Mount Airy City Schools is brainstorming for ideas to improve its four schools.
This week school officials held the first of a series of meetings to plan for the next four years. Some parents attended the meeting at Mount Airy High School along with Mayor David Rowe, Board of Education member Tim Matthews, a school resource officer and several district staff members.
In 2012, the school district finalized a four-year strategic initiative, and now it’s time to create a new vision for the future, according to Dr. Kim Morrison, school superintendent.
Before that strategy was mapped out four years ago, who would have believed all the changes that could take place in the local schools, Morrison asked. She then invited the four principals to share with the group some of these enhancements.
Tharrington Principal Olivia Byerly talked about the creation and expansion of the dual-immersion program. Last year a class of kindergarten students learned from a teacher who spoke Spanish almost exclusively. Now those students have moved up to first grade and are continuing the practice.
In kindergarten, the only time English was spoken was during special instruction such as art and music, explained Byerly. For the first grade, English will be added in a bit more to about an 80/20 split. Eventually, the classes will be 50/50 Spanish and English.
Tharrington and Jones Intermediate are focusing on writing skills as well as reading comprehension. As one teacher said, colleges expect students to write a lot of papers, so the kids need a good foundation in writing.
Sherry Cox, Jones principal, said her school already has started preliminary plans for when the dual-immersion process is expanded to that school in a couple of years. She also spoke of teachers getting trained in problem-based learning techniques to incorporate with their previous training.
Susan Bunch, principal of Mount Airy Middle, spoke of new teaching methods and a reading support group.
She said the middle school participates in the National Junior Honor Society. Kids in grades 6-8 can earn this distinction if they reach the five society standards: leadership, citizenship, character, service and scholarship.
High school principal Sandy George noted that this is the third year that her school has offered Chinese.
Bunch said Chinese will be available to eighth-graders in the second semester of the school year.
Who would have thought four years ago that Mount Airy would have educators visiting schools in China, or that Chinese teachers and students would visit here, asked George. And in a few months, Mount Airy could host another group of visitors eager to share ideals and techniques.
George also spoke of the high school’s partnership with Richard Childress Racing. The internships with RCR have been so successful, George said she’s heard that the program might be expanded to a second high school in the state.
Morrison, who recently was promoted to superintendent, said she is proud of the growth over the past four years and wants to keep that same feeling of ingenuity with the new plan.
Students are learning to think for themselves, she said. All four schools have shining examples of students grasping the concepts of “lead, innovate and serve.”
The attendees split up into four work groups, focusing on different goals: empowering students; retaining, recruiting and reinvigorating personnel; meaningful systems; and strategic partnerships.
While this was the kickoff session, the school officials indicated they would be glad to see more parents and community leaders join in for the next meeting.
For more information on the strategy sessions, contact Carrie Venable, public information officer, at [email protected]
Reach Jeff at 415-4692.