SIDNEY – Plans for implementing guidelines to improve failing grades for Fairlawn Local School K-5 students has been green-lighted with a four-year, $293,000 grant obtained recently. Principal Karen McRill said the project is expected to improve teaching methods for reading and spelling for elementary students for the 2019-20 school year.
On June 12, McRill informed the board of education during their regular meeting of receiving the first of four annual segments of the grant.
Also, all coaching new hires introduced themselves to the board. Discussion also included a week-long maintenance shutdown announcement and plans for a new sports practice field.
The first installment of $70,000 has been received from the Ohio School Quality Improvement Grant through the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). The training system to be implemented is most commonly referred to as the LETRS program. Officially, it’s Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling.
The program was created by Voyager Sopris Learning of Dallas, Texas.
According to McRill, educators will study theoretical models from reading science, phonology, basic and advanced phonics, screening and educational diagnostic assessment.
The second year will have $102,000 of the grant for teaching vocabulary, language and reading comprehension, and writing. Two-hour delays every other week will be incorporated for teachers to watch instructional videos, read chapters, and discuss of various reading skills. The plan is for teachers to begin incorporating portions of the training into their weekly lessons.
The third year amount will be $73,000 with the fourth year listed at $48,000. Both grant payments will be used to maintain and improve the program.
Report card concerns
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. McRill sought local and state level help.
She called upon Michelle Vandemark of Lima, who serves as a consultant with the ODE’s State Support Team 6 of Wapakoneta regarding the Ohio Improvement Process. She and Fairlawn teachers visited other local schools seeking information to improve student results.
Vandemark continues to work 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.
Previously, 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. The learning method was originally initiated for students with dyslexia.
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.
Sports coaches were on hand to introduce members of their staff. The coaches were all approved for their post at the end of the board meeting.
Brad Francis, boys head varsity basketball coach, introduced Jacob Benanzer as varsity assistant and Kevin Peters as junior varsity coach. Ashley Miller, head volleyball coach, introduced Ciera Driskell as seventh-grade coach and Mollie Roe, volunteer assistant volleyball coach. And Gavin Cathcart, girls head varsity coach, introduced Eric Dukes, as varsity assistant. Soccer coach Dominic Lehman was also on hand.
Superintendent Jeff Hobbs reported all athletic events and practices will be cancelled the week of July 20-28 due to the basketball floor being resurfaced. The shutdown was coordinated with it being the same week as the Shelby County Fair. He also told of plans for new practice field to be built on the north side of the campus for softball and baseball teams.
In other business, the board:
• Amended the school calendar for the 2019-20 academic year to include teacher professional days.
• Agreed to use up to three days of the Blizzard Bag calamity days, if necessary for the next school year.
• Hired Jaimi Sparks as cheerleading advisor; hired Jessica Anderson and Crystal Slife as substitute aides; and employed Ashley Miller as an aide.
• Accepted resignations from Tonya Slonaker as high school guidance counselor, and Samantha Maas as a teacher.
• Agreed to continue to contract with Bridget Moots as EMIS liaison from Midwest Regional Educational Service Center.
• Accepted donations to the Seth Rogers Memorial Scholarship Fund. They included Gary and Shelly Ginter of Maplewood, $300; Kevin Martin of Sidney, $200; Larry and Barb Rogers of Sidney, $100; Kathie Fields of Sidney, $100; and Jeffrey and Roberta Lange of Russells Point, $30.
The writer is a regular contributor to the Sidney Daily News.