Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles shares his thoughts on the Read to be Ready program during the Macon County Board of Education's work session held May 21.

Ethan Steinquest/Macon County Times

Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles shares his thoughts on the Read to be Ready program during the Macon County Board of Education's work session held May 21.

The Macon County Board of Education discussed creating a countywide career counselor position at its work session on May 21 and approved a Read to be Ready instructor position for Red Boiling Springs School at a special-called meeting the same day.

Discussion on the new positions came as the board went over its general purpose budget for the 2019-20 school year.

"I guess you've heard the old expression, 'what do you want to be when you grow up,' " Macon County Schools Career Technical Education Coordinator Kathy Cothron said. "Our kids today have no idea what they want to do even when they graduate from high school, so this whole purpose is to get students oriented into something they'd like to do when they graduate."

If approved, the plan for the position is to focus initially on older students, while programming would be developed for elementary-school counselors to work with kindergarten and first-grade students.

"We need someone who is going to talk to our students in sixth through 12th grade right now," Cothron said. "This does not need to be at one school. It needs to be countywide."

Macon County Director of Schools Tony Boles said the vision for the counselor's schedule is to have two days at Macon County High School, one-and-a-half days at Red Boiling Springs School and one-and-a-half days at Macon County Junior High School.

"It's not just about telling them what's out there," Cothron said. "It's about telling them what it entails, what kind of education is needed, what jobs are out there and what the salary is like."

Macon County High School Principal B.J. West advocated for the position and said that his school's guidance counselors struggle to find one-on-one time with students as opposed to group meetings.

"From a pure paperwork standpoint, trying to finish all the things

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they've got to get done and still meet with kids (is difficult)," West said. "Our kids are not getting any career counseling period. There are no one-on-one meetings, and in group meetings, they tune it out. You've got to grab a kid one-on-one, but we can't do it logistically."

Board member Rebekah Tuttle expressed concerns that a career counselor would end up busy with paperwork as well and recommended a system involving teachers as advisers as an alternative.

"I don't know that I'm against (a career counselor position), but this is not the solution at your level," Tuttle said. "Let's figure out how to follow a system like a college would, where you go in and get an adviser under whatever career area ... a teacher we can somehow link these kids to for one or two meetings a year, and we have Tiger Time."

West said that it may be possible for a career counselor to oversee a system like the one Tuttle proposed.

Board members Bryan Nichols and Jed Goad said that they want to ensure any career counselor the school system hires would be well-rounded enough to connect with all students, while board chair Jeff Harper added that he wants to see emphasis on career and technical fields.

"Nothing against college, but I want something to push people on that path," Harper said. "I'm having a very hard time finding a laborer period. We don't need to just pound it in (kids') heads that they have to get a four-year degree, because we've got to have laborers. College isn't for everybody."

The board also approved a full-time Read to be Ready Instructor for Red Boiling Springs School, a move meant to provide full coverage to the county's elementary schools for the reading comprehension program.

"Currently, we have one full-time at Central Elementary (Kim Andersen, who shares her unit with Lafayette Elementary School) and one split between Red Boiling and Westside," Boles said. "There's also a instructor at Fairlane that's taken on Read to be Ready duties. As far as having one full-time there, she's at the school every day and is accessible to those teachers."

Red Boiling Springs Elementary School Principal Michael Owens and Westside Elementary School Principal Angela Marshall shared concerns with Boles about the program's effectiveness without having a fully accessible instructor.

"Angela and I feel that if (Central Elementary Principal) Daniel (Cook) is going to have one in his building every year, we're getting compared to how good their program is," Owens said. "Ours is lagging. When you get a part-time person, you get a part-time job, and we feel we need to be up to snuff with CES. We need someone in there full-time writing units instead of putting that on our teachers, because they have enough to do already."

Goad said that he supports having different Read to be Ready units at each school so that their performances are judged invidually, which having a full-time instructor at Red Boiling will encourage.

"If they all share units, then we're going to compare Westside to Red Boiling," Goad said. "If they're doing their own thing ... they do it their own way to cater to their children. If you let Fairlane write for him or Central write for him, the way they write might affect his kids totally different."

Owens added that a full-time instructor at Red Boiling Springs could also work with students at higher grade levels since they all use the same building.

Boles said that Central Elementary has seen an increase in reading scores since adopting Read to be Ready, but he noted that they were measured during a transition period and that the school system's goal is to see higher numbers.

"One thing I've seen (with Read to be Ready) is that the kids are getting a lot of knowledge," Owens said. "You would be amazed when you see what they come up with. It's (focused on) thought process, problem-solving and thinking."

The board also approved a third budget amendement for the 2018-19 school year due to new revenue added on May 21, which saw $3,850 allocated to instructional supplies and materials for early childhood (pre-K).

In addition, the amendment saw $6,000 from the social security line and $2,000 from the employee Medicare line reallocated to special education assessment personnel, which Boles said was funding budgeted last year to meet state retirement guidelines.

The Macon County Board of Education's next work session will be held at 6 p.m. on June 6 at the school system's central office.

The board approved the following items on the agenda at its special-called meeting:

• Approve general purpose school budget amendment No. 3 for the 2018-19 school year

• Approve general purpose school budget for the 2019-20 school year

• Approve private purpose trust budget for the 2019-20 school year

• Approve school nutrition budget for the 2019-20 school year

• Approve to create a Read to be Ready teacher position for Red Boiling Springs Elementary School.