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The principal's calling: Eagleton's Wyrosdick delivers good news to parents

posted Nov 29, 2016, 6:58 AM by Marla Holbert   [ updated Dec 2, 2016, 10:11 AM by Chris Whitehorne ]

When Eagleton Elementary Principal Buffy Wyrosdick called a student’s mother the first week of school, the woman’s first, frustrated comment was “Already?”

Instead of being in trouble, though, her child was being congratulated. She was one of the first parents Wyrosdick dialed for a “Good News Call of the Day.”

Now more than three dozen families have received good news from the principal, who set a goal this school year to call the parents of at least 130 of the 511 students.

“You can’t make enough positive phone calls home,” she said. “I don’t want that first phone call to be ‘We’re in trouble.’”

One parent told the principal, “When I saw the school phone number pop up, my heart sank.” But when Wyrosdick tells them about the wonderful accomplishments she and the other staff members have recognized in their children, sometimes the parents become teary-eyed.

The principal recognized one kindergartner for stopping to help another student tie a shoe and another student who “blew his reading goal out of the water.”

Wyrosdick credits another administrator she follows on Twitter with the call idea: Minnesota Principal Mark French, @PrincipalFrench.

One of the unexpected benefits of the social media site she has found is professional development, as it connects her with education leaders across the globe.

Eagleton students still are a bit hesitant when Wyrosdick calls them to the office for the surprise. When Landon Bowers arrived on a recent afternoon and she asked the third-grader if he wanted to know why he was called to the office, he slowly said, “Yeah,” as if he wasn’t quite sure he wanted to hear the answer.

“We’re going to call home and brag on you,” the principal said as the boy broke into a huge grin.

Later he confessed that while he was walking to the office he was wondering, “What if I’m in trouble?”

After Wyrosdick explained why Landon was called to the office, they headed to the hallway to take a smiling and a silly selfie together to post on Twitter after the call.

High-fives

As they walked back through the main office to Wyrosdick’s room, along the way the principal told everyone they passed why the student was in the office, and they offered congratulations and high-fives.

On the phone with parents, the principal shares her own observations as well as what teachers have told her.

She told Landon’s mother, Damaris, how polite her son always is and how hard the math teacher said he has worked. After struggling in math earlier, Landon now has scored 100 percent on his past three tests.

“He’s really giving his ‘personal best effort,’” the principal said. Eagleton highly values “PBE” in its students.

A social studies teacher also had noted Landon’s contributions to a recent lesson. “He really brought Cuba to life for his classmates,” Wyrosdick said.

“We’re blessed to have him here at our school,” she told the mother.

“I’m blown away,” Damaris Bowers said after talking with the principal. “He’s worked so hard.”

Later in the afternoon, Wyrosdick posted call photos on Twitter with “#GoodNewsCallOfTheDay” and “#eessoars2016.”

Positive effect

The principal said she sees the joy in the children’s faces and the pride and self-confidence that carry through long after the phone call. “This is the highlight of my day,” she said.

Parents often tell her, “You made my day.”

“I”m all about building relationships with the students, the staff and the school community,” the principal said.

The calls are just one element of positive reinforcement. She also will give a “Shout Out” to a student during the morning announcements, and the school has positive referral forms that teachers can quickly complete to recognize students.

Although working the call habit into the workday was a challenge at first, Wyrosdick said, “This is a priority. I want to make sure I make this happen.”

She has created a spreadsheet with each day of the school year, where she records whom she called, the student’s grade level and other notes, such as why she didn’t make a call if the day is blank.

Already she has noted scheduled activities for the remainder of the year, to show when she may need to plan the call earlier in the day or ask Assistant Principal Chad Tipton to make a call for her.

Spreading word

“I’d love to see this take off and see lots of Good News Calls of the Day coming from Blount County,” the Eagleton principal said.

April Herron, principal at Middlesettlements Elementary School, began making a #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay in late October, after talking with Wyrosdick and attending social media sessions at the state Education Department’s LEAD conference in Nashville.

Herron already had been making positive calls to parents, but now she is including the students in those calls. “The children have just been giddy,” the principal said.

Knowing how tense a call from the school can make parents, she’s sure to begin by telling them, “I’m calling for a great reason,” to put them at ease.

