After viewing a presentation and witnessing testimony from teachers, parents and students who participated in the Lindamood-Bell Learning Process this summer, Macon County Board of Education members have decided to take time to review the information, visit a school currently implementing the program, and then reconvene to make a final decision on Sept. 6.
Superintendent Dr. Dan Brigman informed the board that as of 4 p.m. on Monday, a proposal of more than $200,000 had been drafted after a long negotiation process with Lindamood-Bell representatives. The summer program costs about $50,000 for materials and program fees and an additional estimated $80,000 in teacher pay for the 17 teachers that volunteered for the program.
According to Paula Ledford, Exceptional Children Program Administrator for Macon County, the majority of the additional proposed annual cost of $210,150 needed to implement the program would pay for two onsite project leaders to mentor and coach teachers twice a week to continue training. The funds will also be utilized to pay for a five-day workshop for up to 40 designated teachers from each school in Macon County. An estimated 350 students district-wide will be able to receive small group intensive intervention.
The proposed cost, which according to Brigman comes out to a little less that $50 per child, will also pay to have additional teachers trained in the Lindamood-Bell Process, which will eventually certify up to eight district staff teachers to act as mentors within Macon County.
Originally, the proposed cost started out at more than $300,000, but according to Ledford, was significantly reduced based on the impressive community support throughout Macon County.
Passionate about the program and its success, Ledford informed board members that “time is money.” She urged them to adopt the program as soon as possible because the longer the board takes, the more instructional days lost. “This isn’t coming from the central office,” Ledford explained. “We want this because the teachers have asked for it, and because it works.” Ledford also noted that if the board takes too long to approve the program, that momentum will be lost and teachers will lose interest.
Brigman explained that funding for the program would come from existing funds and that all that is left to do is a matter of rearranging where specific funds are being allocated.
Matthew Gardner, regional manager of School Partnerships for Lindamood-Bell Learning Process, returned to Macon County, giving a presentation to a packed room of teachers, board members, school officials, parents and students during Monday night’s board meeting. He also toured different schools in the county to answer any questions about the Lindamood- Bell program’s methodology and process of implementation.
During his previous visit to the county earlier this month, Gardner was joined by Paul Worthington, the program’s co-director of Professional Development and an advocate for Lindamood-Bell, Dr. Robert Pasternack, former assistant secretary for Special Education and Rehabilitation Services for the U.S. Department of Education during the Bush administration. The trio spoke to community members about the importance of the Lindamood-Bell process and the “phenomenal” success it had seen during the few short weeks it took place this summer.
According to Gardner, the program was implemented at East Franklin over a four week period. A group of 54 students and 17 teachers received four hours of intensive classroom instruction daily. “The goal of the summer school program wasn’t just achievement in the summer, but training teachers how to educate students how to read,” Gardner said.
After Gardner’s Monday night presentation to the school board, which highlighted the impressive results that Macon County students yielded this summer, the floor was opened to public comment, which was flooded with teachers, students and parents who praised the program and urged board members to adopt the program and to form a partnership with Lindamood-Bell.
Charlotte Rhoden, third grade teacher at East Franklin Elementary attended the Lindamood-Bell reading program this summer, and is thankful to have done so.
“It really changed my outlook on teaching reading.” Rhoden explained that she used to “cringe” at the thought of having to teach reading, and always wanted to teach a grade level that already knew how to read before they came to her class, which is why she began as a fifth grade teacher when she started teaching six years ago. She shared that teaching third grade has been a challenge because frankly, she was never trained on how to teach reading to her students.
According to Gardner, the majority of teachers admit they are not qualified to teach students how to read because they never received appropriate training.
Rhoden has begun implementing what she learned this summer into her classroom. Although the Lindamood- Bell program is intended to be utilized in small groups, Rhoden uses it for her whole class. “The students are excited to be doing it, and ask me everyday when we are going to use the ‘Seeing Stars’ program again, and they are showing improvement!,” shared Rhoden.
