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The setting for Thursday night’s school board meeting was a little unusual: Instead of board members seated before an audience, board members found themselves writing papers on genetics.
At the beginning of the meeting, West Middle School teacher Kerri Holder arranged the boardroom like a classroom and seated board members with student participants, complete with colored construction paper and plenty of pens and pencils with which to complete their assignment.
To demonstrate how she conducts her Thinking Strategies lessons, designed to help students in all subjects.
She coached students and their adult counterparts on a topic that both age groups could relate to: How to sharpen your memory and keep important things uppermost in your mind.
She asked her “class” to write down some of the ways they thought this could be accomplished, and some of their answers were to make notes, discuss information with others, memorize it, say it aloud to yourself and, yes, even writing it on your hand.
How many of us have done that?
“Hmmm, don’t know about that one,” Holder said. “If you wash your hands a couple of times, you might lose it.”
At that remark, some sheepish looks could be glimpsed among the “classmates,” perhaps at the recollection of having undergone that experience.
Holder also denounced the use of using highlighting pens.
“Highlighters are not our friends,” she said. “Because you will forget why you highlighted it.”
Adults can relate to that, too.
That’s one purpose of the lesson, she said, to develop good thinking and memory strategies at an early age that will stay with you throughout life.
Holder used the topic of genetics to demonstrate helpful techniques about not only how to remember important facts but also how to sort out a complicated topic in one’s own mind, such as the moral and ethical issues associated with genetic research.
Next school year, Holder will expand her Thinking Strategies lessons to include teachers as well, instructing them on how to pass these techniques to their students.
Superintendent James Neihof called Holder a “brave pioneer” in thinking strategies.
“I am impressed by her skills and the way she imparts her skills to her students,” he said.
The board also recognized Robert Arvin, who has been a financial consultant for the school district for many years and is making this year’s budget the last one he will work on before retiring.
Arvin said he originally had intended to be a consultant only for a couple of years.
“I had no idea twenty years ago I would be involved in consulting here for so long,” he said. “There will always be a piece of my heart in Shelby County,” he added, as he shook hands warmly with all board members and received a wooden plaque of appreciation from Neihof.
The board also recognized student representative Austin Crowe for serving two years and gave him a gift.
“Thank you all so much. Can I go now,” he said jokingly.
Crowe also issued a challenge to the board to move forward with their plans so he could return and see their successes. He and student representative Quinten Cottrell each will receive a scholarship from the board.
Also at the meeting, the board approved:
§ Awarding a contract for asphalt work at the bus garage, East Middle School, Wright Elementary School and Painted Stone Elementary to Staggs Pavement Maintenance, Inc.
§ Fundraisers for booster clubs and support organizations for 2011-2012
§ Amounts students will pay in varying fees for next school year.
§ Modifying the Memorandum of Agreement for Energy Manager to accommodate a 2-month extension.
§ Local agreement with Head Start for 2011-2012.
§ Second reading of revised Shelby County Public School Board Policies and review of revised administrative procedures.
§ School trips and activities for the SCHS Volleyball team for July 31 and the Student Technology Association for June 21-25.