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Rowan, Salisbury leaders meeting to discuss reading education

By Jessie Burchette
jburchette@salisburypost.com
The Rowan County Board of Commissioners and the Salisbury City Council will meet Monday to focus on how the boards can help children learn to read at an early age.
The special meeting at 3 p.m. at the Cohen Administrative Offices Building will also include the Rowan-Salisbury Board of Education.
Carl Ford, chairman of the county board, said the focus won’t be on money, but on working to find volunteers who can help with summer and year-round programs.
During a joint meeting of the council and county commissioners several weeks ago, Councilman Bill Burgin raised the issue of children not being able to read. His concern came from a presentation council heard at its retreat in February.
Dr. Suzanne W. Morse, a civic researcher from Charlottesville, Va., gave Salisbury high marks in areas such as the arts, health care and cost of living.
But she sounded a strong warning about low reading and math scores among students in Salisbury elementary schools.
The percentage of third-grade students not reading at grade level is usually a good prediction of high school dropout rates later, she said.
Salisbury also has a poverty level exceeding the national average and a high property and violent crime index, Morse said.
Speaking at a Salisbury City Council retreat session and later at a city-sponsored luncheon, Morse said the Salisbury community must mobilize to prepare students for the 21st Century.
Morse, president of the Pew Partnership for Civic Change and author of the book “Smart Communities,” said low test scores among young students are not really a school problem but a community issue that has come to school.
She said smart communities find ways to address the problem outside of the classroom, such as a summer reading academy set up in Richmond, Va., to offer intensive summer training for third-graders who weren’t reading at grade level.
Ford said the council and commissioners agreed to work to do something to help.
County and city leaders have met with school system Superintendent Dr. Judy Grissom to come up with ideas about how the county and city can help.
Ford said although the focus of the meeting will be on bolstering reading, some other items of business may also be discussed.
The three boards will meet at 3 p.m. Monday in the second floor meeting room of the Cohen Administrative Offices Building.
Post staff writer Mark Wineka contributed to this article.

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