Linda Browning spoke to the board as a parent of a child who took the program this summer. Browning explained that her son had been diagnosed with ADHD, and has experienced fundamental learning problems his entire life. A tearful Browning shared that after completing the program, her son’s test scores showed that he went from a 3.2 reading level to a 9.2. Browning also reported that her son has shown significant progress in other subject areas and for the first time, he is excited about going to school. “This program works, it really works. I encourage the board to take advantage and begin using this program,” she said.
After listening to the presentations, board member Jim Breedlove shared his reservations about the program. “I hate to sound stingy, but in these economic times, I need more information when talking about this amount of money,” Breedlove said. Breedlove’s main concern was how the program was going to be introduced into the school, and if it was going to be done in a manner that utilized the program, allowing it to be as effective as possible.
Gardner informed board members and teachers alike that they are welcome to visit a school located in Bristol, Tenn., which implements the Lindamood- Bell process on a daily basis. Breedlove stated that after hearing the overwhelmingly positive testimony from Macon County participants of the program, after he visits Bristol and has the opportunity to personally see the program being implemented, he would have no problem voting in favor of the program.
Some board members needed less convincing. Board member Tommy Baldwin got emotional while praising the work of the teachers. “It is exciting to see what it’s [the program] done for the students and for teachers,” he said, “you have taken a life, a little human life, and it’s going to be so much better now.”
After members of the board visit the Lindamood-Bell developmental site in Bristol, and have the opportunity to review the financial proposal, they will reconvene at 9 a.m. on Sept. 6 to vote on the program.
Awards of Excellence
During August’s board meeting, members took time to recognize outstanding staff achievements. Brigman and Board Chairman Tommy Cabe, presented awards to three individuals who excelled during the 2010-2011 school year. Brigman described the opportunity to recognize faculty members in the county as, “This is most often the best part of the meetings; we get to highlight some tremendous achievements by some tremendous people in our school system.”
The board first awarded Todd Gibbs, principal of Macon Early College, with the Principal of the Year award. According to Brigman, the Principal of the Year is voted on by all of the principals in the district. The recipient of the award then has the opportunity to compete on the regional, state and national levels. Gibbs was appreciative and humbled by the award. “I want to thank my fellow principals for electing me to the award,” Gibbs said.
Teacher of the Year was awarded to Vickie Sutton, English teacher at Franklin High School. Brigman explained that the award recipient was chosen by a committee of local business members, parents and other representatives of all stakeholder groups.
June Zachary received the Support Person of the Year Award. According to Brigman, each year principals and staff come together and vote on the support staff for each individual school. The recommendations are then passed on to the board, which reviews the recommendation and votes for an overall award winner. “We look for a person who stands out above all others in terms of their service to students and to their peers in the school,” said Brigman. More than a dozen of Zachary’s family members and coworkers attended the meeting to congratulate her on the award.
'Go ahead' for outdoor pavilion
Jennifer Love, teacher at Mountain View Intermediate, addressed the board to request $5,000 which is needed to begin construction on an outdoor pavilion that will be accessible to both Mountain View Intermediate and Macon Middle School students. Love has been diligently working to secure the pavilion for two years. Through grants, she was able to raise a large portion of the estimated $18,000 it would take to build the structure.
Love, along with Dr. Brigman, approached the county commissioners to request a price match on the remaining funds needed for the building. The commissioners agreed to match up to $5,000, if the school board was willing to contribute the same. The board unanimously voted to match the commissioners’ contribution. In anticipation of the board’s cooperation, the pavilion’s plans had been drafted by Tom Ritter. The funding approval prompted an anticipated construction start date of Sept. 15, and will be completed in about two months.
School starting date update
Macon County Board of Education attorney, John Henning Jr. updated the board on the status of the petition against the Aug. 4 start date for the district. According to Henning, the state and Save Our Summers (the group opposed to the start date) filed a motion for a summary judgment. Henning proposed to the board that they allow him to do the same for Macon County.
Henning urged the board to file the motion in an attempt to prevent an October hearing on the issue that would take place in Raleigh.