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Porter Elementary to Emphasize Instruction, Technology

posted Oct 3, 2016, 6:54 AM by Chris Whitehorne   [ updated Oct 3, 2016, 6:55 AM ]

Porter Elementary School has the culture and facilities. Now, it's going to have the technology.

"We will continue to build upon the culture and heritage," said Principal Jared Smith, who replaced Debbie Craig. "We have great families, great students, great teachers. Ms. Craig created deep relationships and developed an esteemed school culture. "Our biggest campaign is technology," he said. "We need to play catch-up with technology — and it's not cheap. I've been completing grant proposals, reaching out to teachers and working with them to accomplish this goal. I've told them, 'If we want nice things, we have to work for it.'"

Porter Elementary purchased three interactive whiteboards about two weeks ago, bringing its total to four, Smith said. "Our campaign's first phase is interactive technology in grades 3-5. The second phase is a response to this year's online testing. "We assessed capabilities last year, evaluating bandwidth, computer and software," he said. "We've determined that we need at least one mobile (computer) lab for grades 3-5, (a total of three). We're going to find the resources to make it happen. It's nonnegotiable. It has to happen." In addition to technology upgrades, Porter Elementary is focused on a number of security upgrades. It installed a video intercom system at the main entrance this past summer.

Officials also changed drop-off procedures, Smith said. Parents are lining up now on Porter Academy Road and Kidd Street, instead of the front parking lot. It has prevented traffic from backing up onto Wildwood Road. "We're constantly evaluating our drop-off procedures," he said. "However, we're pleased that it has helped us to provide a safer environment for our students and our families."

Differentiate instruction

Smith hopes to realize higher student performance by empowering teachers. "I'm giving teachers autonomy in their classrooms. I'm less of a manger and more of a coach. I'm not going to micromanage them, because they're highly qualified professionals who love kids. As the instructional leader of this building, though, I've encouraged teachers to create a personalized environment and differentiate instruction. "Everybody learns differently," he said. "I want them to find different ways to present material to students, adding different layers and bringing more kids into the fold. After all, we're not a widget factory. We're a school working with humans who don't fit neatly into specific categories." Smith has also encouraged teachers to capitalize on student excitement and interest. "As administrators and teachers, we need to seize that energy, expanding and exploiting it. Everybody learns best in an environment that's full of energy and excitement."

Community partnerships

Porter Elementary also hopes to create community excitement by partnering with area businesses and organizations, Smith said. "We want them on board with what we're doing, which is maximizing the academic potential of every child in a safe, personalized environment. We have a lot of real estate with our fence, and we'd like to show the community who is helping us to meet our mission." Any businesses or organizations interested in partnerships should contact Smith at 865-983-4071. Porter Elementary is seeking assistance of all kinds, including in-kind and monetary donations.
Educators also hope to engage students and their families, Smith said. "We want them here. We'd love to see them volunteer their time. We can do a lot on our own, but we can do the most when the businesses and families of Blount County partner with us to grow our children."

By Matthew Stewart-The Daily Times