School board meeting

Bassett students Kaleyn Bray (left) and Matthew Wells (right) and their 11th-grade English teacher Ashley Fultz give a presentation on digital textbooks at the Henry County School Board meeting.

The principal of Drewry Mason Elementary School will leave her post next year for a role with the school administration.

Sherri Lewis will become the educational diagnostician for Henry County Public Schools, effective Jan. 1.

This change was approved during closed session after the Henry County School Board’s meeting on Thursday morning and announced later in the day.

Lewis has served students as a teacher, reading specialist, administrative intern and principal. Additionally, she has served as an adjunct faculty member for University of Virginia and Longwood University, teaching Word Study and Assessment in the Classroom.

Bill Bullins, retired assistant superintendent, will serve as interim principal of Drewry Mason during the spring semester.

Lewis is filling a role filled by Jeannette Hurd, who became the coordinator.

During the regular meeting, board members heard from Bassett High School juniors Kaelyn Bray and Matthew Wells and their English teacher, Ashley Fultz, who gave a presentation about digital textbooks.

Fultz said students can do their assignments on the digital device that holds the textbook, and results are sent directly to her digital device or computer. It easily tallies how well students perform on each question or topic, which aids her as a guide on where to target further instruction, she said.

It’s handy for learning, Matthew said. Pointing to a photograph of a political figure on his digital textbook, he said, “You’ll have something that comes up, so you’ll be easily engaged with it.”

Some of the assignments provided in this digital form are interesting, Kaelyn said. She said she likes one that involves writing a song about the topic covered. “Your creative juices flow,” she said.

“It’s way better than carrying around a big textbook,” Matthew said.

Plus, “it’s a very good thing that all students should need,” he said. “This is the age of technology,” and getting kids used to technology from an early age is important.

Legislative agenda

Superintendent Sandy Strayer presented the board’s 2020 Legislative Agenda for the General Assembly, a document that states, among other concerns, that HCPS supports full funding of all educational mandates passed by the General Assembly and the Virginia Department of Education; it supports a variety of measures of assessment of student growth and achievement; and it supports the redesign of high school to better prepare students for success after graduation.

HCPS also supports flexibility in setting tuition costs for dual-enrollment programming with Patrick Henry Community College. Presently, Strayer said, dual enrollment costs about $400,000 a year. If the commonwealth were to adapt a “uniform tuition rate,” bringing the costs of PHCC in line with the rest of the state, local tuition would rise so much that the dual enrollment program could end up costing HCPS $1.5 million a year.

Improving achievement

Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning Lisa Millner gave a presentation on strategies to strengthen academic achievement. The focus is on writing, reading, math, science and social studies, as well as the special education and English-learners students.

The schools are spending more time on phonics instruction, as its results have been missed, Millner said. The schools are following Open Court Phonics Instruction under the guidance of consultant Kay Brimijoin. A new textbook, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt “Reading,” has been adapted.

Middle and high school students are receiving new textbooks, HMH “Into Literature.” Teachers are receiving professional development lessons in reading and writing across the curriculum; summarizing strategies; and website and conference resources.

She gave other examples also for English classes as well as other disciplines on programs and resources.

Also during the meeting, the board:

  • Backed the county’s position that the commonwealth should consider a 1% sales tax increase to be used for capital expenditures. Any sales tax increase “would have to be approved by the voters,” board chair Frances Zehr said. “Anytime you have to be approved by the voters, you can’t argue with that – it’s a democracy.”
  • Approved the purchase of a 24-passenger Type A school bus for special-needs students to replace one damaged in a wreck on Sept. 24, Assistant Superintendent of Operations and Administrative Services David Scott said. The bus, offered for sale by Kingmor Supply of Mount Crawford, costs $47,000. HCPS’s insurance company has paid around $21,000 for the destroyed bus.
  • Learned that October is “Take Your Legislator to School Month,” “Disability History and Awareness Month” and “Family Engagement in Education Month.”
  • Recognized each school’s principal because all schools were accredited.
  • Approved a Roth 403(b) retirement plan as a voluntary payroll deduction for all employees.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

Holly Kozelsky is a writer for the Martinsville Bulletin; contact her at 276-638-8801 ext. 243.

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