04/16/08 — Best calls for tutoring study

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Best calls for tutoring study

By Matthew Whittle
Published in News on April 16, 2008 1:56 PM

With a group of Wayne County business leaders preparing to come together to form a series of committees to address their concerns with the public school system, Commissioner Jack Best offered a fifth possibility Tuesday.

The four committees the business group is forming are designed to target what it has identified as the most troublesome areas -- workforce readiness and graduation rates, teacher recruitment and retention, public perception of the schools, and communication between the county commission and the school board.

The fifth committee that Best would like to see created would focus on addressing the deficiencies in reading and math in the elementary grades.

"Both Dr. Steve Taylor (superintendent) and Mrs. Thelma Smith (board chairwoman) said that we must identify the kids who have 'the inability to perform' early or they will never catch up," he said. "If we don't catch them early, those kids will never have a chance to perform in school."

Therefore, he explained, the goal of the committee -- made up of school, business and community college officials -- would be to examine and coordinate the current student tutoring efforts taking place inside and outside of school, including through agencies like 4-H.

"They would gather all the programs, grants and gifts onto a spreadsheet. In addition, they could explore additional grants, foundations and other money that is available," Best said. "With these resources they could put a program together that will raise our lower and middle school students beyond grade level."

And while he hopes much of that program would be volunteer-driven, he did speak in favor of providing funding to hire a program coordinator and part-time tutors.

"We know this will require extra money from the county funds, but teaching a child to read and do math are basic life skills we owe our kids," Best said. "If we do not teach these kids how to read and do basic math, we're going to have another generation of welfare and more jail time that we cannot afford."

The real challenge now, though, he added, is putting all this together in time for the start of the 2008-09 school year in August.

"We need to get started quickly," he said.

The goal of the business group is to have their four committees up and running by early May.