School board emphasizes professional development

First Posted: 5/5/2009

Professional development was the name of the game at the Mount Airy City Board of Education meeting Tuesday night.
Vickie Cameron, executive director of instruction, and Carrie Venable, director of technology, spoke to board members about the various forms of professional development they have implemented this school year and programs they hope to either continue or implement through the summer.
Cameron spoke about programs such as balanced literacy which is used to try to give children a love of reading. She referred to as providing good teaching of reading.
The school system also has made a move towards differentiated instruction which calls for a more personalized lesson plan to relate to each of the students.
Differentiated instruction is giving children different ways of learning. It is meeting the needs of different learners, she said.
Mount Airy City Schools also implemented a positive behavior support model for this school year in which positive behavior is expected and rewarded rather than the focus being on bad behavior. There has also been a move toward using professional learning communities for teachers to help them learn best practices as well as rely on each other for new ideas.
It is really just good teaching and good collaboration, said Cameron.
Over the summer and into the fall Cameron hopes to see a continuation of the use of professional learning communities and differentiated instruction as well as more focus on building vocabulary for students, expanding the use of LetterLand, a word/vocabulary-based software program and working more with math programs.
Venable, in her first year as the director of technology, worked on providing Web-based training for teachers in getting them to incorporate the aspects of the school systems Web site into their classrooms. An example of this is some of the high school classes where students are blogging about lessons.
The professional development has been responsive to what the teachers are telling us that they need, said Dr. Darrin Hartness, superintendent.
Hartness also spoke to the board about the decisions of state officials as far as budget issues. In April, there was a freeze of state funding and a one-half percent pay reduction was handed down for state employees, including teachers. The state has asked for an additional reversion which would amount to about $46,000 from the city school system. The state board of education will meet this week to determine from where that money should come.
Construction on the commons area at the high school is moving along, though it has seen a slight delay due to the recent rain. The decking and about half of the roof is in place with construction crews waiting for a couple of dry days to pour the concrete slab for the floor. School officials also met with the Youth Foundation this week to discuss replacing the gym floor at the high school. The school system will partner with the foundation to replace the floor, hopefully by the time school starts again in the fall. Construction for the concessions stand at the middle school is also underway.
The board also reviewed five policies from the 3000 series which members will be asked to approve at the April 19 meeting. The five policies all deal with curriculum including class rankings, student promotion and accountability, concurrent enrollment, graduation requirements and school improvement plans

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