Administrators and teachers from Fairview and Highland Park Elementary schools spoke at the Monroe County Community School Corporation Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday about their schools’ turnaround plans.
Both Highland Park and Fairview received an F grade from the Indiana Department of Education for the 2012-13 school year and were designated priority schools.
Priority schools are monitored closely by the IDOE, which includes classroom observation of teachers.
If the IDOE determines that the school is not meeting the criteria of the turnaround principles through their new plan, the school might be required to change personnel, shift resources or accept the help of an outside management team to manage the school and develop a new plan.
Priority schools must also submit a Student Achievement Plan. Highland has already completed its plan, and Fairview is close to finishing its plan.
Highland Park Principal Maggie Dainton spoke first. Highland Park received a C for the 2011-12 school year and was named a focus-targeted school.
Dainton highlighted the eight IDOE “Turnaround Principles Requirements,” which enforce schools to implement policies such as a school environment that supports the needs of children and to recruit, retain and develop effective teachers.
Dainton then outlined the three main changes now occurring at Highland Park. All students in kindergarten to sixth grade are now participating in daily English/language arts and math enrichment/remediation time.
Highland Park is also partnering with IU’s School Psychology Program to support students and teachers.
“We look to adjust schedules, services and resources to meet the individual needs of these students in the coming school years,” Dainton said in her presentation.
Fairview has now received an F from the IDOE two years in a row.
Although Fairview’s ISTEP+ scores have improved during the past year in both English/language arts and math, seven of 10 students at Fairview are reading below grade level. Some are up to two years behind.
Fairview Principal Tammy Miller said Fairview began working with the students at their instructional level in reading and math in the fall but said the final Fairview plan is not yet finished.
“We continue to work at it,” Miller said. “It is our responsibility to fix it.”
Fairview plans to reduce its student-to-teacher ratio and use small group learning as much as possible, communicate with parents to ensure they know about their child’s academic progress and connect with the community to gain more volunteers and resources for the school.
Teacher Mary Wicker has been working at Fairview for more than 20 years and said the reading crisis has been going on for a long time.
Teacher Robin Johnson said this turnaround plan has not been presented to them as an option but as a requirement. She said if children can’t read, they can’t do a math problem or go to the grocery store.
“We’ve been a priority school now for two years,” Johnson said.
Johnson said the writing team includes two parents and teachers from all areas of the school.
Ann St. John, a volunteer at Fairview, said she was shocked at how much the Fairview community wants their students to succeed.
“The Fairview Community is an awesome community,” she said.
But, she said, she highly supports reading and thinks it is a problem that some children are reading two years behind grade level.
“If that’s not a crisis, I don’t what is,” she said.
Johnson said there are large reading gaps in classrooms at Fairview. She said some students in sixth grade read at a second grade level and some above a sixth grade level.
She said she is excited for the new direction Fairview is heading, saying she thinks the plan will help target kids that need more attention.
Fairview parent Lynette Anigbo said she believes it is important to challenge kids early on or they won’t be able to meet challenges later in life. She said perseverance is something that needs to be developed.
Gloria Jacobs, a member of Fairview United Methodist Church, said the church has been trying to make connections with the school.
“We are going to support Fairview Elementary in any way we can,” she said.
Many in her congregation have signed up as volunteers at Fairview, herself included.
“The children at Fairview are not just Fairview children,” Jacobs said. “They’re our children.”
Follow reporter Sydney Murray on Twitter @sydlm13.