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UC schools celebrating success

UC schools celebrating success

Posted: Thursday, December 11, 2008 9:23 pm
By: Terri Jenkins-Brady Special to the Messenger

 By TERRI JENKINS-BRADY Special to The Messenger As anticipated during its previous monthly meeting, the Union City School Board met again Monday and board members received an in-depth look at the results of the Tennessee Department of Education Report Card for school year 2007-08. Chairman Glenda Caudle called the meeting to order and the board recited the Pledge of Allegiance, then approved the minutes of the previous meeting. Vicki Wilkinson, classroom and curriculum coordinator, presented the Report Card findings to Mrs. Caudle and board members Curtis McLendon, Cathy Waggoner, Shea Riley III, Ellarine Moses and Dr. Wright Jernigan. The board’s newest member, Karl Ullrich, was unable to attend the session since he was out of town to participate in mandatory training for new board members. Teachers and students have been putting in tremendous effort toward raising the scores for academic proficiencies on the TCAP, Gateway and ACT, as noted by Mrs. Wilkinson, and the federal benchmarks for the No Child Left Behind program have all been met as well for the 2008 school year. Demographics for the school system reflected African-American students comprising 41.2 percent of the student body; white students, 50.2 percent; Hispanic students, 8.1 percent; Asian/Pacific Islander students, .4 percent; and students with disabilities, 11.8 percent. A telling number was that 59.8 percent of the students are rated as economically disadvantaged, yet students met or bested state averages for grades 3-8 in math, and reading/language plus writing. For Union City High School students, the results of much hard work were even more dramatic, with math testing resulting in 99 percent of all students scoring proficient and advanced, while the State of Tennessee average was only 89 percent. Reading/language plus writing students’ scores showed those ranked proficient and advanced at 94 percent, besting the state average of 93 percent. Mrs. Wilkinson also noted in her address to the board that the 2007 graduation rate was 84.5 and the school system was striving to exceed that graduation percentage next year. The three-year value-added scores, which measure growth over time, include A’s in reading/language arts, social studies and science, with a B in math. TCAP writing scores for grades 5 and 8 were both “A,” and the TCAP writing score for grade 11 missed an “A” by only .2 of a percent. “The trend across the United States is for ACT scores to be coming down,” Mrs. Wilkinson informed the board members, as she reached the final pages of her report. The state of Tennessee this year has mandated all juniors will take the ACT, and study sessions for UC students to help them raise their scores even higher are already planned. The average composite score for the three previous years (2006, 2007 and 2008) shows a steady increase for UCHS students in grades 9-12. Director of Schools Gary Houston added, “A higher number of our students have traditionally taken the ACT test.” This high participation rate has an effect on the school’s ranking when compared with many systems in which only college-bound students are tested. The ACT is considered a major weight on the application for college of each student and is also considered a predicator for collegiate success. “Observed scores (actual student scores) were higher than had been predicted,” Houston added. Attendance at all Union City schools is also higher than the state goal, with 96 percent versus the state goal of 93 percent for grades K-8, and 95.1 percent as opposed to the state goal of 93 percent for grades 9-12. Reaching the last page of the Report Card, Houston beamed with pride as he said, “One hundred percent of our courses are taught by highly-qualified teachers. Fifty-one percent of our teaching staff have a master’s degree or above.” Houston nodded at Mrs. Wilkinson as he commented on the review process for looking at new teachers for the school system. “In checking (the applicants’) college transcripts, if she tells me, ‘They are not highly-qualified,’ I take another look.” “We have been working with UT-Martin and Union University to get new teachers,” Houston continued. “We’re very fortunate to have such a good relationship with UT-Martin.” Houston said he was pleased with the Report Card as a whole. “We have seen overall gradual improvement with our students, especially in reading.” Also on the agenda for the board meeting was the consideration of revision of Board Policy 1.803, Tobacco-Free Schools. Briefly, the proposed changes would cause the policy to read that any use of tobacco or tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, is prohibited in all of the school district’s buildings, offices and grounds. This prohibition will also be in effect in any vehicle owned or leased or operated by the district. District employees and students enrolled in the district’s schools will not be permitted to use tobacco products, including smokeless tobacco, while participating in any class or activity in which they represent the school district. Students who possess tobacco products will be issued a citation by the school principal/resource officer. This statement is already a part of the current policy and is further spelled out on the school system Web site and in materials distributed to parents and students at the beginning of the school year. Signage will be posted so as to advise visitors, employees and students that the use of tobacco and tobacco products is forbidden in all the system’s buildings, offices and grounds. Mrs. Caudle asked for a motion concerning the change, which was originally proposed to the board by Dr. Jernigan. He made the requisite motion and it was seconded by McLendon. The board voted unanimously to accept the new policy. The school board was notified of a leave of absence for Union City Elementary School education assistant Luann Barkley in order for her to complete requirements to obtain certification and licensure to teach. Mrs. Barkley expects to do student teaching in the spring. The board was also advised of the resignation of UCES EA Cindy Andrews. Houston gave his Director’s Report, beginning with the UCES Christmas Carnival, which was held Saturday and was very well-attended. “You could see cars filling the parking lot as parents and the community came together for this event,” Houston said. “It was well worth it.” In other news from UCES, Houston said recycling and conservation efforts continue at the elementary school level, with changes made in each grade to conserve and reuse supplies. UCES student Landon Alexander won the Christmas tree ornament contest sponsored by Main Street Inc. Union City Middle School sixth-grade student Diana Sanchez was congratulated by Houston for designing the winning entry for the cover for the UCMS yearbook. She was also the UCMS winner for the Christmas tree ornament contest. The middle school’s Beta Club also received special recognition by Houston, who noted that students collected 1,287 cans of food for the community’s annual “Feeding of the 5000.” Academically, eighth-grade Advanced English students have been reading Maya Angelou’s “I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings,” and discussing the pros and cons of civil disobedience as a prelude to staging a formal debate of year-round school and homework assignments. And the UCMS Read 180 students have already posted a total of 1,538 reading points in only four months of the school year. For the UCHS report, Houston said 88 students out of approximately 356 were recognized at the recent Tornado Pride assembly. “We had not done this for a number of years but have started the program up again,” he said. Gift cards, coupons and early dismissal from school that day were given to the recognized students. In the area of sports, Houston said, “Congratulations to our football team. They lost only one game in regular play and were regional champs. They made it to the second round of playoffs as well. I’d also like to congratulate Colton Speed, who was nominated for the Tennessee Class A Mr. Football Back of the Year Award.” Houston added praise for a job well-done for the UCHS marching band. “I’m always pleased with how they have represented us,” he said. “When they stay at hotels, the hotel management always commends them to us as to how they behave and how respectful they are. We also have a great group of band boosters.” The last item of Houston’s report concerned the Union City school staff returning Jan. 5, 2009, for a Professional Development Day. The director also expressed sympathy to UCES EA Debra Dellinger in the death of her mother and to former UCHS principal Jim Towater at the death of his wife, former Union City teacher Beth Towater. Editor’s note: Terri Jenkins-Brady is co-owner of Write Up the Road Publishing & Media in Kenton, along with her husband, Timothy D. Brady. Published in The Messenger 12.11.08

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