Reid Gives Vidalia BOE Curriculum Update
Vidalia City Schools Assistant Superintendent Sandy Reid provided the Vidalia Board of Education with an update on recent curriculum discoveries and planning for next year at the Board’s regular meeting on Tuesday, April 11.
During her monthly curriculum report, Reid spoke to the Board about the school system’s recent Early Literacy Review, which revealed the trends of strengths and weaknesses with students from grades K-3.
“We know that there are some trends that we are seeing that we could not quite understand in the data, so we actually sought the services of an outside consultant, Dr. [Tina] Anderson of Anderson & Ward Educational Services, [who] also is a professor with the University of Georgia Education Division,” Reid explained. “She teaches their dyslexia and ‘Teaching Reading’ classes.”
Reid said that she had requested that Anderson do an extensive literacy review for grades K-3. Anderson spent three days with the students, administrators, teachers, and instructional coaches to perform a full needs assessment of the literacy in these grades. “This helped us understand why we are seeing the trends and data that we are seeing,” Reid remarked.
During this assessment, Anderson ran focus groups, did curriculum analyses, and observed instruction to discover the areas which needed improvement in literacy curriculum. “What she found makes so much sense, and I think it is going to be a huge help in the upcoming year,” Reid told the Board.
According to Anderson, one of the areas which had caused some literacy issues with students was the inconsistency between teachers in each grade. Reid explained that these inconsistencies did not come from poor performance by the teachers, but rather from the teachers’ variation of experience and professional development. In an effort to address this issue, a single literacy instruction coach will serve all students from grades K-2. “This creates an important bridge from one school to another [as the grade 2 students will have recently moved to Sally D. Meadows Elementary School] and will also bridge the transition from grade to grade in these vital years,” she emphasized.
Another weakness found in the assessment was that some students’ lack of phonemic awareness, meaning they merely memorize words rather than learning the phonics of each letter combination, which helps them to sound out multisyllabic or complex words. To address this issue, Reid said that the teachers had recently completed a phonemic awareness workshop in which they learned a deeper understanding of the concept and how to promote it to students. This knowledge and tools gained will be implemented in instruction.
Remainder of Report
Reid also spoke to the Board members on the recent milestone data, and explained why the school system chose to compare the results from each year to the state average. “You cannot compare apples to oranges – grade 6 results cannot be compared to grade 8 results,” she emphasized. “Also, you cannot compare the same group of students’ scores from grade to grade – certain grade level tests are historically harder than others. Thus, we compare our scores to the state average because if the test is hard one year, the state average will reflect it.”
She commented on student performance based on milestone data. “When I did the trend analysis, in all areas, we were close to the state average. We drop in grades 4 and 5, we are consistent in grade 6, then start climbing back up in grades 7 and 8,” she said. Reid told the Board members that she was hoping to work with the First District RESA for a comprehensive needs assessment of the entire school system, which will help administrators better understand how to improve the district.
Literary Team Recognition The Vidalia High School Literary Team was recognized at the meeting for its runner-up finish at the recent state competition.
Superintendent Garrett Wilcox began the recognition by telling attendees that he wanted to point out two things. “Many moons ago, financially, the country wasn’t in as good of shape as it is today. You can go back and do the research, but we went through a period of time where we had to make a lot of cuts, and one of the things that I am most proud of is that we did not have to do anything with the chorus and some of our fine arts programs at the high school,” he shared.
“We were able to make it work, and part of that is probably because of the community more than you realize. We did have to get rid of music and art for our elementary- and primary-aged kids, but the great thing was, as soon as things turned around, we were able to put it back,” he continued.
Wilcox’s second point was the auditorium and theatre facility that was built into the Vidalia High School, as he felt that addition was imperative for the school. “There was a lot of support to do what we did in the auditorium to support what you guys have just done – that made me happy. You never had to experience moving the cafeteria tables so you could have One Act Play practice in the old lunchroom, so thank your lucky stars,” he told the students with a laugh. “I am still proud that we have a new auditorium and a new building, and that you guys have a place to call home.”
Vidalia High School Principal Bruce Mulkey then took over the recognition, sharing his prior experience with budget cuts and fine arts. “Having been to other places as a high school principal and having to see some of these cuts that Dr. Wilcox was talking about, and then having been here, I can tell you first hand that those cuts are deep and impact our children and our families. It’s a tribute to you guys that you were able to pull that off, and I think that you’re going to see that there has been a return on that investment,” he stated.
“When I first got to Vidalia High School, one of the first things that [Former Principal John Sharpe] did was walk me down the hall and show me the Literary Region Championships. There are 9 of them in a row. And as we looked at them, [Sharpe] said, ‘Mr. Mulkey, if this doesn’t happen this year, it will be your fault,’” Mulkey reminisced with a laugh. “The pressure was on – I had nothing to do with their wins, but their potential loss was on me.”
According to Mulkey, the recent change in regional divisions had worried the Literary Team, as two larger schools with impressive fine arts programs were now in the local team’s region. Yet, the team prevailed. “They did not only win the Literary Region Competition – they dominated it,” he emphasized. “Out of 12 total events, we took first place in 11 of them.”
Upon that region victory, several competitors qualified for the State Literary Competition, in which two state titles were won, and the team came in second behind a single private school. Alan Johnson took home the gold for humorous interpretation, while his duo interpretation performance with Dottie McDaniel also landed a state championship.
“We are very, very proud of them,” Mulkey told the Board.
Vidalia High School Literary Team Advisors Margaret Pournelle and Alton West also spoke on the accomplishment. “What is so wonderful about this situation is that the students still maintained what was started with them early on in their school experience,” West told the Board. “They are self-motivated, and it can’t get any better than that because they’re just like a self-cleaning oven or a frost-free refrigerator – they work on their own, and that is the highest level that we can expect for them to accomplish. I am glad to have been a small part of what they have done.”
Pournelle added, “I was just thinking about those days that Dr. Wilcox was talking about – our sets were in the back corner of my room and we’d haul them through the hall every single day to the cafeteria for practice. So, to have our own space to rehearse and to have the arts valued at Vidalia High School is such a blessing and I am so grateful for it. I’m so proud of our kids. They have the best work ethic of any kids that you will find and this would not happen without that, they work so hard, they care about it, they’re passionate, and they are leaving a legacy behind for those that are coming up.”
State Champion Alan Johnson then addressed the Board and attendees on behalf of the team. “Thank you to the parents, to everyone, and especially, to the team I have, the team we all have. Without us seeing each other as family, we would not have been able to accomplish this, it’s from the help of everyone here.”
“No matter if it’s literary or fine arts or JROTC, the hope is that everyone finds somewhere to get plugged in, something to work out,” Wilcox concluded. “Our administrators do a good job at giving our kids the opportunity to do that. Thank you all!”
Resignations, which will be effective at the end of the current school year, were accepted for Sally D. Meadows Special Education Teacher Esther Quintanilla and Vidalia High School Audio/Video Teacher Jackson Sharpe.
The following new hires were made for the 2023-2024 school year: Rachel Paradise – Sally D. Meadows Elementary School, Ashley Weinberg – J.D. Dickerson Paraprofessional, Jay Cravey – Vidalia High School Marketing Teacher. Elizabeth Harvey was also hired as a JROTC paraprofessional, effective immediately.
Board members approved to continue contracting Uniti Fiber for the school system’s wide area internet network and Pineland for the back-up internet access, which is used when the wide area network is down.