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Obion County schools lauded in statewide report card

Obion County schools lauded in statewide report card

Posted: Tuesday, December 2, 2008 9:26 pm
By: Chris Menees Messenger Staff Reporter

 By CHRIS MENEES Messenger Staff Reporter Like the proud parent of a child with a straight-A report card, the Obion County School Board had reason to celebrate Monday night. The favorable results of Obion County’s annual report card from the Tennessee Department of Education were shared with the board at its monthly session in the library of Ridgemont Elementary School. Obion County Director of Schools David Huss said the Obion County School System’s straight-A report card is “very satisfying” — which includes meeting Adequate Yearly Prog-ress at all levels; showing improvement in graduation rate for the third consecutive year; and an increase in grade 3-8 student achievement scores and 11th-grade writing scores for a third straight year. “I cannot say enough about the excellent staff that we have assembled,” he said. “All team members, instruc-tional supervisors, school ad-ministrators, teachers and support staff know and perform their respective duties in harmony and with unprecedented cooperation. All team members take pride in their performance and, best of all, care about each student that walks through the school doors every day. In addition, the county commission has remained true in their dedication to education and deserve due credit in ensuring that our schools are adequately funded. “It is my true belief that we have turned the tide and I expect that we will only get better with time. Our students deserve great praise and always seem to rise to the occasion and meet or exceed expectations set by their teachers,” he added. The analysis of data for Obion County’s report card shows the system in good standing with No Child Left Behind; highly-qualified teachers at 99.1 percent; K-8 attendance of 95.4 percent, above the state goal of 93 percent; 9-12 attendance of 93.7 percent, above the state goal of 93 percent; a K-8 promotion rate of 97.2 percent, above the state goal of 97 percent; and 100 percent SACS accreditation. The county’s graduation rate of 85.3 percent is still below the state goal of 90 percent but has shown marked improvement for a third consecutive year. In K-8 academics, Obion County scored a 64 in math, 60 in reading/language arts, 60 in social studies and 62 in science — all A’s — with improvement shown in NCE scores consistently for the past three years. Fifth- and eighth-grade writing scored A’s, while math and reading/language arts scores were above the state average. In 9-12 academics, the school system earned an A in 11th-grade writing and scores were above the state average in reading/language arts/writing. All students showed an 8 percent improvement over last year in math, but were still not to the state average, and all subjects for ACT were at or slightly below state average. Huss said over the past couple of years, the school system has integrated instruction programs within its curriculum that are already showing results. They include preK classes in all elementary schools, the Reading Recovery Program and the Balanced Literacy Program. He said even though recent reports are not complimentary of Tennessee’s testing standards, Obion County is among the top school systems in the state. Based on Tennessee standards, which are the only readily-available standards for comparisons, Obion County earned straight A’s in student achievement and teacher value-added. “There are not many school systems in the state that can make that statement,” Huss said. He said three areas to which the school system has paid particular attention over the past three years are the graduation rate, which he believes has been aided by the implementation of the Freshman Academy; grade 3-8 student achievement scores, which have increased in all subject areas tested; and math, where all subgroups scored above the state average this year. Specific areas of the county’s report card were examined Monday night by James Faulkner, assistant director of schools and supervisor of materials; Nancy Hamilton, grade 9-12 supervisor of instruction; Vikki Stevenson, preK-4 supervisor of instruction; and Lesa Scillion, grade 5-8 supervisor of instruction. “I think tomorrow if we all see a teacher, we need to pat them on the back,” Faulkner said. Huss said it’s interesting to note that the Obion County School System is providing a quality education for its students at a per pupil expenditure rate of $7,448 — compared to the state rate of $8,345. The county’s figure is also lower than that of some nearby school systems by as much as $1,600. “We’re definitely getting more bang for our buck,” Obion County School Board chairman Roger Williams said, adding that the entire school system staff is to be commended for its efforts. In other action during Monday night’s meeting, which was opened with prayer led by board member David Lamb, the school board: • Gave its support of proceeding with block scheduling for Obion County Central and South Fulton high schools beginning with the 2009-10 academic year. Block scheduling will