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RSS hosts community conversation with faith-based groups

By Rebecca Rider

rebecca.rider@salisburypost.com

SALISBURY — Representatives from local faith-based organizations gathered Tuesday at the Wallace Educational Forum for the first in a series of community gatherings to tackle literacy issues in the community.

“It probably won’t surprise you that I’m always going to be talking about literacy,” Rowan-Salisbury Schools Superintendent Dr. Lynn Moody said.

Over the next several months Moody said she plans to host community talks and question and answer sessions with a focus on “job-like” groups. Tuesday’s talk was with pastors and faith leaders. Next month, Moody said, she hopes to host a talk with local barbers and cosmetologists.

The goal is to bring together community sources of information — places people go to discuss news — provide information on what the school system is doing and mine for questions and ideas each individual can use to promote literacy and reading.

Tuesday’s luncheon started off with a discussion of where learning stands, as opposed to the way it used to be. Education used to be rows and rote memorization, but now it’s transformed into something different – something collaborative that requires more from students than a by-the-book answer.

“Now we think more of a learning environment,” she said, “We want curiosity and creativity.”

Moody also talked about different initiatives and technology the district has implemented over recent years, such as Achieve3000 and Discover Education.

After the information session, Moody fielded questions from the audience on free and reduced lunches, WiFi hotspots, teacher turnover rate, and even one about HB2 – a bill passed by the N.C. General Assembly that mandates people must use the restroom that corresponds with the sex on their birth certificate.

Between the bill’s restrictions and stipulation from the U.S. Department of Justice that schools must allow students to use the bathroom of their gender identity or risk the loss of Title IX funding, Moody said she feels like schools “just got drawn in the middle of an argument.”

“We try to take care of children, wherever they come to us and whatever their needs are to work with students, but know this, by law, ethically, I will always do whatever the law requires . . . We’ll always follow the law, and we’ll try to interpret it the best we can and we try to take care of individual students as they come,” she said.

One attendee asked about student literacy.

According to Moody, 60 percent of students in Rowan-Salisbury schools aren’t “kindergarten ready” on their very first day of school. And it’s not just that they don’t know their letters and numbers, she said – some students may not even recognize what a letter is or may be holding a book for the first time, unsure of how to open it.

Education stops and starts with literacy.

“If a student knows how to read, they can teach themselves,” Moody said.

If they can’t read, they fall behind in all other subjects. Moody encouraged faith leaders to talk to students about literacy, and to encourage reading. She mentioned the bracelets that RSS students receive if they read and score a 75 percent or higher on 40 Achieve3000 articles.

“I wish that every business and church in town would ask, ‘Where’s your 40?’” She said.

The next community conversation will be held in July.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.

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