Community brainstorms at Literacy Summit

Published 12:05 am Saturday, March 11, 2017

By Rebecca Rider

SALISBURY — It takes a village to raise a child — or a community to encourage one to read.

On Friday morning, representatives of Rowan-Salisbury Schools met with elected officials, parents and community members for a brainstorming session about literacy.

“I think you’re all here because you believe that learning to read is the most important gift you can give a child,” Superintendent Lynn Moody said.

This is the district’s third year hosting a Literacy Summit. The goal is to get community input on the school system’s strategic plan, which focuses on literacy. The system is in the process of drafting a new three-year strategic plan.

According to Moody, literacy doesn’t just encompass reading but also a student’s ability to speak and write.

Friday’s crowd included parents, teachers, students and elected officials. Moody began by laying out some of the facts about the district. Research has shown, for example, that there is a strong correlation between poverty and academic achievement — as the poverty rate increases, academic achievement tends to decrease.

In addition, the vast majority of students entering the system’s 20 elementary schools are not adequately prepared for kindergarten, which can set them back later in life.

The “crux” of correcting both of these issues lies in literacy, Moody said.

“Their future depends on their ability to read,” she said.

The district’s strategic plan, implemented three years ago, focuses on changing the trajectory of that academic performance.

As part of its strategy, the district implemented guided reading, hired literacy design coaches, launched the one-to-one digital conversion, opened little libraries and Wi-Fi hotspots, and partnered with organizations and services like Achieve3000 and Discovery Education.

While some of those, like the one-to-one initiative, led to a dip in 2014-15 that sank district test scores, the system was able to bring those back up in 2015-16. Moody says that while the district is not where it needs to be yet, it is making progress.

“We’re on a journey,” she said, “and this battleship has turned around.”

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Julie Morrow said that the summit is “critical” to getting the community involved in the success of students.

“It takes a community to really grow our students and support our students,” she said.

Seventh-grade AIG students from North Rowan Middle School presented a skit on the importance of literacy and community involvement, and then attendees broke into groups to brainstorm.

Groups were asked to think about the positive things the system has accomplished in the past year, what they’d like to see more of and what could be done going forward.

Together, the crowd of more than 100 addressed issues from all angles and advocated for increased summer programing and pre-kindergarten offerings, more student-led projects and college fairs, and hosting similar summits across the county. Others suggested “ed talks” where students could speak to the community, extending alumni associations to middle schools and having more middle school literacy mentoring programs.

At the end of the summit, Moody encouraged those present to take one idea or one piece of information and put it into practice.

“With all of us working together, we can bring about change,” she said.

Contact reporter Rebecca Rider at 704-797-4264.