three years in a row, volleyball and wrestling winning state two years in a row, and a recent state championship in gymnastics, it’s no wonder the mere mention of BCS is synonymously correlated with excellence in athletics. As a result of its vigorous efforts in athletics, the district received the Georgia Athletic Associations Directors Cup this year for the second year in a row–a recognition awarded by the state for top overall athletic programs–in 6A classification.
An award-winning fine arts instructor, a state-of-the-art facility
Buford City Schools Fine Arts Coordinator and Choral Music Director, Dr. Chris Fowler of Buford High School, was nationally recognized as Outstanding Music Educator for 2021-2022 by the National Federation of State High School Associations.
Dr. Fowler’s accomplishments are many. Apart from being a devoted fine arts instructor and choral director for over 35 years, he’s also the hand behind the district’s two performing arts buildings; the Buford Fine Arts Center and Buford High School’s performing arts building. Built in 2000 and 2019 respectively, the buildings are privately-held and accessible only to groups associated with BCS.
The two facilities provide a professional atmosphere for teachers and students. Students have the opportunity to rehearse and perform in both spaces with state-of-the-art technology and systems often found in professional theaters such as a Spiralift orchestra, a nine-foot Steinway concert grand piano, LED and incandescent lighting, and digital sound systems. Each facility has a professional flyway system and Clear-COMM to facilitate communication between the AV booth and dressing rooms. Each dressing room is equipped with a video monitor that displays live action in real time from the stage. Both of Buford’s awe-inspiring venues surpass many professional facilities, making for a true Broadway-type of experience for performers and audiences.
Nationally competitive ranking in academics
When it comes to academics, BCS has been crushing it. The district’s SAT scores for 2021 rose from 2020 by 37 points and are currently 85 points above state average and 124 points above the national average.
As of 2021, BHS also boasts an astounding graduation rate of 95.9%, and the college board has recognized it for exemplary scores in four distinct areas: AP stem achievement school, AP school of distinction, AP expansion school, and AP stem school.
“Our goal is for our students not to just be locally or nationally competitive, but to be internationally competitive.”Melanie Reed, Superintendent of Buford City Schools
What’s next for the Wolves?
The plans for BCS’s future are bright, including a bolstered curriculum that helps students remain competitive not just regionally or nationally—but also internationally. Projects in the BCS pipeline include a new career and technical education building that will include a construction lab, an engineering lab and several computer science labs, among other things. A visitor’s fieldhouse is anticipated at the Tom Riden Stadium of Buford Middle School for visiting football teams, and Buford’s cross county and track teams.
Additionally, the district continues to expand its classroom capacity throughout its cluster schools to ensure that students can learn in a classroom instead of in ‘portable learning units’ or, as they’re better known, trailers. This includes the upcoming renovations to Buford Middle School’s cafeteria, kitchen and current fieldhouse to include more classrooms as well as adding a two-story building behind Buford Senior Academy.