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Help your school system become even better

Sometimes all the “we need more of this and less of that” and “let’s give that a whirl” philosophies of modern Georgia education still return to a rather simple concept.
So far removed from days of old, most of today’s students have never heard of “The Three ‘R’s’” unless they think it stands for “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.”
In education, the trio of “R’s” stand for “Reading, Writing and Arithmetic.” All the Math I’s, Math II’s and Math III’s of the world stem from arithmetic. English/language arts are reading and writing based. For that matter, the subjects of social studies, science, technology, health, music and art are reading and writing based too.
Reading and the comprehension of that reading will be of high importance this fresh new school year. Superintendent Whit Myers told a high school auditorium filled with the county’s educators during pre-planning that reading will be stressed this 170-day school year.
It is not that reading isn’t a major blip on the educational radar screen. Reading, at every level, has been paramount. Ask any elementary school teacher how many times the letter combination of “A” then “R” is used in the classroom on a daily basis and it may be hard to give an answer. It is difficult to calculate Accelerated Reading references when AR is found in virtually every sentence.
And reading certainly does not stop in fifth grade. In reality, it becomes more of a necessity. Students must be able to read faster and then mentally internalize those words quicker to become successful.
This year the Screven County schools will implement a literacy program that promotes reading of all kinds. Students who read better will be able to better comprehend the writings in their textbooks.
Reading is valuable for everyone.
Chemical engineers must be able to read, but so must mothers checking prescription bottles for their sick children. A NASA astronaut must be able to read, but so must a truck driver reviewing road signs while operating an 18,000-pound, loaded-down 18-wheeler barreling down a congested interstate at 75 mph. A computer programmer must be able to read, but so must a dig digger trying to map out where to lay pipe without spearing an underground gas line.
In Screven County, a majority of our children read well enough to handle most of the rigors of classroom assignments. For that, we are blessed. But more is being asked of the teachers and their students. We all are urged to achieve more. Students, teachers and parents must team with community leaders in a continued pursue of excellence.
I have positive proof that you personally understand the importance of reading. Since the 2003-2004 school year, businesses, organizations and private individuals have done their part in making reading exciting for our local students. Six years ago the Sylvania Telephone started a program called Newspapers In Education or NIE for short. In that initial year, four businesses sponsored newspapers that were distributed to local students in their classrooms. Those four businesses sponsored an impressive 260 papers.
The businesses sponsored each of the papers at $11 per paper. That amount remains the same today.
What has not remained the same is total number of sponsors. The Telephone’s version of the NIE program has grown in sponsorship to a high-water mark of 80 sponsors during the 2008-2009 school year for 755 papers. Last year 730 papers were sponsored by a total of 70, but that only tells part of the story.
Each time a subscriber has the opportunity to renew for another year or two to the Telephone a person also can give $1 toward the NIE program. Every dollar counts.
Lots of U.S. newspapers – both weeklies and dailies – have quality NIE programs, so what’s so uber-special about the Telephone’s? I could spend hours getting you a detailed answer, but for time’s sake I will roll and mold it into a nicely packaged reply.
In the last three years, the Telephone has been honored on a national scale six times. Your community newspaper has received awards from the National Newspaper Association and Newspaper Association of America. Three of those plaques in the foyer of the newspaper office come from the Telephone’s placing in general excellence – a “best of the best” category. Then there is a trio of awards for three consecutive years of garnering first place in sponsorship from the NNA.
Yes, I admit I am bragging, but not about the Sylvania Telephone. I am bragging about you.
This is a community-based program that benefits the community. Students of a young age to students in their adulthood get papers on Thursdays during the school year thanks to the generosity of wonderful people like you.
The ones who must be honored are the residents on Ginhouse Road to Jarrell Pond Road and everywhere in between; for the businesses on Millen Highway to Newington Highway and all those hard-working employees in between; and the organizations, clubs and groups who meet once a month, twice a month, once a week or just about every day.
I commend the administrators and teachers in our county for working overtime to provide a quality education for our youth. The teachers do so despite reductions in funding, but additions in responsibilities. An NIE paper on a Thursday school day brightens up a student’s face and teachers will attest that a happier student is more inclined to learn more.
But don’t take my word for it.
Ask an educator at the elementary school, middle school, high school, Ogeechee Technical College, Community Christian School or AMI Kids about their thoughts on the NIE program.
While our state’s economy woes have put a vise grip on our teachers, the NIE program offers all of us a chance to bolster literacy within our school system. Better readers translate into better test scores. Those better test scores translate into more future career opportunities.
NIE also translates into beaming grins. Please contribute.

Enoch Autry is publisher-editor of the Sylvania Telephone.