SIDNEY – A large financial boost has been received by the Fairlawn Local School District from the Ohio Department of Education (ODE) to improve failing grades, according to state report card standards. The four-year $300,000 grant is expected to improve teaching methods for reading and spelling for students in grades K-5.
The first year portion of the grant will be for the 2019-20 school year, and will provide $70,000 to begin implementing new first-year plans.
Also, the Fairlawn board of education approved new hires for academic and athletic positions during their meeting Wednesday.
The board also called a special meeting for 6:15 p.m. Friday in the high school principal’s office to hire varsity basketball and soccer coaches. The meeting will be held prior to the school’s high school graduation ceremony.
The grant was awarded through the ODE’s School Quality Improvement grant program. The funds will be used to implement the LETRS teaching program created by Voyager Sopris Learning of Dallas, Texas. LETRS is more commonly known as Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling.
Last September, the ODE issued the district an overall “C” grade for the 2017-18 school year. At that time, the board expressed concern for low grades, specifically in the elementary grades. Elementary Principal Karen McRill told the board then that plans were being developed to improve teaching efforts.
McRill said those plans include the assistance of Michelle Vandemark of Lima, who serves as a consultant with the ODE’s State Support Team 6 of Wapakoneta regarding the Ohio Improvement Process.
Vandemark works with teachers and administrators on academic plans, developing teacher-based teams, and professional development. In September, she was assigned to work with Fairlawn officials due to the elementary being considered a priority school based on the state grade card.
On Wednesday, Vandemark addressed the school board.
Vandemark explained that proven teaching methods would have educators participating in weekly one-hour sessions. Half the time would be video instruction followed by application techniques.
Vandemark told of how the learning method was initiated for students with dyslexia. It revealed the steps also opened the door to all students in the initial grades. State legislators are expected to approve a bill for all schools to tests students for dyslexia, putting Fairlawn ahead in that category.
Superintendent Jeff Hobbs said Vandemark will be organizing a district leadership team for the learning system soon. She is expected to incorporate board members and residents. McRill said she and two other staff members will be attending a LETRS training seminar in Nashville, Tennessee, this summer.
High/Middle School Principal John Stekli told of how the Ohio Writing Project was working for students in grades 7-10. He spoke of writing prompts provided to the students for the program based out of Miami University.
Jodi Hickman, Middle School Language Arts teacher, told the board she, at first, felt the program was just another step placed on teachers. However, as the year unfolded student scores began to surface for all the non-fictional reading, she was impressed with the results.
Hobbs said he stopped in to observe the class and was also impressed with how engaged students were in the study.
In other business, the board:
• Awarded a two-year limited contract to Kim Rank as athletic director at $34,000 annually.
• Employed Betty Scott for the summer work crew.
• Accepted the resignations of Tim Brown as an aide and head soccer coach; and Jennifer Bowsher, teacher.
• Awarded 2019-20 contracts to Christopher North, varsity cross country coach; Aaron Cox, assistant cross country coach and musical sound system; Abbie Roe, eighth-grade volleyball coach; April Clevenger, substitute aide; Jacob Dodds and Kaylan Hall, teachers; Britnie Middleton and Stephanie Everett, Resident Educator Mentors;
• Approved a continuing contract for Stevie Smith as an aide.
• Accepted a donation of $400 of John and Connie Rodeheffer for the Seth Rogers Memorial Scholarship Fund.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.