PES moving to “communities”

By Staff, 03/29/17 2:18 PM


PRESCOTT – When school starts in August for the 2017-18 year, students at Prescott Elementary School will be in “communities”.

Kim Grimes and Kathie Janes told the Prescott School Board, at its March meeting Tuesday night, they wanted to do something new at PES called “community”. The idea, in a nutshell, will see the four hallways divided into communities, each containing classrooms for students in K-4. The students will remain together during their PES careers and have the same instructor – unless a teacher leaves. Grimes said each of the communities can be named.

These communities, she said, will be monitored annually for any changes that need to be made. The communities will also have a balance of students, based on race, gender and capabilities. “This will improve the student-teacher relationships,” she said, “and the atmosphere will become more vertically aligned.”

Part of the concept is to make these classrooms more of a family-type atmosphere where the children feel safe and secure, which will help promote learning. In addition, Grimes said, the community concept will allow PES to use teacher’s individual strengths to “cross-teach”. This means if an instructor excels in one area, they can go to other classrooms and share their knowledge with the different classes.

Janes said another thing is the students won’t lose grade level connections as they will remain with the same group while at PES.

Another benefit, Grimes said, is students can receive instruction on a higher or lower level, based on the student’s needs. Should a third grade student have trouble with reading, they can move to a lower grade to help get caught up, while remaining third graders.

Currently, she added, PES teachers team-teach in grades 2-4. Under the community system, though, the children will have the same teacher all day, unless cross teaching is being done. Additionally, the students will keep the same lunch and recess times they now have.

Superintendent Robert Poole said this would be a five-year commitment for the district. He told the board one other district in the state is doing this, and having good results. In fact, he said the results are better than the district expected. He added by going to the community concept, it will save transition time from class to class.

Janes said the strongest thing about the concept will be relationships, as students will be with the same teacher from K-4. “Time shouldn’t confine us,” she said, “we should own time.” This would give the district more opportunities and PES should show improvement and growth.

Grimes pointed out this system isn’t perfect and there will be things the district has to work through and tweak. But, the balanced classes will help. She asked the board to also consider adopting an Educational Transitional Program (ETP) classroom. This would be similar to In School Suspension, but would be for students in elementary school, all grades, and for longer periods of time. It would also have a full-time teacher working with the students. It would serve as a disciplinary measure but with an academic component as it would have a teacher present, instead of students being given lessons out of a book to work on. This, she added, should help those students who are disruptive learn the behavioral skills needed to function in a regular classroom setting. She reminded the board Prescott High School has such a program and it’s worked well.

Janes said this could be done at no cost to the district as Title I funds would be used to pay for the teacher’s salary. Title I money, she added, is used for ISS as it is.

Grimes said the ETP is a better idea and alternative than sending children home. PES would still have ISS and corporal punishment, but the key to ETP is students would be there longer and it would be a different learning environment.

Janes pointed out the district also needs a District School Improvement Supervisor, not just a curriculum coordinator who would be strictly tied down to curriculum issues. This person, she said, would help with teacher evaluations, school improvement strategies, promote the district’s vision, help with professional development planning and help principals, among other things. “This isn’t a new position.”

Janes said it would be paid through the National School Lunch Act (NSLA) funds and not cost the district anything. The person in the position, she added, would help make sure all school guidelines are being followed. The person would need a curriculum degree, but would work in all aspects of the district. She said this position is approved by the Arkansas Department of Education and the district won’t need the ADE’s approval.

The board approved all three ideas.

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