On Thursday, school board members Mark Johnson and Lori Goins Clark dropped by Petree Elementary School to learn more about the BELL summer program.
Velvet McGregor, the curriculum coordinator at South Fork Elementary School who serves as the assistant director of program operations for the BELL (Building Educated Leaders for Life) program in Winston-Salem, was there to greet them. So were the two Petree women who coordinate the BELL program at the school: Michelle Breen, the assistant principal, and Leslie Gardner, an instructional coach.
Essie McKoy, the principal at Petree, was also on hand.
As McGregor was waiting for the school board members to arrive, she said, "The purpose is to make sure our board is on board with how we are serving our children. I'm excited."
The summer program works with students who have finished the third grade - and a few who have completed the fourth grade - who would benefit from extra attention to ensure that they are able to read at grade level.
When the school board members arrived, McGregor told them that the first part of the day focuses on literacy. "The other half of the day is enrichment," she said.
That includes community service project and such classes as drama, Breen said.
Melissa Howell, a friend of Johnson's who recently earned her master's degree in education came along to observe. A couple of BELL representatives were there as well.
In the first classroom they visited, Johnson got down to the students' level and talked to them about reading. "Reading is tough at first," he said.
As with any skill, practice is important, he said. "The more you do it, the better you get. And once you learn to read, you can teach yourself everything else."
Clark also visited with individual students.
Along the way, Josue G. Figueredo, the school's technology coordinator, showed everyone a video about the morning news program and other activities that incorporated technology.
Classes in the program are small enough that students receive a lot of individual attention from the teachers and teacher assistants. Each class of about 20 students has one teacher and one teacher assistant. At Petree, the 105 students in the program are divided into five classes.
In one class, students had read "Jack and the Beanstalk" and were discussing situations that came up in the story. In another classroom, students were listening to a rap song that helped them understand what the word "infer" means. In another classroom, students were looking at a series of clues to determine what something might be.
It provides shade. It has branches. It has leaves.
Is it a building?
Is it a tree?
As he observed the students, Johnson said, "I love how they are so engaged."