The City School Board took more steps last week to prepare for a system-wide rezoning, including dropping the name Reeves-Rogers from Discovery School and naming its preschool program for longtime early education advocate Ruth Bowdoin.
The changes work in a circle of sorts to take care of growth problems using existing classrooms and the new $15 million Overall Creek Elementary School in west Murfreesboro. Overall Creek, whose mascot will be the Otters, is designed to relieve crowding at Scales and Cason Lane elementary schools when it opens this August.
On the east side of town, Discovery School for high-achieving students will vacate the Reeves-Rogers campus, in effect creating a new school there to unload John Pittard and Hobgood elementary schools. It will be led by new principal, Laurie Offutt, and will have a new teaching staff and student body.
Discovery School will move to what has been historically called Bellwood, but the Bellwood designation will be dropped, and the preschool program that has operated there for several years will move out. To be named for the late Bowdoin, who ran the system’s Classroom on Wheels, the preschool program will shift to five other elementary school sites and three off-campus sites, Franklin Heights, Mercury Court and Oakland Court, according to system spokeswoman Lisa Trail.
“This rezoning truly does touch every campus, and parents need to be aware of where their child is zoned to go to school next year (August 2014),” Trail said. Students are expected to re-register by March 24.
The rezoning plan also overrides previous zone waivers and grandfather clauses for attendance, according to Trail, though a new grandfather clause is in place for rising fifth- and sixth-graders and their siblings. They will be allowed to attend current schools but will have to provide their own transportation.
All of these shifts are causing some trepidation among teachers as they apply for transfers or try to decide whether to stay in their current school, according to board members Collier Smith and Nancy Phillips, who raised questions at a Tuesday meeting about how the system is handling transfers.
Teachers were expected to make transfer requests by this past Friday, officials said.
Schools Director Linda Gilbert pointed out that faculty members across the system will be moving, whether to fill new roles at Overall Creek or at Reeves-Rogers. Bellwood-Bowdoin teachers also are awaiting transfer as the preschool program moves out, she said, adding she sent an email recently to teachers to quell their concerns.
“Principals already have the right not to renew,” Gilbert said, explaining that guideline is no different than in other years.
And, Mitchell-Neilson Principal Robin Newell told the board Tuesday night that some teachers might be a “better fit” at some schools than at other campuses.
The board also voted unanimously Tuesday night to identify Mitchell-Neilson Primary for K-2 and Mitchell-Neilson Elementary School for grades 3-6 as one facility, Mitchell-Neilson School. They are housed in separate buildings separated by Jones Boulevard.
Newell and Gilbert told the board that having the split schools restricts Mitchell-Neilson on how it can use federal Title funding. Merging the two into one student body would free them of those restraints, they said.
In addition, the board voted to start the Collaborative Learning & Leadership Institute at Mitchell-Neilson, in conjunction with MTSU, during the 2014-15 school year.
The program is designed to excite students about developing “lifelong” learning skills and becoming community leaders.
“What this is going to do is empower students,” Newell said, explaining it should build their confidence beginning at the preschool level.
Students in MTSU’s College of Behavioral and Health Sciences will serve as mentors and work with teachers in classrooms. Mitchell-Neilson will increase the number of clubs it offers after school and encourage children to become involved in public service.
Board member Butch Campbell pointed out that some teachers might worry about having student-teachers in the classroom because of the impact that could have on standardized test scores. But Newell said, “We don’t focus everything we do on that particular test.”
The board also received a list of 2013-14 Teachers of the Year: Bradley – Allison Isom, Ginger HazelbakerDiscovery – Angela Bunyi, Suzanne St. JohnScales – Cherry Ross, Cynthia MartinHobgood – Rebecca Sublett, Erin PhillipsNorthfield – Staci Young, Diane LewisPittard – Leah Follis, Diane ByrdBellwood – Amy AdcockBlack Fox – Christy Robinson, Zenobia CraigCason Lane – Keri Victory, Carolene GoffMNS – Delores Brown, Gayle PorterfieldSiegel - Meg Reed, Margaret LaneSystem Teachers of the Year, 2013-14 Discovery – Angela Bunyi, Suzanne St. John
For a map of the City Schools rezoning plan, go to http://www.cityschools.net/mcs/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/Proposed-Zones-2014-15.pdf