Solid start on Grade-Level Reading

In this file photo, Diana Greene, superintendent of Manatee County District Schools, addresses various local agencies as they gather for the kick-off of the 2015-16 Grade-Level Reading Campaign at the First Baptist Church of Bradenton.
In this file photo, Diana Greene, superintendent of Manatee County District Schools, addresses various local agencies as they gather for the kick-off of the 2015-16 Grade-Level Reading Campaign at the First Baptist Church of Bradenton. FILE PHOTO

Everyone involved in the Campaign for Grade-Level Reading in Manatee County must be very pleased with the initial “report card” on all their efforts — especially the Manatee County School District.

The first strategic campaign move centered on improving school attendance of third-graders in poorer neighborhoods and reducing chronic absenteeism among Title 1 schools. The district employed “graduation enhancement technicians” — known as GETs — to tackle the problem in the district’s Title 1 schools, thanks to federal money designed to boost those schools. Those GETs impress upon families that future academic success is connected to solid reading and comprehension skills by the end of third grade, as research has proven.

So the GETs perform a vital task by working with families and educators to pinpoint and cut down the obstacles that keep students from daily attendance. Thirty-eight of the Title 1 students who finished third grade recorded perfect attendance this past school year and also earned good grades, thus putting them in the running for a college scholarship and mentoring to guide their success through high school.

This is a wonderful partnership between The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading and Take Stock in Children, which has a history of giving college scholarships to low-income students in sixth to eighth grade. Now children entering fourth grade qualify, too.

The GETs, having proven their value in their first year, will be returning this coming year. Plus, the district has announced additional initiatives aimed at younger children, including pre-kindgarten. The Campaign for Grade-Level Reading also targets those younger youths, even starting at infancy by promoting parental reading to their offspring.

Superintendent Diana Greene will take part in the joyous but tough selection process to award one very lucky child the Take Stock in Children scholarship before school starts on Aug. 10.

More than 40 Manatee and Sarasota organizations and entities are involved in the campaign. United Way of Manatee County, the Manatee Community Foundation, the school district and the University of South Florida Sarasota-Manatee are just some. “This is truly a community effort,” Greene told Herald education reporter Meghin Delaney. Indeed it is. Greater success is bound to happen.

SCF trustees unpredictable

The State College of Florida board of trustees reversed course somewhat last week on the hot-button issue of faculty contracts. After six months of discussion, the board triggered community consternation in January by eliminating tenure for future teaching hires, becoming the only state college that denies continuing contracts to new instructors. Trustees refused to explain the move.

A few weeks prior to that unamimous vote, the SCF faculty overwhelmingly voted to approve a no-confidence resolution in the board. A week after trustees scrapped tenure, a faculty majority served the state a petition to permit unionization in order to gain collective bargaining rights and negotiate terms of employment. In May, faculty accused the college of stalling to allow the new union to elect officers and begin bargaining. Then the two parties agreed to a late August election.

Also in May, the board established three-year contracts. Now trustees have rescinded the three-year contracts and returned to one-year agreements, thus requiring new faculty to prove their worth every year.

The trustee who advanced a motion terminating the three-year deals, Eric Robinson, stated Wednesday that he believed faculty were fine with the longer contracts but then learned instructors objected to language concerning automatic renewals being eliminated. Job security turned shaky.

What will trustees do next? If past actions are any guide, there’s no hazarding a guess — except for this one. Unionization should change the dynamic.

Quote of the week

“This is about making an investment in our community and I am hoping all of the citizens will see it that way. I really think we need to go out of here and be positive and get this done because I think it is really going to make a difference for all of our residents.”

— Manatee County Commissioner Betsy Benac, speaking Tuesday after the commission approved placing a half-cent infrastructure sales tax on the November ballot. Voters will also be asked to extend the half-cent school sales tax.