If the principal later needs to talk with a parent about a problem, that first positive call can pave the way by showing that the school truly cares about the child, she noted.

To show her appreciation to Wyrosdick for inspiring the calls, Herron sent her fellow principal a gift: a selfie stick.

Find the principals’ posts on Twitter from the accounts of @BuffyWyrosdick and @MSESettlers, with #GoodNewsCallOfTheDay. 


By Amy Beth Miller amy.miller@thedailytimes.com TheDailyTimes.com |

Carpenters Middle School practices saving lives

posted Oct 3, 2016, 8:06 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 8:06 AM ]

When someone suffers from a sudden cardiac arrest, every minute counts. If the person receives CPR and shock with an automated external defibrillator (AED) within three to five minutes, the odds of survival are about 70 percent, according to Karen Dean Smith, coordinator of the Project ADAM program at East Tennessee Children’s Hospital, who works to provide training and supplies to schools. With each passing minute, the survival rate drops 10 percent.

“It’s a quick thing, and it has to be responded to quickly,” Smith said during a recent interview. “Our goal is to be able to get an AED delivering a shock to anywhere on campus in three to five minutes.” During a drill Wednesday at Carpenters Middle School, the cardiac response team had an AED to the “victim” in less than 50 seconds and delivered the first shock within two minutes. In this case the “victim” was a practice dummy.

While Blount County Schools have conducted staff CPR and AED training for years, the student health services coordinator, Robin Cook, told every school to conduct at least two drills this school year. “The drills give everyone a better perspective of what everybody’s roles are,” Cook said. “The drills will make a difference.”

Multiple roles

“We’re not professionals, but we want to be as prepared as possible,” said CMS Principal Jon Young. The 10 members of the CMS cardiac arrest response team (CART) are a subset of the school’s crisis team, chosen for their locations in the school and their ability to handle stressful situations. For example, Halle Timpson, a sixth-grade math and science teacher whose classroom is close to the AED location, is also an Air Force veteran. “We all know our roles,” CMS Assistant Principal Courtney Whitehead said.

The school resource officer and head custodian are responsible for communicating with the 911 dispatch center and ambulance service. The front office calls Carpenters Elementary for its school nurse to come to the middle school to care for any children in the clinic and relay any health information from the files in the nurse’s office about the victim.

Teachers who aren’t on the crises team know to cover classes for those who are and to keep students out of the hallways and away from the incident scene, creating a clear pathway for an ambulance crew to respond. On her way to the scene, school nurse Angie Gillis, RN, grabs a red backpack that includes items such as a first-aid kit, airway, blood pressure cuff and more. “It’s my little ambulance in a bag, she said.

Refining practices

“We learn something every time,” Whitehead said of the CMS drills. Each time the CMS staff has refined its process. The first time, for example, they learned that they could use a button on their radios to activate a siren sound. Because three team members are designated to take the school’s AED to the site, in case someone is out of the building, they learned that when the person who retrieves it leaves the case door open others can easily see the devices is on its way.
While drills make the staff feel more prepared, they also reassure the students. “The more they see us doing this, the more comfortable they are,” Young said.

Prepared for years

While the drills in Blount County Schools may be new, training isn’t. The registered nurses who work in Blount County’s middle and high schools are trained CPR instructors, and staff members are encouraged to take the CPR training they offer, which includes AED training. “We’re constantly doing CPR training throughout the year,” Cook said. All coaches must have the training, and every field trip must include an adult trained in CPR. The first two AEDs were donated to Blount County Schools 10-15 years ago, and by 2009 every school had at least one, Cook said. Some have two AEDs and the high schools have three. BCS has a total of 33 AEDs. “All schools are working toward being designated as Heart Safe Schools,” Cook said. CMS received its accreditation a few weeks ago.

To receive that accreditation through the Sudden Arrhythmia Death Syndromes Foundation, schools must complete a number of steps to raise awareness and prevent cardiac deaths, in addition to training and drills. Maryville and Alcoa schools also have received Heart Safe Schools designation.
But even Smith said it’s the training and drills that makes a difference, whether schools pursue that certification or not. Bills pending in the Tennessee General Assembly would require every school with at least one AED to have annual training and at least one annual drill.

