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News Education Literacy training program being offered to Macon County teachers

California company will run month-long specialized summer program at East Franklin

A group of 21 Macon County teachers has volunteered to participate this summer in a specialized literacy training program that will be organized by a California-based education company.

The five-week professional development program will train teachers in special techniques and methodology developed by Lindamood- Bell Learning Processes. The program will include four weeks of intensive classroom instruction with a group of 50 students from around the county.

At its regular meeting on Monday, the school board approved the program for this summer. Carol Waldroop, Director of Elementary Curriculum and Instruction in the county, explained that the program will be held at East Franklin Elementary School but will include participants from elementary schools around the county as well as from Macon Middle School and Mountain View Intermediate School.

About 50 students from grades 3 to 9 will participate in the program in rotating groups. The program will target students who have experienced reading challenges. Waldroop noted that a group of teachers at East Franklin who have already been trained in the methodology have demonstrated positive results with this group of learners.

“It’s a methodology of teaching,” Waldroop explained. “The teacher can use it in all subject areas all day long.”

“This is a great opportunity for any child that is asked to participate,” said Wendy Dalton, a parent of a child with a reading disability who participated in a Lindamood-Bell program in Georgia. “It’s an intensive program, but the results are phenomenal,” said Dalton, who added that her son improved two grade levels in many areas after six weeks in the intensive program.

Dalton noted that, based on research by the National Institute of Health, about 20 percent of school-age students could benefit from the Lindamood-Bell program. The methodology, which focuses on developing literacy through training in a patented process called sensory cognitive processing, emphasizes strategies of visualizing and verbalizing. Dalton added that it is a very expensive program for families that pay for it privately.

“This is not just going to impact a small group,” said Dalton of training Macon County teachers in the methodology. “This is really going to make a difference. If you don’t teach a child to read, you can’t teach them science or social studies. Even math is difficult if they can’t read a math problem.”

After a week of training the teachers in the Lindamood-Bell methodology, trainers will remain on site for the month-long intensive program for students. The intensive program will run from June 20 to July 20. The district has already identified 75 students in the county who might benefit from the program. From that group, 50 will be chosen to participate.

“What I hope parents understand is this is probably a one-time opportunity for their child to make one to three years of growth in a four-week period,” Waldroop said. “If we’ve got some middle school students that are behind, this is an opportunity for them to potentially go into high school almost at grade level.”

The majority of the students will come from East Franklin, but Waldroop says that students from schools around the county have been recommended to the program. Pre-testing and post-testing will be done and a report on the program’s success will be presented to the board. “The teachers will be getting the training, but the students will get the benefit,” Waldroop told the board.

The contract with Lindamood-Bell is for the training of 15 teachers, but Waldroop said that actually 21 teachers will be participating in the program.

Waldroop got the board’s approval to move forward on plans for the program, which she said would be financed through blended funding, including funds earmarked for exceptional children and for professional development. Total cost of the program will be $50,500 plus $80,000 in stipends for teachers who have volunteered for the training.

School board approves new, more stringent PTO policy

A new PTO policy has been adopted for Macon County schools that, among other recommendations, calls for more financial accountability.

At its regular meeting on Monday, the school board approved the second and final reading of the policy (No. 330), which provides numerous guidelines for PTOs (parent-teacher organizations) and booster clubs in the county.

The policy was drafted based on concerns and recommendations from PTO officers, according to Superintendent Dan Brigman. “We wanted to give them more details in terms of parameters and to work in partnership with them to make sure that there was a system of accountability,” said Brigman.

The school board first began deliberating on a new policy after an audit of the school system recommended that the board review its policy. The audit, which was presented to the school board in October, said that no irregularities had been noted in Macon County, but that because of increased levels of fraud in other districts in the state, it was suggested that the governance policy be reviewed and a policy established that would allow the district to review the financial accounting of the organizations.

Since PTOs operate independently of the school system and are not under direct control of the school board, the policy is intended to offer guidelines only. However, the policy does contain the provision that failure to follow the guidelines could lead to the end of the relationship between the PTO and the school and school system.

The policy encourages PTOs to have a yearly audit in addition to filing a tax return. PTOs are informed that the school system may conduct a yearly review of their financial records, and that all such records should be made available for review when requested. PTOs are encouraged to gain non-profit status.

The policy also recommends that all funds be spent with the knowledge and support of the school principal, who serves as an ex officio member of its board. PTOs are discouraged from having checking accounts that can be accessed by debit cards or online banking. The signatures of two or more PTO officers should be required for withdrawing funds of more than $250 and expenditures should be documented with receipts.

Besides the financial guidelines, the policy also gives recommendations for organizational structure and activities. Executive board members should be a parent or legal guardian of a child at the school. The PTOs are encouraged to meet at least two times per semester and notify parents of the schedule.

Highlands Girls Basketball Team

Highlands Girls Basketball TeamThe Lady Highlanders basketball team from Highlands School was recognized for its phenomenal performance this season. The team finished the regular season as Conference Tournament Champions and went further in state playoffs than any girls team from Macon County in 28 years. The teams were presented with a certificate of achievement from the Board of Education at its regular monthly meeting held last Monday night at Highlands School.

Head Coach Brett Lamb thanked parents and members of the school board for their support during the season. He said the seniors would be dearly missed next year, particularly Team Manager Elizabeth Gordon. “It was a great run,” said Lamb. “These girls worked hard.”

Taylor Buras – All Conference Award
Marlee McCall – All Conference Honorable Mention
Sarah Power
Courtney Rogers –All Conference Award
Mary Warner
Elizabeth Gordon, Team Manager

Julianne Buras
Emily Munger – All Conference Award; Conference Player of the Year; 1000 Point Club
Emily Murphy
Stephanie Smart

Kalyn Billingsley
Caroline Christy
Abigaile Hewins
Becca Johnson
Caroline Shomaker

Emily Gabbard
Cara Hedden
Anne Marie Osteen
Rebekah Parks
Emily Shuler
Brett Lamb, Head Coach – Conference Coach of the Year
Christina Rogers, Assistant Coach
Bryan Dearth, Assistant Coach

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