Teachers Terry Wrenn, at left, and Lynnette Powers.
Training begins this month on new reading and writing instructional materials for kindergarten through fifth grades classes in North Platte, which will be upgraded next year. Curriculum director Gayle Sharkey said the language arts materials have generally not been updated since 2001 and they have another glaring flaw -- they do not contain an “online component.”
A committee of 28 teachers and principals have met since last fall to look for new materials, aiming to eliminate gaps and redundancies in the instruction that is used at North Platte's 10 public elementary schools. The committee has also looked for materials that allow teachers to use individual creativity.
Washington first-grade teacher Lynnette Powers and McDonald fifth-grade teacher Terry Wrenn told the school board on April 9 that the committee prefers a set of programs called “Journeys” by Houghton-Mifflin-Harcourt. The materials allow students and teachers to collaborate online from home as well as the classroom. There are also educational games that students can play on smart phones and smart pads.
Powers and Wrenn said all the teachers in grades K-5 have been surveyed.
The board gave its approval for the new materials on April 23, so training will begin in May and continue in August and September, Sharkey said in response to a question by board member Jack Price.
Sharkey told the Bulletin after the April 9 meeting that the cost would be within the budget. She said negotiations are underway. On April 23, she told the board that the cost is set at $420,000, which is relatively cheap per classroom when pro-rated over the anticipated seven-year life of the materials. She said the publishers were asking for about $1 million, but she was able to negotiate a better deal.
Much of the cost is for licenses to use the computer software and content, she said.
Board president Kathy Phares said she likes the fact that students and teachers in all 10 schools will have access to the same materials, and that there will be materials for all skill levels.
Board member Kimberley Kaschke admired Powers’ and Wrenn’s passion and commitment.
“I’m really impressed,” she said. “I wish my kids were still young enough to use it.”