Part of $15 million grant awarded to two area schools

Published 10:48 pm Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Six school districts, including Dallas County, were named recipients of a $15 million grant by the Alabama Department of Education this week.

The county was given about a $3.4 million slice of the $15 million to go towards the implementation of a total school reform at both Southside High School and Brantley Elementary.

This school reform system will give the Dallas County School System at least 10 new jobs, as they will have to hire special positions to help the school improve. For example, they will bring on four new special education teachers, artists in residence at both schools, four interventionists that will aid in bringing the schools up-to-date and a social worker for Southside High School.

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“This is really going to help us make a difference,” Dallas County Superintendant Fannie Major-Mackenzie said. “I just get chills. “

She said the way the schools will reform is by using a two-tiered data management system. The first tier being the systems at the school level and the next tier a more diagnostic and informative strategy that will affect the students and improve their learning.

“We as a system will give pre-tests and post-tests at the beginning and end of each nine weeks,” Major-Mackenzie said. “The data from these will allow me as a superintendant and allow principles to look and say these are our holes in learning. And we have been doing that in the past but it has just been patchwork.”

The new data systems that have been purchased with the help of this additional funding will first allow for better and more thorough data collections and then will allow for the weaknesses in certain subjects to be improved.

Four new faculty members, two at each school, will work with the students one-on-one and in small groups to specialize and work on the areas in which they need improvement.

“The beauty of the program is that each student will get his or her individualized plan,” Major-Mackenzie said. “So if we have 30 students in a class, 10 students in the class have mastered everything in the class except for five skills, those are the skills that will be worked on and monitored.”

She said that is where the interventionist position will come into play.

“The interventionist that will be hired will work specifically on those skills with those students and they will progress monitor them periodically,” Major-Mackenzie said. “The program will be specifically designed to fill those splintered skills. It should show improvement as we move along.”

In addition, the schools will each receive a couple hundred thousand dollars for the arts, something that really pleased Major-Mackenzie because, she said, it means so much to the students and teachers. She also said she is so thankful to see arts funding in a time when that is scarce.

The grant will make every classroom in the schools 21st century meaning they will have technology like Elmos, tablets, smart boards and more.

“I think [this grant] will help energize them with the arts and with the additional technology,” Major-Mackenzie said. “It will help us make instruction more engaging and meaningful… my expectations are high.”