Hawkins BOE approves faculty homelessness and poverty sensitivity training

Jeff Bobo • Feb 10, 2019 at 8:30 AM

ROGERSVILLE — Homelessness and poverty sensitivity training was approved for Hawkins County educators Thursday, although one school board member first wanted to find out exactly what that training entails.

The Hawkins County Board of Education voted 6-0 in favor of a $3,500 contract with STARS Nashville to provide culture sensitivity training for faculty members on June 6-7.

The fee will be paid with federal McKinney-Vento Act grant funds.

Prior to the vote, however, board member Tecky Hicks asked for an explanation of what benefit the program is to Hawkins County students.

“When you talk about culture sensitivity regarding children living in poverty and homelessness, homelessness (training) I understand,” Hicks told the board Thursday. “But poverty? We’ve had that situation in Hawkins County as long as I can remember. I just wonder what kind of an impact does that have on whatever we’re trying to do to educate our children.”

Hawkins averages 65 homeless students per year

Federal programs supervisor Dr. Michelle Harless told the board that McKinney-Vento is a very structured grant that can only be spent on certain things, one of which is professional development for faculty and staff.

“This professional development would be for faculty and staff to help them with understanding the needs of our children who are at risk for being homeless or those who are currently homeless,” Harless said. “Usually by the end of the year, we will have identified about 65 of our students in Hawkins County as homeless. This helps faculty to understand how to identify them, what barriers they may have and what we can do as a district — with the McKinney-Vento funds — to help alleviate some of those issues.”

Leader in Me training approved

Hicks also asked for clarification regarding the benefit of overnight trips for 17 faculty members from two schools who will receive training in the Leader in Me initiative.

One teacher from Joseph Rogers Primary will receive the training in Nashville on March 7-8, and 16 teachers from Church Hill Intermediate will receive training in Asheville, North Carolina, on Feb. 21-22.

Tuition is $405 per person and is being paid with pre-K funds at JRP and federal Title 1 funds at CHIS.

The Leader in Me program is intended to help teachers turn students into leaders, and it has received positive reviews from schools that have implemented it, including Mount Carmel Elementary and Church Hill Intermediate.

“I just wonder if it’s worth it”

Hicks noted that during his four-plus years on the school board, the school system has sent teachers “all over the country” to attend various training programs.

“As far as I know, we as a board have never received any feedback as to what we have accomplished in the education of our children from sending all these people to all these places to do all these things,” Hicks said. “ ... I just wonder if it’s worth it to spend all the money we spend to go to these things. I’m sure the folks who are going and want to go, it’s worth every penny to them, but I’m not sure I’ve ever seen any results from it.”

BOE Vice Chairman Debbie Shedden noted that two years ago the BOE rejected the Leader in Me program, but Mount Carmel Elementary, which her granddaughter attends, took the initiative to investigate and implement the program on its own.

Shedden noted that Mount Carmel as well as some Kingsport school principals she spoke to have “nothing but praise” for the program and the impact it’s had on the behavior of their students.

“I can see differences (at Mount Carmel Elementary) when you walk in that school. The children are the leaders, and it’s teaching them to go forward as leaders,” Shedden told the board. “I can attest to that program.”

BOE Chairman Bob Larkins, whose grandson attends Mount Carmel Elementary, said he has witnessed the positive results of the Leader in Me program as well.

Program praised by CHIS administrators

CHIS Principal Sherry Price told the board that her faculty used Title 1 funds to begin book study on the Leader in Me program, and the school began self-implementation with students three weeks ago.

“It gives all students an opportunity to find their gifts and become leaders,” Price said. “ ... Our students have already started some leadership positions in our school. They’re running the cameras, putting up announcements — so we are learning.”

She added, “It teaches children how to look you in the eye and say good morning. Shake your hand. Those kind of things we are trying to put into place.”

Assistant Principal Linzy Hutson is in her first year at CHIS, having come from Mount Carmel, where Leader in Me was in place.

“Coming from Mount Carmel, I was able to see the benefits of the Leader in Me program and share that with my faculty at Church Hill intermediate,” Hutson said. “I know our faculty, Mr. Hicks, would be more than happy to come back and share with you what we are going to be doing.”

Director of Schools Matt Hixson said he believes the school system can do a better job of showcasing for the BOE  the impact of professional development programs that the board approves.