By Amy Beth Miller-The Daily Times

Students gain expertise in Second Battle of the Build

posted Oct 3, 2016, 8:04 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 8:05 AM ]

From a rustic-style farm table constructed without screws or nails to a mailbox pillar made with artificial stone, the 2nd Annual Battle of the Build showed off students’ knowledge and skill. At the event sponsored by the Maryville Alcoa Home Builders Association at Foothills Mall on Saturday, judges awarded:

• First place, $1,000, to William Blount High School
• Second place, $750, to Maryville High School
• Third place, $500, to Maryville Junior High School
• Fourth place, $250, to Heritage High School

The prize money will go to each school’s vocational program, and money from a silent auction for the projects also will go back to the schools.


Traditional Skills


The William Blount team’s rustic farm table and benches were made from reclaimed lumber from their teacher’s barn. Gene Huffstetler taught his students to construct the pieces with dowels, rather than any screws or nails. “It’s showing them how things used to be built,” he said. “It’s not as easy as it looks,” said team member Cattie Walton.
Other members of the William Blount team were Hayden Price, Brandon Little, Dakota Burchfield, Ricky Anderson and Austin Proffitt.


Heritage High School used an artificial stone on its mailbox pillar, with a sheet of solid sandstone on top, team member Rusty Hembree explained. He estimated the final product weighed more than 400 pounds, even with the lightweight yet durable artificial stone product. This was the fourth mailbox pillar the team had made, Hembree said, and earlier work allowed them to fine-tune their ability to balance the stone colors, keep lines straight and stagger the rows well. Other team members were Donavon Williams, Justice Rolen, Michael Summey, Antony Ray and Dallas Tucker.


Transformation

Technically the Maryville Junior High project is a folding, articulated table bench, but the students call it a “transformer,” a picnic table with parts that easily glide into place to form a bench. They modified designs they found online to add support so wood wouldn’t bow, add space between boards to improve drainage and more.
When a router they were using gouged deeper into the wood than they planned, instead of starting over with a new piece of wood, they turned the groove into a design feature that is both decorative and smooths an edge that people’s legs will rest against when sitting. “A mistake turned into beauty,” said Austin Price, who built the transformer with Cole Shinlever and Tyler Higgenbottom.

Combined Interests

Michael McClelland, a senior, represented Maryville High School with a mountain dulcimer he crafted as a sophomore in a woodworking class. “I learned a lot about music while making the dulcimer,” McClelland said. “I learned a lot about how wood instruments are made.” He also learned about the resonance of different materials, soft and hard wood, plastic and bone. For the nut and bridge on his dulcimer, McClelland used deer bone that his teacher provided. Asked what he’ll do after graduation, McClelland said, “Mainly I’m going to play music.” But he also may get to a two-year college to study welding. “If I’m this good at wood, why not try metal,” said McClelland, who has won previous shop awards.


Lack of tradesman

In presenting the awards Saturday, Brad McDougall said, “There are excellent jobs available in the construction area,” and he remarked about the lack of people trained for jobs in those trades. ”There’s more being taught than we realize, but there’s more that can be done” to prepare students for those jobs, McDougall, immediate past president of the Maryville Alcoa Home Builders Association, said later.

By Amy Beth Miller-The Daily Times

Judge encourages educators who make a difference when they enter the classroom

posted Oct 3, 2016, 8:01 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 8:02 AM ]

Juvenile Court Judge Kenlyn Foster reflected on the many educators who shaped her life when they walked into their classrooms, as she delivered the keynote speech Tuesday night at Blount County Schools’ Excellence in Education Banquet.

A 1986 graduate of Heritage High School, Foster recalled James Goodson, who inspired her creativity, Dorothy Petree, who taught her how to write, and Terri Bradshaw who taught her the value of being practical. She remembered Alan Martin, who threw a rock against a classroom wall to demonstrate Newton’s First Law of Motion, and Jane Pesterfield, who tried —unsuccessfully — to teach Foster to adopt neatness as a habit, among other teachers who shaped her life. Benny Dalton taught her the value of community, Foster said, and she remembered the late John Davis Jr., “who taught me what it means to be a member of a school family.” 


