Mount Airy City Schools School Improvement Plan presentations at the work session meeting Tuesday night centered around Professional Learning Communities directly relating to school improvement plans.
Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little explained the board had narrowed the school improvement plan focus to presentations on how Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) were developing in the system’s schools.
“Fundamentally I believe successful school districts are made up of successful teams,” said Little. “I’m impressed with how our teams are developing.”
Little said PLCs were geared to four fundamental questions, what students know, how educators learn what students know, how to respond to students who are struggling and how to “enrich and expand” learning for students who are succeeding.
The first presentation of the evening was from Mount Airy High School PLC Facilitator Penny Willard and Olivia Byerly.
“We actually have people in our groups from every generation,” said Willard. “We are learning to work together, share and respect each other’s opinions.” She explained one goal of their group was better communication and collaboration within the school.
Byerly said more collaboration time has yielded school wide goals and course pacing guides for greater consistency on data which has been received.
“One of the things I quickly learned about us is our teachers know their curriculum,” said Willard. “They just need to be more effective working together.” She said this new approach to PLCs has been tied in with finding what educators have in common and working from there.
Mount Airy Middle School was represented by Assistant Principal and Facilitator Jennifer Freeman and Samantha Surratt. Freeman told the board she had seen the quality of PLC meetings to be more focused and intentional with the new procedures and the addition of facilitators. She said one benefit of the effort was administrators are more in the know with immediate feedback from the PLCs.
Surratt explained how Chromebooks have allowed sharing of ideas and lesson plans through Google Docs software which students can access from home as well.
“The Chromebooks have been great for sharing among teachers and students,” said Freeman. “It’s simply another important way to share and help. Once you get the sense you’re all in this together the level of commitment among our teachers became more visible.” Freeman said at first the PLC groups had a wide gap of teacher skill levels using technology, but that gap is decreasing as they use the devices daily.
Principal Jason Dorsett, Lee Hunter and Kathy Grubbs represented Jones Intermediate School and the PLC program there.
“The PLC process has been done in some form or another for years. We had to realize we don’t have all the answers,” said Dorsett. “Our teachers have always bought into it. What we believe is all children learn differently. We had to make a major shift in the way we do things. Everybody is essential in our building. We also had to realize we had to have difficult conversations with each other and make decisions on data. One of the greatest indicators are kids. They are always honest about what is or is not working.”
Teacher Cathy Grubbs told the board initially the decision to do PLCs in a different way “went over like a lead balloon.” She said she had evolved through collaboration and had a renewed sense of purpose. She said in previous years, she looked at data but didn’t know what to look at.
“I’m in my 14th year at Jones and I’ve learned more as a classroom teacher than any workshop I have been sent out of the area for. I realized our school had embraced teaching and forgot about learning. I have seen our school change to a school that embraces learning. It has changed my heart, my classroom and my teaching.”
Tharrington’s group shared Grubbs’ opinion data and access had made pinpointing student needs and creating grade level targets and creating a shared vocabulary to bridge the gap between grade levels. Presenters Emily Goins and Nicole Jordan said PLC collaboration had allowed them to see the process of all grades learning together and a more integrated form of teaching.
Reach David Broyles at firstname.lastname@example.org or 336-719-1952.