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Literacy Strategies Focus of Toombs BOE Session

Literacy for early readers and vaccines for educators was the focus of the February Toombs County Board of Education meeting. Superintendent Barry Waller informed the Board that plans for targeting reading support for students using CARES Act funds and the Literacy for Learning, Living, and Leading in Georgia Grant (L4GA) were moving forward.

Waller said, “The data shows we’ve got to teach students to read.” Success in other content areas depends upon reading. In conversations and brainstorming with Curriculum Director Tonawanda Irie, Instructional Coach Brandon Hartley, and principals, the needs of the students and targeted strategies to meet those needs were laid out. The entire literacy program will target birth to 3rd grade. The L4GA Grant and some of the CARES Act money, which is to be received in the next six months, will fund these plans. For birth to four years old, the L4GA Grant is being used to refurbish an old school bus to be a mobile library containing an interactive literacy board, chrome books and physical books. The bus will travel by a weekly schedule to area daycares. Pre-K students will benefit from a partnership with Toombs Family Connection, directed by Paige Williamson, and a FERST Readers program (https:// Through donated subscriptions, children can receive a book at home every month until they are five years old. The pre-K classroom has a tailored curriculum which can be greatly enhanced by the story books at home.

Targeted reading support, using a scientificallybased, structured program, for kindergarten through third graders who need to catch up to grade level will be available after school for four days a week. The L4GA funds will be used to contract with retired teachers who will instruct the students for an hour and 15 minutes. Snacks will be offered during this time.

During the school day, paraprofessionals will use a push-in, pull-out model with students needing to raise reading levels. In this model, the instructor takes the instruction and the reading materials to the student into a general classroom setting (pushin). The pull-out instruction generally occurs by taking the student outside the classroom.

Regarding the vaccines, Waller shared results of a survey of school personnel who would choose to receive the COVID- 19 vaccination when it becomes available in the tier 1b roll-out for teachers. About 50% of school personnel said they would receive the vaccination. School nurses have begun registering those who said yes, although Meadows Region Medical Center has advised that it could be April or May before the 1b tier of vaccinations will be available.

Board members questioned why 50% of the staff doesn’t want to take the vaccine. Although there are many reasons, Waller said the majority surveyed believe it is too early in the use of the COVID-19 vaccine to fully know its effects and its undesirable effects.

School System Attorney Tom Everett advised Waller that the Board would need to approve the declaration of the old school board building located on East Wesley Avenue as surplus property in order to advertise the sale of the property, and to accept or reject bids. The Board approved the declaration, and Everett will move forward with advertising the sale.

Waller reported that he and Johnny Jones, who was in attendance, had an encouraging conversation as they recently toured the school system’s Ag Center. The discussion was about how the community can support the improvement and the growth of the agriculture department and of FFA. Waller said, “I want to thank Mr. Johnny for his longtime commitment to helping the Ag Department.”

Waller shared with the Board that he enjoyed attending the FFA hog show recently hosted at the Ag Center. Several area students participated in the show, and local farmers also attended. Also, the high school wrestling team became area champions for the 8th year in a row. Waller said, “That is a pretty good accomplishment for our wrestling team, and the future is bright for that team.”

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