Preparing for Another School Year

Dresden Enterprise - Back to School Feature
Posted on 07/31/2019
Randy Frazier presents to Sharon SchoolBy David Fisher
Dresden Enterprise, News Writer

Weakley County educators are gearing up for another school year, while students are getting outfitted with the items they’re going to need for their classes.

Over 300 educators in Dresden, Gleason, Greenfield, Martin and Sharon, including 35 new teachers, are making preparations to serve over 4,100 Weakley County students.

Registration will be held in all 10 Weakley County schools on Wednesday, July 31, from 8:00 a.m. until 11:30 a.m.

Students return to classes on Monday, August 5.

“We’re looking forward to having a great year,” said Director of Education Randy Frazier.

“We’re planning on moving forward with our elementary reading program, ‘Read to be Ready’. We’re going to have another push to strengthen that. Additionally, we’re looking forward to expanding some CTE (Career and Technical Education) opportunities and offerings.” He also discussed changes in school testing, school safety initiatives, and school registration and startup dates.

Other important issues this year involve administration changes and student school supplies.

Read to be Ready Program

The Read to be Ready Reading Initiative Grant is designed to help prevent summer learning loss among students. The program is intended to target economically disadvantaged students entering first, second, and third grades.

The goal is to develop a student’s love for reading over the summer months by providing them with free, high-quality books. This program is unlike the typical summer programs of the past that are more skills based with a school-like atmosphere

This program is more like camp “Kid’s College”. It includes hands-on learning activities, field trips, and fun and engaging weekly themes.

The need for the program was made evident, after state testing revealed that less than half of Tennessee’s third and fourth graders are able to read at their grade level. More rigorous national assessments suggest that only one-third of Tennessee’s fourth graders are proficient. National research shows that children who are not reading proficiently by third grade are four times less likely to graduate from high school by age 19.

Career and Technical Education

According to Frazier, another major focus in education this year is career and technical education (CTE) training.

CTE programs serve approximately 1,400 students enrolled in grades 9-12 in the Weakley County School System. These programs are designed to reflect the occupational demands of Weakley County and surrounding areas.

Instructional areas provide students with opportunities to explore various careers, while those completing specific programs of study receive the instruction they will need to possess entry level skills for the workplace, transition to post-secondary programs, or receive additional training.

Programs available in Weakley County include: Agriculture Education; Business & Information Technology; Family & Consumer Science; Health Sciences; Integrated Systems Technology; and Marketing Education.

Since the number and type of programs in a school are based on the school’s size, student interest, and population to be served, not all programs are available at each school.

CTE Programs in Weakley County strive to strengthen a student’s academic and technical skills by: incorporating academic principles with technical training; strengthening linkages with business/industry and post-secondary education; and increasing the program relevance to workplace needs.

These objectives are obtained by being more responsive to future market needs and emerging technology.

School Testing

Frazier stated school testing will be conducted this year using a new vendor, due to the Tennessee Board of Education obtaining a more favorable bid from British-based Pearson, which is the world’s largest and oldest testing company. Another reason for switching testing providers was because state officials were not happy with the performance of Questar, which has administered the TNReady assessment the last three school years.

Pearson will take over Tennessee’s student-testing program beginning July 1, 2019.

Frazier stated for the current year, Weakley County schools will revert to paper and pencil testing, which is necessitated as a result of transitioning from one vendor to another. However, computer-based tests will resume in 2020-2021.

Frazier stated that test scores not only affect the students’ final semester grades, but are used in figuring teachers’ effectiveness, which can impact tenure as part of the state’s “report card” for schools and districts.

The state has a separate agreement with New Jersey-based Educational Testing Service, or ETS, to develop test questions, forms, scoring keys and guides for TNReady. The TNReady tests are a part of the Tennessee Comprehensive Assessment Program (TCAP) and are designed to assess true student understanding, not just basic memorization and test-taking skills. It is a way to assess what students know and what can be done to help them succeed in the future.

School Safety Initiatives

“We’ll have school resource officers (SROs) in all of our school buildings this year, and we’re excited about that,” Frazier said.

He stated educators received full-force training concerning school intruders last year, and additional training sessions will be continued this year. The program is conducted by local law enforcement officers as a free public service.

On July 15, several principals and other educators took advantage of Savant Learning’s invitation to hear more about School Vulnerability Assessment.

Additionally, active shooter training will be conducted at area schools, so officers will be familiar with the schools and develop plans to better deal with emergency situations.

According to Frazier, there will also be security upgrades this year. This includes adding surveillance cameras and other safety related equipment, which are made possible by grants received for this purpose.

Administration Changes at Weakley County Schools

There are several changes in staffing in the Weakley County School System this year.

At the district central office in Dresden: Karen Campbell is the newly established Communications Director; Terri Stephenson, who has come from Martin Elementary will fill the Elementary Supervisor of Instruction position; Lindsey Parham is assuming the role of Supervisor of Career Technical Education; and Megan Moore will serve as the K-5 District Math Coach. Additionally, Jeff Cupples is the new principal at Greenfield School and Patresa Rogers will serve as principal at Martin Elementary.

Student School Supplies

Santa’s Helpers, located at 216 West Main Street in downtown Dresden, recently provided free school supplies and school clothing to K-8th grade students in the Weakley County School System, as well as those in private schools. The local charitable organization will also fill the high school supply lists as soon as students get their lists from school.

Greenfield students in Kindergarten through the 5th grade will receive free school supplies this year, thanks to the efforts of local Greenfield churches, Greenfield Bank and the City of Greenfield. These students will have all of their school supplies provided for them in their classroom when they begin school on August 5th. The only things the students will need to buy are their backpacks and lunch boxes. Each grade has a sponsor that will be providing the supplies.

Additionally, Victory Baptist Church, located on Hwy 89 west of Sharon, will be distributing free school supplies on Saturday, August 3 from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Call Judy McCollum at 731-819-0460 for more information.

Parents and guardians that must purchase school supplies should go to their child’s school website to obtain a school supply list.