(05/28/2018)
In 2013, Arnoldsburg Elementary and Save the Children partnered to develop a unique tailor-made model of literacy instruction for in-school, after-school and summer programming. Then Principal Jeannie Bennett (left) and her staff met with Save the Children staff to customize age-appropriate literacy blocks consisting of Guided Independent Reading practice (GIRP), Read aloud, vocabulary and fluency (RAvfL), Emergent Reader, and Healthy Choices.

The model utilized the research-based technique to develop a one-of-a-kind program for AES. All staff including related arts teachers received intense professional development and implemented the model daily with fidelity. We were able to provide support with an Academic Coach/Program Coordinator Save the Children provided technical assistance with a team of Program Specialists.

This was the beginning of what is now a five-year partnership that has expanded to a County-wide model. Save the Children's program models are designed based on research and best practice. The partnership and model that was developed has been noted locally and nationally. The success of students in literacy is remarkable.

In 2014, the partnership expanded to include Early Steps to School Success. This model targeted expectant mothers to children age three to increase skills necessary for school success and build positive home/school connections. This led to the employment of an ESSS Coordinator. The coordinator serves up to 20 children ages pre-birth to three, monthly parent/child groups hosted at the school and a book bag exchange program for children ages three to five.

After the noted success of the program and the increased reading scores, Ms. Bennett, COO for Student Services, continued negotiations with Save the Children to expand the model to Pleasant Hill Elementary. Title 1 funds were initially used to provide in-school and after-school programming. Then Principal, Tyson Price was a strong advocate for the partnership to expand to PHE.

The model has continued to grow and expand with notable growth. This year we were able to add an additional Early Steps to School Success Coordinator at PHE and through a supplemental grant contract with two VROOM Ambassadors (one at PHE and one at AES).

The VROOM Ambassadors complete the continuum of services by building community relationships, organizing Community Early Learning Collaborative meetings, trainings and holding weekly parent/child activities for families throughout the community with children 3-5, organizing parent trainings, and data collections. We also contracted with a Program Coordinator to support AES and PHE.

Currently the partnership is a County-wide model including the in-school, after-school, summer school, Early Steps to Success, and VROOM at both PHE and AES and in-school and after-school programming at CMHS.

Our partnership has benefited the students in many more ways: Countless numbers of Toms shoes provided to each elementary student; Countless numbers of books to add to student's home libraries; Expansion of school libraries; Remodeling of the PHE library; Toys; VIP visits from PVH, Jennifer Garner, Bulgari, and IKEA, Mark Shriver, and legislators; Dream Tree Christmas tree gifts for all students in the County for three years; Technical Support; Grant writing assistance.

Our Partnership has allowed us to secure other funding sources, Supplemental VROOM grant; ASPIRE 21st Century grant and supplemental grants; Innovation Zone; Several of us have been to Charleston to lobby for additional funding for STC.

A combined total of around $2.5 million dollars has been made possible to Calhoun County Schools over the past five years. An additional $367,000 is slated for next year in additional to picking up the cost for our Renaissance Learning literacy assessment subscription.

We are excited to announce that our partnership will continue to grow in future years. Next year, we will be able to hire two additional Program Coordinator/Interventionists and two Literacy Tutors. This will provide two additional staff members at PHE and AES each. The following year we plan to add a math model.

As you walk the halls of the schools, you might hear adults and children saying things like GIRP or RAvFL. You might even hear them making the words in nouns like "Great GIRPers" or hear we are "RAvLFing" Please know that these are not bodily functions or the kids aren't falling apart, they are simply excited about learning and expanding their literacy skills. Before we began implementing programming at CMHS, fifth grade students immediately questioned their teachers about, "What time do they GIRP and RAvFL?".

This partnership has been made possible by the support of our BOE members, steadfast administrative support from central office, Early Steps Coordinators, contracted employees, VROOM ambassadors, principals and especially the teachers out in the trenches doing the work and helping provide limitless possibilities for our students. Save the Children staff are frequently on-site, provide reports and data reports. They have become members of our Advisory Team and members of our school family.

Superintendent Whytsell has continued to lobby in Charleston for funding and fully supports our partnership and programming. Through her continued leadership and vision, we are able to continue to provide limitless opportunities for our students.


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