The Mount Airy City Schools Board of Education heard informal presentations of school objectives from principals at its regular Tuesday meeting.
Board member Phil Thacker recognized the efforts of Assistant Superintendent Bryan Taylor and Mount Airy High School Principal Sandy George for making a tour of the newly renovated high school possible for a group of alumni that had graduated from the school 40 years ago.
“A lot hadn’t seen the school in years,” said Thacker. “I want to thank you (Taylor and George) for making yourselves available for three hours on a Saturday afternoon to give us a tour.”
B.H. Tharrington Primary School Principal Lydia Lovell spoke first about school objectives.
“We are consumed with rolling out Common Core,” said Lovell. “We have good programs and resources in place and we want to fine tune them.”
Lovell spoke of the need to “look beyond proficiency.” She said her school wants to go back to emphasizing mastery of subjects. Lovell said it was important not just to teach a skill but to teach deeper understanding that could be applied across the curriculum.
“We need to consistently emphasize writing and vocabulary at every grade level, stepping into project-based learning and problem solving,” commented Lovell. She also said the school would embed the “Leader in Me” program’s skills into the curriculum. She said that Tharrington’s staff also was excited about the addition of curriculum facilitators.
J.J. Jones Intermediate School Principal Jason Dorsett said the first goal for the school was to concentrate on improving student reading skills.
“We need more balance and consistency in our classrooms,” said Dorsett. “We are going to correct that. If we improve reading, imagine what that would do for math.” He stressed that the school’s grade level teaching teams (PLC or Professional Learning Communities) would collaborate towards improving reading skills.
Dorsett said a second goal was to successfully implement the Leader In Me process to ensure students developed leadership habits that make them successful and lead them into “being great individuals.”
“We (the staff) will model this program to support the process,” explained Dorsett. He also said the school will encourage more parental volunteers and community involvement. He said the staff would become better at “stepping back” and looking at individual learning rates rather than letting whole-group approaches be the only strategy.
“I believe we have potential,” said Dorsett. “We can change how we deliver our curriculum. With reading becoming our focus, we will improve across the board.”
Assistant Superintendent Bryan Taylor, who is serving as acting principal at Mount Airy Middle School following the transfer of former Principal Joey Hearl, was positive about the new year’s start.
“We’re going to get the year started out right and move ahead,” Taylor told the board. “I’m going to focus on communicating with the faculty, parents and students. We will establish a student advisory council and look at ways to foster more positive community partnerships.”
Taylor told the board he hoped to start a mentor program at the school using community leaders and business persons.
“The school will get my best,” said Taylor, who has served as principal for four days. “There’s a lot of excitement.” He complemented Mount Airy Middle’s staff for working hard to make the transition smooth. He applauded them for their hard work and said their dedication is “second to none.”
Mount Airy High School Principal Sandy George opened her presentation by promising to “make sure I can communicate the best I can with my (students’) parents.”
She said one thing MAHS would do is to increase the use of common “benchmark” assessments to help guide the delivery of curriculum. She said that each department of the school would participate in more individual professional development processes.
“We have room to grow. We have to change how we deliver instruction,” said George. “Students must be active, productive members in their learning. Teachers must transition to facilitators.” She also said that the team would get moving towards how tests were structured, even using time limits in some cases. This would prepare students for taking ACT-type tests.
George also said the school has formed a partnership with UNC-Chapel Hill where a counselor would help students interested in college learn application strategies for grants and admissions.
Superintendent Dr. Gregory Little closed the meeting with the announcement that Mount Airy City Schools has the second highest graduation rate in the state (91.4 percent). He said the district was narrowly beaten by Graham County.
“This is truly a K-12 award,” concluded Little. “Students who drop out tend to lose interest early and drop out when they reach a certain age. For us to have a 91.4 percent graduation rate means our students have the most important thing, hope.”
Reach David Broyles at email@example.com or 719-1952.