On August 23rd at West Chatham Middle School, I held my first Town Hall Meeting of the 2017 – 2018 School Year. We talked about the new curriculum with Balanced Literacy and Eureka Math, gave a West Chatham ESPLOST update, and took questions from the audience.
The Savannah – Chatham County Public School System started Balanced Literacy and Eureka Math for all Kindergarten – 5th grade students this year. Our goal is to make sure that every student, no matter what zip code they live in, is getting the same material in each grade.
- One of the main concerns that parents had was the ability to help their children with math homework and Eureka Math is a different way of teaching math. The best part is that there are parent help guides in paper form and online! SCCPSS is working on getting the webinars linked to the District website and a link so you can see what is in your child’s book.
- Balanced Literacy is a reading program that not only teaches children how to read, it also teaches how words work together. Part of the program is to have at least a 275 book library in each classroom for K-5. Because of needing to have so many books, the District is asking for new or gently used books for the classrooms. The data shows us that if a child is not reading on grade level by the start of 3rd grade they are 20% more likely to NOT graduate from high school. We want to ensure that every child has the ability to read at grade level or above.
The ESPLOST update was very important as we informed parents and community members that the New K-8 School that will be built on the New Hampstead High School Campus was moved up from a Year 2 Project to a Year 1 Project. What this means for West Chatham is the project has started. The public will not see a ground breaking until about 2 years from now, however the project is moving forward as the population of West Chatham grows!
During the question and answer portion of the Town Hall, parents asked questions about everything from cancelling school days to speeding through school zones to the AdvancED Review.
- Cancelling School Days – What is the protocol for cancelling school days? When it comes to inclement weather, the District staff works with the best information they get from CEMA and other transportation and weather related professionals. SCCPSS does everything to make sure that the 30,000+ students and 5,000+ staff are going to be safe. With regards to Hurricane Matthew during the 2016-2017 School Year, we missed more than the state mandated 4 day limit to not have to make up the days. Due to the feedback received, we have reinstituted designated days on the calendar to be make up days, if needed.
- Speeding through School Zones – This is a problem throughout the county in almost every school zone. The Board of Education Police Department is working with each jurisdiction to make sure that the children, parents, and staff are able to go safely to and from the schools.
- SACS Review – There is a lot of concern about losing accreditation for our graduating seniors this year. As many of you know, this past spring a complaint was filed pertaining to the possible violation of Standards for Quality Schools. SACS has determined there is a need to conduct an on-site investigation that could possibly place the District on “Under Review Status.” This does NOT mean the District has lost accreditation. It means that SACS will be watching how the District functions with their recommendation(s).
Everyone in attendance was respectful and there was a very positive dialog between the parents, district staff (including Dr. Ann Levett) and Board Members (Dionne Hoskins-Brown (District 2), Connie Hall (District 3), Mr. Larry Lower (District 6), and Ruby Jones (District 8) were all there).
I would like to thank again the staff of West Chatham Middle School, the Superintendent, the Cabinet, and all the parents and community leaders that came out to the Town Hall.
Michael Johnson serves as the Savannah-Chatham County Public School 7th District School Board Member and Buyer Agent for The Johnson Team with Keller Williams Realty Coastal Area Partners.