District Highlighted Again in New York Times

Weakley County Schools Makes Front Page of New York Times in Second National Highlight
Posted on 07/02/2024
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Amidst education’s ongoing global challenges in post-pandemic recovery, Weakley County Schools is once again in the national spotlight, this time pictured prominently on the front page of The New York Times. The article, titled "The Youngest Pandemic Children Are Now in School, and Struggling," highlights the district's exceptional efforts in addressing the educational setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The article featured two of our district's educators, Mrs. Brook Allen from Martin Primary School and Ms. Michaela Frederick from Sharon School. Interviews with the teachers showcased their experiences and insights into the developmental hurdles faced by young students. New York Times contracted photographer Aaron Hardin traveled to Sharon School to capture photographs of teaching and learning in Ms. Michaela Frederick’s classroom. Sharon student Abram Colton was pictured playing inside one of Ms. Michaela's sensory play areas on the front page of the daily publication. Ms. Frederick and Educational Assistants Michelle Morgan and Glenda Chapel are also pictured working with students inside the edition.

This is the second article this year spotlighting Weakley County Schools in the New York Times. The first feature, published in March 2024, highlighted Weakley County Schools’ remarkable recovery in the wake of pandemic-induced learning loss. The story cited the district as a standout in a nationwide study by Stanford and Harvard Universities and shed light on the nationwide struggle to address the educational setbacks caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

Cover of New York Times features student in play area

The article made a compelling impression on Tracey Bell, Principal of Martin Primary School.

"Seeing Mrs. Brook Allen’s contributions recognized in The New York Times is not just a moment of pride for our school, but a validation of her exceptional ability to connect with our youngest learners. Mrs. Allen’s dedication to our students and her innovative approach to teaching have had a profound impact on their growth and development. The challenges highlighted in the article hit close to home for us. The voices from so many educators in the story reinforces the importance of collaboration among educators, families, and our community to support our students in every way we can. I firmly believe that we are on the right track,” said Bell.

Dr. Michelle Clements, Principal of Sharon School, expressed profound appreciation for the article's focus on the district.

"Michaela Frederick is an outstanding teacher, and she embodies the dedication and compassion that define our educators here in Weakley County. Her inclusion in this story reflects her exceptional ability to connect with students and support them in unique ways. Moreover, the insights shared by other districts featured in the article resonate deeply with our experiences here in Weakley County. There is a critical need for collaborative efforts between educators, parents and guardians, and the community to support our students as we continue to navigate this new world in education and its challenges."

Weakley County Schools enlists a proactive approach with initiatives that targeted in helping fill gaps in meeting student needs as well as providing support to families. One such initiative is the PAUSE Campaign, an easy-to-follow guide developed after a marked surge in the number of learners entering pre-k and kindergarten classrooms with prevalent speech and language delays. The PAUSE campaign is a call to action that reminds parents and guardians to pay attention and limit screen time to foster active engagement, assess developmental milestones and seek guidance as needed, utilize their network of resources, save the time that a child spends on a device as a joint activity that builds meaningful interactions with children, and engage in enriching play without screens that sparks conversations and connections.

Betsi Foster, Assistant Director of Schools, highlighted the importance of early learning initiatives and the district’s efforts in supporting students and families.

"Since its launch in 2022, the PAUSE Campaign has empowered parents with practical tools to enhance learning at home. This initiative is just one example of our commitment to providing comprehensive support during and after school hours for our students' academic and emotional well-being. Looking forward, Weakley County Schools is expanding its support systems with additional teacher assistants in kindergarten. We’re excited to relay that a new preschool classroom is set to open this fall. Another exciting addition to our district is set to be announced in the coming weeks. These initiatives, among many others, are designed to further address educational gaps and ensure every student has the resources needed to succeed,” Foster said.

Director of Schools Jeff Cupples expressed immense pride in the district's national recognition.

"Our district is making history. Being mentioned twice in The New York Times within one year for standing out among the nation’s school districts speaks volumes to the impact of our students, the dedication of our educators, and the support of our community. It’s clear that our community is committed to public education. We’re geared up to build on this momentum to continue our great work and elevate our district to new heights.”

To view the full article in the New York Times (subscription required), visit: nytimes.com/interactive/2024/07/01/upshot/pandemic-children-school-performance.html.

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