Reflecting on the symbolic value of doors in our culture, and a threshold being a point at which change begins, she noted that when someone walks through a door they can teach someone something new, teach something old in a new way, make a friend, encourage someone, learn from someone, make a difference and change a life.
Then she encouraged the teachers and others who walk through Blount County classroom doors each day to fill in the blank at the end of the sentence, “When I walk through this door, I will …”

Top Teachers

During the banquet at Heritage High School, Blount County Schools honored dozens of teachers representing each school, as well as classified staff, administrators and alumni. Three Blount County educators honored as 2015 Teacher of the Year will go on to compete for the honor of Tennessee Teacher of the Year:
• Amber Monroe of Porter Elementary, Pre-K to grade 4;
• Greg Hathcock, Prospect Elementary, grades 5-8; and
• Miri Blair, William Blount, grades 9-12.


The schools also recognized Christen Williamson of Eagleton Middle as Reading Teacher of the Year, Jama Anderson of Mary Blount Elementary as Mathematics Teacher of the Year and Terry Roberts of Fairview Elementary as Classified Employee of the Year.

Technology Innovators of the Year are Courtney Stewart, Melissa Bennett, Halle Timpson and Jeff Nuchols.


The honorees for Excellence in Instructional Leadership were Stan Painter, Friendsville Elementary principal, and Jed West, Walland Elementary principal.


Alumni of the Year were Jennifer Higdon, Timothy O’Malley, Charles Roberts and John Davis Jr.

Amy Beth Miller-The Daily Times


Pedal Power pumps up reading at Carpenters Middle

posted Oct 3, 2016, 8:00 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 8:00 AM ]


Nearly 200 Carpenters Middle School students are reading and riding during 20 minutes of their language arts classes. 
 
While all of the schools' students read a book they select for 20 minutes a day during language arts, the 196 students in the new Pedal Power program ride exercise bikes at the same time. The goal is to improve their reading, and the exercise is just an added benefit. In the first week, even the students noticed a difference and were enthusiastic about the pedaling time. "They beg me to come ride the bikes," said eight-grade language arts teacher Jordan Ridenour.
 
Improved focus
 
"I used to not focus while I was reading," said Robert Barron, an eighth-grader who was reading "Pop" by Gordon Korman during Friday's Pedal Power program. Riding the bike helps, Barron said. "I think of reading instead of other things," like playing with a pencil."I've been reading more," said classmate Lexxus Woods, who read "Autumn Falls" by Bella Thorne while she was on the exercise bike Friday morning. 
 
Students are even talking about their Pedal Power accomplishments in the hallway. Ridenour said he has heard comments such as "I read 20 pages and biked two miles!" Ridenour was enthusiastic about the program as soon as he heard about it. Reading while running on a treadmill is one of his habits. "That's sometimes where I get my best reading done," he said. He recognized that having a physical outlet instead of trying to just sit still would help middle school students. "Sometimes these kids get a little fidgety," Ridenour said.
 
Tracking results 
 
Literacy leader Terri Bradshaw was inspired to launch Pedal Power by people she saw reading while exercising at the gym and other school "read and ride" programs that have reported better reading test scores for students who bike while reading. At one elementary school, she said, students who read while biking scored in the 83th percentile on a reading test while classmates who didn't use the bikes scored in the 60th percentile. "I hope to see similar results," Bradshaw said.
 
CMS students in the Pedal Power program took the STAR Reading test Monday, the day before they started using the bikes, and they will take the test again at the end of the school year. Students' reading more also would help Carpenters Middle reach its goal for the Reading Rocks program of completing 10,000 books this school year.
"Reading is woven into our (school) culture," said Principal Jon Young, noting that administrators and teachers also will read beside students during designated reading times during the school week.
 
Health grant funding
 
CMS purchased 14 exercise bikes with a $2,000 Coordinated School Health mini-grant and some additional funding from Volunteer Pharmacy. Bradshaw hoped to start with 10 bikes, but the funding and a deal she found on Amazon allowed her to purchase more. Custodian Tony Carnes assembled the exercise bikes with some help from Bradshaw's husband. The exercise bikes are located in a room that formerly housed outdated computers. Teachers also are reaping the benefits, riding while reading or grading papers during planning periods when students aren't using the bikes.

