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Brunswick's newest school set to open

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By Staff Brunswick Beacon

Brunswick County Schools will open its 18th school next week. About 100 students will be a part of the first class of the 8th Grade Transition Academy on the Brunswick County Academy campus.

The idea for the Academy was one its newly named principal, Faye Lloyd, had for many years. After teaching elementary students for 16 years, she found engaging, creative ways to help at-risk students.

She introduced students to science process skills—skills used in everyday life that help students understand how to learn and retain information. Observe, classify, communicate, measure, infer, predict, and experiment were all skills she taught students to use on a daily basis.

Peer tutoring was also a component of Lloyd’s success. It helped students share knowledge with each other and motivated them to learn material so they could in turn become a tutor.

The learning pyramid shows those who teach others retain 90 percent of information compared to lecture where only 5 percent of information is retained.

“There is not a person in the world who can’t learn if they’re doing this,” Lloyd said of the methods.

Plans for the 8th Grade Transition Academy fell through the cracks several years ago with the change of superintendents, but when Superintendent Katie McGee heard of Lloyd’s goal for a professional learning community, she approved the 8th Grade Transition Academy.

“This is what I’ve waited for my whole life,” Lloyd said.

Students coming from the eighth grade who have not met state proficiency standards, have not met county promotion guidelines, have excessive absences, have chronic tardies or discipline issues, may have failed the Computer Skills Test or have been retained one or more years, were recommended for the Academy by teachers and administration.

While the Academy will help students meet proficiency levels and standards, Lloyd said testing is never, and should never be, the focus of students’ education.

“When you put that kind of stress and strain before you ever reach the subject, the students shut down,” she said. “They need to know, ‘I’m not going to give up on you.’ That’s No. 1. Kids need to know you care. Once they know who you are and you are there for them, they will learn. Some just take longer than others.”

As of this week, 91 students are enrolled for the Academy. The classroom sizes are small, with 16:1 ratios. Lloyd hand-selected and hired four teachers for the Academy who are on board with her teaching methods—using the science process skills, peer tutoring techniques and being more innovate, creative and hands-on to engage the students and excite them about learning.

“They are all outstanding, hands-on, creative, imaginative, caring individuals,” she said.

The teachers are willing to teach students “a second, third, fourth and fifth time,” if necessary, Lloyd said. The goal is to teach the material in as many ways necessary so every student understands and no one is left behind.

“Our task is going to be to give them the necessary time, tools and space to become lifelong learners,” she said.

The math and science teachers will plan together daily and will coordinate lesson plans to incorporate both subjects in daily activities. The social studies and language arts teachers will also plan and integrate and all teachers will meet weekly to discuss plans and progress. Each teacher will record individual students’ daily progress and share it will all teachers so everyone is aware of each student’s strengths and weaknesses.

Parents had hesitations at first, but were soon at ease after an open house in July, Lloyd said. The major concern was the lack of art, music and extracurricular activities. An art teacher will be brought in and the idea of a student-taught band was discussed. The students will also have a physical education class.

One of the students’ major concerns is the ability to graduate high school with their original class. All Academy teachers are certified to teach 9th and 10th grades and will offer some high school classes if students show the interest and improvement, Lloyd said. The goal is to help students earn high school credits while attending the Academy, whether it is through higher-level courses or online classes.

“If they really work hard, they could graduate with their peers,” Lloyd said.

A second open house is scheduled from noon to 7 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 21. Parents and students are invited to come and view schedules, meet teachers, tour the building and address any additional concerns.

Lloyd said having good relationships with parents is just as important as relating to the students.

“We want to empower the parents,” she said. “They were their children’s first teachers, and I want them to continue being the teachers. Even if they can’t show their child how to do a certain math problem, they can ask their child, ‘Have you talked with your teacher?’ They can write a note to the teacher asking for extra help.”

The first two weeks of school will be spent getting to know the students and assessing their abilities and needs. All students will be given an interest inventory, which will help teachers find out what subjects and activities interest each student. The students will also be tested in learning styles, and staff will examine testing scores, demographic data, interest and perceptive data.

“Each team member truly understands why learning is so different,” Lloyd said. “We need to change the way we teach. We can’t change children.”