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Multisensory Literacy Training Becoming Standard in Dade County School System

By LYDIA BERGLAR
News Editor

A key discussion of the January 22nd Dade County Board of Education meeting was literacy and a training method that the school system is implementing to provide a unified foundational reading method for kindergarten through third grade students.

Handling annual business, the board reelected Johnny Warren (District 3) as vice chair for 2024 and signed the annual agreement to serve as the fiscal agent for Dade First Family Connection.

Josh Ingle (superintendent) reported that 36 employees (spread across all four schools) are now CPR certified and received AED (automated external defibrillator) training.

He also reported that the board has once again earned Exemplary Board recognition from the Georgia School Boards Association and Dade County Schools have once again attained accreditation (which occurs every five years).

John Smith (director of facilities, maintenance, and transportation) then reported on three new buses which have been added to Dade County’s fleet. These buses seat 83 passengers, down from the previous 90.

Smith noted features that will help the buses traverse the mountains, improve fuel efficiency, and maintain safety. Each bus cost $120,350, and the school system was reimbursed $88,100 from the state for this purchase. The three old surplused buses brought in $10,375 (which is more than Smith had anticipated).

Smith also noted that Positive Behavioural Interventions and Supports (PBIS) is being implemented on the buses. Sharing from his experience driving buses, Smith noted that the drivers spend their shifts telling kids to sit down, be quiet, behave, etc. while well-behaved students often go unnoticed. He added that this forces drivers into the disciplinarian “bad guy” role, which becomes disheartening.

“It creates such a negative culture on the bus,” he said. Therefore, he met with the PBIS leaders at each school who are supportive of adding the reward system to the buses. It will begin in February.

Ingle then noted that the request for proposal (RFP) for the Davis Elementary School rebuilding project has been posted on the school system’s website, the state procurement website, and advertised in the Sentinel. The state’s online system automatically notified over 350 contractors that the RFP had been posted. Interested contractors must attend a February 1st meeting, and proposals are due February 15th to be considered at the February 26th board meeting.

During public input, Bob Woods spoke on behalf of the American Legion. He reported that now that the Military Museum remodeling project is completed, the Legion is happy to host school groups. He alerted the principals that he is the point of contact for coordinating school trips. He added that a specific section highlighting Desmond Doss and Brother D.D. Bain is being added.

As usual, the board approved the monthly financials. Loran Grasham (finance director) said, “We have seen an increase in our [monthly] collections from FY22 to FY23 and from FY23 to FY24, so it’s steadily going up.” The remaining balance in SPLOST V is $388,266.

As the central focus of the meeting, Chris Davis (director of academics/testing) spoke about an agreement with the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) which will train 30 Dade County teachers in the Orton-Gillingham (OG) method of teaching reading. After discussing the method and details of the agreement, the board approved using federal Esser funds in the amount of $42,250 to pay for the training.

Davis explained that per Georgia House Bill 538, teachers must complete training about the science of reading, structured literacy, and foundational literacy skills. The Dade County Literacy Team selected the OG method as the desired way to complete this training and improve literacy.

Davis said, “We need a standardized approach…to teaching reading so that each student can carry the same foundational skills from grade to grade and from school to school.” Twelve Dade teachers are already OG trained.

In order to implement the OG method next year, an IMSE team will be coming to Dade at the end of the school year to train the 30 selected teachers in the OG method. The training is 30 hours of hands-on, in-person training.

Davis said that he witnessed the success of the OG method when implemented in Jackson County. Charity Barton (Davis principal) said, “When I looked at kindergarten, the teachers who had the training had higher growth, and some of them were newer teachers. I sent some teachers to see some classrooms last year using OG at Dade Elementary…and they came back saying they really like this approach.”

When teachers are hired in the future, they will be able to complete the training online (costing the school system about $1,500 per teacher). However, Ingle asked what colleges and universities are doing to train their students in the science of reading. Davis explained that these institutions are adding OG training, so in a few years, school systems will be able to hire candidates already trained in OG.

The OG method is primarily for kindergarten through second grade, but Davis explained that because so many third grade Dade students are behind in reading, the school system is extending it to third grade classrooms. By fourth grade, the expectation is that students will be beyond the foundational skills and ready to focus on reading comprehension. The OG method will be used for all students, not just students who are behind.

After this discussion, Ingle reported that Governor Kemp approved a one-time $1,000 supplement for teachers and critical staff members in Georgia schools. In Dade, 208 staff members meet the state’s guidelines, while 75 do not. Ingle recommended, and the board approved, providing these 75 employees with a $1,000 supplement as well, coming from Esser funds.

An interesting tidbit of data came at the end of the meeting: The school board approved the purchase of copy paper for the first time since November 2022. Ingle reported that they used to purchase paper about twice a year, but the school system is going through far less paper these days.

The board entered executive session, and the next meeting will be at 5 p.m. on February 26th at the central office.

The personnel report is as follows:

  • Hire Paraprofessional: Lisa Eash
  • Substitute Teachers: Dora Lea Branch, Heather Chance, Samantha Walraven
  • SNP Personnel: Alexandria Blevins (substitute), Spring Shutt (substitute), Jessica Stanley (resignation), Christy Whitaker (full-time), Emily Greene (student worker), Maddux Daniels (student worker)

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