Amy Beth Miller-The Daily Times

Blount, Maryville honored for AP gains

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:58 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:58 AM ]


Blount County and Maryville schools are among only 10 districts statewide named to the College Board’s Sixth Annual AP District Honor Roll for 2015.
 
This was the third consecutive year Blount County earned recognition, and Maryville also made the honor roll in 2013. The honor roll recognizes districts that increase access to Advanced Placement courses while also increasing the percentage of students earning a score of 3 or higher on AP exams.
Colleges generally require scores of 3, 4 or 5 on AP exams for college credit, placement or both. Nationwide, 421 school districts earned recognition on the most recent honor roll, based on data from 2013-15. Maryville, Heritage and William Blount high schools all track their AP data a bit differently, but all show significant gains in the past five years.
 
Blount students have dozen choices
 
William Blount High School has gone from offering a single AP class in 2011 to up to a dozen now, although not every class is held every year. Heritage High School has 10 AP classes. “We’re really trying to push rigorous AP courses,” HHS Assistant Principal Robert Reeves said. HHS is working to increase awareness among students and parents about AP courses, and Reeves said, “Teachers are our best recruiters.” Blount County students can begin AP coursework their freshman year with AP Human Geography.
 
“There are some kids that come out of this school who are going to have nine or 10 AP course credits,” Reeves said. “It’s almost an entire year of school.” “This is life-changing for some of these students,” the assistant principal said. “I’m impressed with how our teachers have gotten so much out of these students,” Reeves said. Along with bright students, when a high number score well enough on the AP exam, “you’ve got a rock star as a teacher,” he said.
 
In 2015, for example, all 19 HHS students who took the AP Biology exam scored a 3 or higher. Of 90 HHS students who took an AP exam 2015, 71 had a score of 3 or more. Heritage’s AP program grew from students taking 54 exams in 2011 to 85 in 2015 and 135 last year. “I’d like to see us go over 500 AP exams here,” Reeves said. Even if they don’t take the exams, though, Reeves noted that simply completing the more challenging AP coursework can drive student achievement in other areas, such as ACT scores.
 
William Blount increased the number of students taking AP coursework from 27 in 2011 to 173 in 2013 and 204 in 2015. The number of AP exams increased to 11, 123 and 134, respectively. Last year, William Blount students scored 3 or higher on 91 AP exams.
 
Maryville increasing too
 
In 2011, Maryville High School offered a dozen AP courses and now it has teachers trained to offer 23, although not all courses are held every year. Last year and this year it held 18 AP courses. In 2011, students filled 638 seats in AP classes, with many taking more than one. This year MHS has 979 AP seats filled. “Maryville City Schools’ strategic plan set a goal to increase students earning college credit through AP course work,” Principal Greg Roach said, so it has been recommending students for AP work and encouraging them to test for college credit. “We want to be sure that we’re challenging each student,” he said. The number of exams taken by MHS students rose from 280 in 2011 to 356 in 2013 and 521 last year.In the past three years, an average of 80 percent of the AP test takers at MHS have scored well enough to earn college credit.
 
Support for exam fees
 
The Blount County Education Foundation provides scholarships to help cover the AP exam fees. For non-fee-waiver students, those who don’t qualify for free or reduced-price school lunches, BCEF offers to pay half of the $92 exam fee. It will pay the entire fee for fee-waivered students. “We are very grateful to the Blount County Education Foundation for their support of our students,” William Blount Principal Rob Clark said. Maryville High School keeps a list of sponsors to assist students who need help paying for their exam fees.

By Amy Beth Miller-The Daily Times

Blount Schools 'green' cleaning receives national recognition

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:56 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:57 AM ]

Walk into any of Blount County Schools’ 23 buildings, and you won’t smell the strong ammonia, lemon or pine odors people often associate with cleaning products. Instead, Blount County has replaced harsh chemicals with safer and more environmentally friendly products and practices over the past five years. “Many people went through the years thinking that clean has a smell,” said Gary Farmer, the schools’ facilities director. “Clean does not have a smell.” “I would put the cleanliness of our buildings up against any other school system, green or non-green,” said Rick Morgan, custodial supervisor for Blount County Schools.

