Weakley School Board Hears Arts Request and Sets Graduation

Katie Mantooth of Martin launched a presentation by the newly formed Weakley Can Arts group to request that the board increase the arts presence in all county schools.

Heavy rains and flooding roads did not deter the Weakley County School Board members, Gleason School faculty and staff and supporters of the arts from attending last week’s monthly meeting where reports on security, requests for new positions and setting a graduation date were on the agenda.

Gleason principal Lee Lawrence welcomed the standing-room only crowd to the Gleason School and shared several accomplishments the school has achieved in the last several months. He thanked the board for “continuing support of local community-based education.”

Lorna Benson, the county Safe Schools Coordinator, offered an update on the School Resource Officer program noting that only one position at Dresden High remains to be filled. Kristen Childress began training at the police academy at the end of December and will shadow with an experienced SRO before beginning the assignment at Dresden Elementary/Middle Schools. Brain Cooper assumed his duties at Greenfield School the week of Jan. 7. Sharon School’s Steve Fulcher will begin shadowing as soon as a replacement deputy has been hired. Cody Stewart, assigned to Martin Primary School, is scheduled to begin the Police Academy next month. And McDowell was noted as being in attendance at the meeting.

Benson also shared upcoming additions as the result of receiving two different grants. A Student Support and Academic Enrichment Grant will allow for a 15-month contract for a part-time master’s level social worker for approximately two days a week to work with the school social worker to assess student social/emotional needs, assist Dresden High, Martin Middle and Westview schools in appropriately identifying and addressing those needs and linking students and parents to appropriate community resources. The schools were selected, Benson said, based on data related to attendance, socio-economic and social/emotional indicators. The project also allows for training of staff and interested community leaders who serve youth such as church youth ministers and scout leaders in Youth Mental Health First Aid.

A second grant extends the LifeSkills program for three years. The grant targets 6-8th grade students and addresses personal self-management, drug resistance skills and general social skills.

Katie Mantooth of Martin launched a presentation by the newly-formed Weakley Arts Can group to request that the board increase the arts presence in all county schools. The goals, which were identified after surveying county schools, researching current practices, and analyzing budgeting implications, are:

  • In 2019-20, yearlong elementary music and art programs with a minimum of 18 hours of music and 18 hours of art
  • In 2020-21, county ensembles and drama housed in a central location with transportation provided
  • In 2025-26, band and choir teacher in all middle schools
  • In 2027-28, band and choir teacher in all high schools
  • In 2029-30, band, choir, drama, orchestra, art teachers in all middle and high schools.

She said the group believes the benefits of a greater emphasis on the arts could result in such things as an increase in attendance and standardized test scores and a decrease in dropouts.

As part of the presentation, Will Latham, a music educator and fulltime substitute in county schools; Dr. Angela Ammerman and Dr. Julie Hill of the University of Tennessee at Martin music faculty, touched on a variety of issues including estimated costs of providing the elementary arts educators requested for the coming year and the belief that the model used in Weakley County could become a national model for rural schools.

School board member Joshua Moore suggested the discussion be moved to the board’s curriculum committee and, after meeting with the Weakley Arts Can, committee representatives would report back to the board. The action was approved.

In responding to a question on budget, Director of Schools Randy Frazier told the board due to the state’s new administration, the anticipated date to receive the new budget would be later in March than in previous years. He also noted that one other implication of the request for more emphasis on arts is timing and determining what could be added and what would then be removed.

The graduation date for the county was set for May 17.

The board approved three volunteer coaches: Carla Craddock, softball, Gleason; Payton Bankston and Cade Craft, baseball, Greenfield Junior High/High School.

In final remarks, Frazier also mentioned a bus accident that had occurred that afternoon with minor injuries to a student and a person from another vehicle. He praised the work of the community responders in Dresden who worked the accident for an hour and a half in the rain.

He reported that enrollment looks like it will once again decline and if that is the case, reminded the board that may mean a reduction of teachers.

The Weakley County Press attends county and city meetings to capture information that is important to the community. If you value #localnews, subscribe at www.nwtntoday.com





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