change from the traditional academic calendar which has seven-period days to the four-by-four block academic calendar, with modifications based on individual school needs. Huss said the four-by-four block academic calendar is similar to what is offered in colleges, with students having the opportunity to take only four classes at a time. They would take four classes the first semester and four different classes the second semester for a total of eight classes each year instead of the seven offered during the traditional academic calendar. He said high school principals have been meeting with instructional/vocational supervisors and teachers for the past several months to discuss the pros and cons of block scheduling, adding that the decision to change to block scheduling has not been an easy decision. He said studies show that block scheduling neither helps nor hurts a school academically and block scheduling will actually create the opportunity for students to take four additional classes over the course of their high school studies. Huss said many factors influenced the recommendation for block scheduling, including changes in career technical education curriculum, which was the catalyst influencing the decision to move the career technical education facilities to the high school campuses; the enhanced requirements for four years of math and science; and the continued desire to allow athletic practice during the school day. The change will ultimately require amendments to several board policies, including those pertaining to the number of credits to graduate and the minimum subjects in which students will be allowed to enroll. However, Monday night, Huss was simply asking the board for its support and approval to implement block scheduling at the two high schools beginning with the 2009-10 school year. • Approved a request to temporarily relax specific policies and procedures relating to alternative education for the remainder of the school year. Huss said policies and procedures adopted by the board inadvertently “allow” students to “choose” suspension in lieu of their remanded placement in alternative school, which he does not believe was ever the intent of the board or the General Assembly when it made the law requiring boards to operate alternative school programs in grades 7-12. Huss said a second issue concerns transportation. Policies and procedures require parents to transport their students to and from alternative school. However, if the student is old enough to drive and the student’s driving privileges have not been revoked, policies and procedures allow those students to drive to alternative school. Therefore, in the case of students who are not old enough to drive, a hardship is sometimes placed on the parents to the extent that parents “choose” suspension over their student’s alternative placement. Huss said he wants to ensure that students remanded to alternative school do not have the option of staying home or an excuse for not attending. Prior to the beginning of the 2009-10 school year, specific updates to policies and procedures will be submitted to the board for adoption, according to Huss. • Approved a consent agenda that included a monthly personnel report, a monthly substitute teacher report and monthly financial reports/business activity. The December personnel report included leaves of absence for Ridgemont food service employee Dana Lynch, Obion County Central High School teacher Casey Webb and South Fulton Middle/High School secretary Janet Dowdy; the resignations of OCCHS librarian Tina Osborne, Lake Road School custodian Tonya Worley and central office bookkeeper Nancy Pate; the retirement of Hillcrest Elementary assistant principal Robert Orsborne; the hiring of Lake Road custodian Tiffany Jones; and the transfer of Kathy Patterson to the central office as bookkeeper (to replace Ms. Pate). The substitute teacher list for the month included Stephanie Jones, Chase Sowell, Sue Strong, Persempathy Harrell, Theresa Robbins, Justin Reed, Robert Somerville, Tarrah Reed, Tammy Leland, Tiphanie Erwin and Jared Clayton. • Approved the second and final readings of five amendments to board policies. They included those pertaining to registered sex offenders; interscholastic athletics; personnel records; student discrimination/harassment and bullying/intimidation; and Automatic External Defibrillators (AEDs). • Approved an amendment to board policy regarding attendance in order to reconcile the policy to current state law. The policy was amended to read, “More than 10 consecutive or 15 unexcused absences by a student during any semester renders a student ineligible to retain a driver’s permit or license, or to obtain such if of age.” The amendment was approved on first and final reading, with the second reading waived. • Approved central cafeteria food and non-food item bids, which had been solicited by the Reelfoot Area Consortium for the purchase of food and non-food items for the remainder of the 2008-09 school year (Dec. 1 through May 31, 2009). Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by e-mail at cmenees@ucmessenger.com. Published in The Messenger 12.2.08

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