Award-winning program

Blount County Schools’ cleaning program received national recognition with an honorable mention in the Green Cleaning Awards for Schools & Universities last month.

The only K-12 district that scored higher, from Athens, Ga., received last year’s honorable mention in the awards sponsored by American School & University magazine, the Green Cleaning Network and the Healthy Schools Campaign. Since 2005, 10 states and the District of Columbia have adopted some type of law requiring schools to consider environmentally friendly cleaning products and practices, but Tennessee is not among them.

Schools, vendor work together

Blount County Schools works closely with its vendor, Kelsan Inc., on the cleaning program, including training twice a year for the district’s 79 custodians on best practices and new products. Teresa Farmer, Kelsan’s e-commerce and education coordinator, said she usually works with higher education institutions in East Tennessee, Kentucky and North Carolina, including Maryville College and the University of Tennessee. However, students in K-5 schools can greatly benefit from reducing the amount and harshness of cleaning chemicals, which can trigger asthma attacks.

Evolving effort

Blount County first tested a green cleaning initiative at Carpenters Middle School and Eagleton Elementary School in 2010. In addition to cost savings projected to be 10 percent to 15 percent annually, those schools also saw a slight increase in attendance, and the CMS principal reported fewer reactions among students and staff with allergies after cleaning at the school.  Schools across the district transitioned to the new cleaning methods gradually, over about three years, as they used up existing supplies, reducing the transition cost. As equipment reaches the end of its use, Farmer also is replacing it with more environmentally friendly options.

Standardized cleaning procedures call for disinfecting all “touch surfaces,” such as desktops, doorknobs, handrails and water fountains daily, with more intensive cleaning if a student is sent home ill from a classroom. Farmer thinks cleaning procedures have helped Blount County Schools remain open over the past three years when other districts have had to close because of widespread illness.

More efficient

“It surprised me that the green cleaners were as effective, if not more effective than, the volatile chemicals,” Morgan said of the initial switch. Now concentrated cleaners are dispensed through a wall-mounted chemical management system at each school that mixes the cleaners with the proper amount of water before use. Custodians wash and reuse color-coded microfiber clothes and dust mops, and they clean bathrooms with a pressurized water and vacuum system, so there is no mopping. Three of the four main cleaners the schools use are Green Seal certified for meeting health, environment and performance standards. The fourth is a hospital-grade disinfectant.
Instead of having to strip and rewax floors every year, now the schools can do that to most floors every four years. In the interim the custodial staff can top scrub and resurface the floor. 

Previously the staff used a bucket and a string mop that had to be thrown away, in a process that was tiring and hard on the workers’ backs, Morgan said. This year the custodians started using a system that applies wax from a backpack system with a sprayer and a microfiber pad that can be reused. The system also applies wax in a thinner layer than the old method, so it dries more effectively and creates a harder surface, Morgan explained. He estimates the schools will use 30 percent less wax with the new system. The newest ec-H2O floor scrubbers Blount County Schools is purchasing use no detergents, just electrically charged water, in a system estimated to also use 70 percent less water. While the savings can be substantial, Farmer said he’s particularly focused on the health benefits that can result from using safer products and procedures. “I’m proud of what we have done here and also proud of where we are going,” Farmer said. “It’s a safer way to clean.”

Amy Beth Miller-The Daily Times, Article

Tom Sherlin-The Daily Times, photographer

Dollars for Doris sending patient to St. Jude

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:52 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:53 AM ]

Visual arts teacher Doris Poppelreiter didn’t cry when she was diagnosed with cancer last fall, or when she told her students at William Blount High School, emphasizing that she had a plan of attack with treatment that would take her out of school for a few weeks. “I cried when I found out how much these kids cared,” Poppelreiter said Friday during an interview at the high school. She returned to work ahead of schedule in December and said she is now cancer-free. The students, staff and community members donated nearly $1,300 in her honor and sent it to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital.

The money will pay for a child and parent to fly to the Memphis facility for treatment. Poppelreiter didn’t need financial aid for her treatment, but she was glad to give her name to the “Dollars for Doris” campaign to help children. She noted that Blount County has lost several young people to cancer in recent years.

English teacher Nancy Kemp started the campaign, which collected $51 from her students its first day in late October. “I want my kids to learn that if they give back, good things will happen,” Kemp said. She tells her students to “create your own karma.” As the campaign spread schoolwide, William Blount students brought in loose change and entire piggy banks, and collections were taken at basketball games and in the high school office. After a story about the campaign appeared in The Daily Times in late November, community members also sent donations to the school.

Poppelreiter heard from former students, her favorite high school teacher, and colleagues and mentors from throughout her 38 years as an educator in Blount County. “That was very humbling for me,” Poppelreiter said. Principal Rob Clark allowed teachers to wear blue jeans to school for two weeks in December when they donated $10. As the campaign was wrapping up before the winter break, Von Buchanan, cafeteria manager, presented a donation from her team that Kemp said “really pushed the goal over the edge.”

Amy Beth Miller, article-The Daily Times

Tom Sherlin, photo-The Daily Times

Student-run credit union hones important skills

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:50 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:50 AM ]


Besides refueling their bodies with lunch on Wednesday, students at Eagleton Middle School entered the cafeteria ready to save for the future.
That’s because the Royal Treasury Credit Union is now open for business for the semester. The student-run credit union is a partnership between the school and Y-12 Federal Credit Union. During lunch, all students in the school, which houses those in sixth through eighth grade, have the opportunity to open an account, make deposits and even withdrawals as they learn the ins and outs of saving and budgeting.
 
Jessica Burchfield, school advisor for the program at Y-12, has one semester under her belt and is now ready for the next. She has nine EMS students who have operated the Royal Treasury since school began. Added to this group will be six students in the Comprehensive Development Classroom of teacher Robin Gaines. This is the first time these special education students have been invited to join in the operation of the school’s credit union. Gaines and her students couldn’t be happier.
“We talk about social skills in class, about being polite and what’s appropriate,” Gaines said. “We also work on money in the classroom a lot. This makes it more meaningful.”
 
Gaines’ students will be involved in everything from opening the safe in the morning to taking in deposits, recording them, helping with withdrawals and opening new accounts. The students from last semester are working with them side by side. “These kids are super excited,” Burchfield said. “They love it.”
 
Burchfield was inspired to include the CDC members after one student in the class came to the school-operated credit union last semester full of enthusiasm. He wanted to open an account. The student is Derek Kyle. He came into the cafeteria, asked about an account and took home the necessary paperwork. The following week, he was back with the completed form. He’s been making deposits into his account ever since. Kyle said he is ready to get started as an employee. He said the money he has saved in his own account is for whenever he needs it. He has also been asking friends to come and start their own accounts.
 
“This is going to help me learn more about money,” Kyle said. When Burchfield initially asked if Gaines would be interested in participating, she immediately said yes.
“This is a big deal,” the teacher said. “When it’s over, I hope my students gain confidence, self-esteem and better social skills. I think the social aspect is what holds them back the most.” Working on this team will help them with communication skills in a nonacademic setting, Gaines pointed out.That is so important because it’s hard to set up those situations in the classroom. “This will be a very natural teaching tool,” she said.
 
There is even a little competition going on to see which grade can make the most deposits. The winner will be rewarded with a party at semester’s end.
The eighth grade is planning a trip to Washington D.C. in April. Burchfield said the credit union workers have figured out how much these students need to save. It equalled out to $13.88 per week. On Wednesday, the first day the credit union has been open this semester, Burchfield was there guiding last semester’s group of mentors and getting the CDC students ready for their roles. There was even a wheel to spin for prizes for students coming in to open accounts or make deposits.
 
The credit union at Eagleton Middle has been open since 2010, but this is Burchfield’s first year as school advisor for Y-12. She said the accounts these middle schoolers open can follow them into adulthood if they choose. Eighth-grader Chandler Ford has experience with the Royal Treasury. He worked in it last year and also last semester. He is one of the ones who is helping Gaines’ students get off on the right foot. He said the experience has helped him learn how to handle money and also talk to people. He looks forward to another fun semester.
 
For the ones operating the credit union, it is just like having a job, Gaines and Burchfield said. They wear the same shirts, are expected to be on time and do a good job. Attitude is also important. Burchfield even has the students go through an interview process. Y-12 Federal Credit Union also partners with Union Grove Middle School and William Blount High School to run credit unions there. In the end, the whole process teaches students about the importance of saving, the need to be accurate, how to be polite and gives them a big dose of responsibility. “This is such a great experience for them,” Gaines said.

Melanie Tucker-Story, The Daily Times
Tom Sherlin-Photographs, The Daily Times

LB 2016 pledges to help fund new technology at Mary Blount

posted Oct 3, 2016, 7:41 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 7:43 AM ]

As the second semester begins, Mary Blount Elementary School has partnered up with the Leadership Blount Class of 2016 to achieve its goal of providing Chromebooks and iPad minis to every child in the classroom.

Members of LB Class of 2016 came to make a surprise announcement last week. The group has selected Mary Blount technology as its legacy project and has committed to raising a minimum of $36,000 to purchase needed equipment. Director of Schools Rob Britt, Communications Coordinator Betsy Cunningham, MBES Principal Jesse Robinette, Assistant Principal Suzanne Graves and the school’s teachers were present for the announcement. Britt said he was speechless when he learned about the huge commitment. He was also very complimentary of Mary Blount staff and their readiness to make this happen. “You have positioned yourself to be our first 1 to 1 school,” he said, referring to the ratio of one computer for every child. “We talked about a number of schools that we felt like would be very successful, but we kept coming back to
Mary Blount.”


The first 1 to 1

Blount County Schools has a strategic plan to be able to provide digital devices to every child in the classroom at all of its schools. Britt said this is a great beginning.
“This will move our strategic plan fast and furious,” he told those gathered last week. “Mary Blount will become our first 1 to 1 and a learning center.”
According to Courtney Stewart, technology coordinator at Mary Blount, they currently have 290 devices and will need to purchase 325 more to achieve the 1 to 1 goal.
Ginny Boles and Brad Rasmussen, gatekeepers for this LB class, made the announcement. Boles is the principal at John Sevier Elementary and Rasmussen is a counselor at Clayton-Bradley Academy. He worked previously in the Blount County Schools at Friendsville and Union Grove.

Ready to make it happen

The entire LB class visited Mary Blount weeks ago and learned that Robinette and other school leaders feel technology is where they need to move forward. It was decided by the LB class to take on the challenge. “We have some really big dreamers and some compassionate people on our team,” Boles said. She said the initial money will help provide the Chromebooks for students in grades 3-5. The iPad minis would be the second tier of the project, for students in K-2. The Chromebooks are laptops used primarily when hooked up to the internet, popular with many school systems. “As an educator, I believe there is no better way to impact a community than through education,” Boles said. Rasmussen said the LB class hopes to have the funds raised by May 1. There are already four teams that have been organized to work on the project he said. The first $7,000 has already been raised.“We are off to a great start,” he said.


When contacted, Mike Crabtree, director of curriculum and instruction for Blount County Schools, said the system as a whole has been working toward its strategic plan on technology. A self study has been underway to determine what kinds of skills teachers have. “Mary Blount will be a good laboratory for us,” Crabtree said. “They will be able to tell us what kind of training that’s needed, what the logistics are for rolling this out. Mary Blount will be the first to go all digital.” Crabtree said there are also a couple of other schools that might be ready to do the same next year. There is still some tweaking to do, he said, but great strides are being made.Getting the necessary infrastructure in place at all of the schools has been a main priority. Next, comes getting the teachers trained. “We also want to get the word out that using the Chromebooks and iPads doesn’t replace a teacher,” Crabtree said. “It’s one more tool. They are powerful, very flexible and offer a lot of content and experiences.”


The plan for next year is what the system is calling Early Adopter where they identify teachers who have the necessary skills. Model classrooms will be set up to help others gain more knowledge. The strategy is a three-year plan but it could be accomplished sooner, Crabtree said. Maryville City Schools just achieved the 1 to 1 ratio this school year. Boles said her school will help any way it can to make this successful at Mary Blount. “We want to form partnerships across school systems,” she said.

By Melanie Tucker-The Daily Times

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