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Gainesville schools experts to speak at Kentucky conference
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Three current and former Gainesville City Schools’ employees will represent the city today at a conference in Kentucky.

Jarod Anderson, director of learning support for the school system, Ken Martin, Gainesville Middle School principal and Dr. Merrianne Dyer, former city schools superintendent, will present at the National Dropout Prevention Network Conference in Louisville.

Dyer said they will present a system designed to unify schools with their community groups in an effort to address and prevent the impediments to childhood success.

“We will be sharing with participants of the conference how to implement the Unified System of Learning Supports framework,” said Dyer. “It is a framework that a school district or state can implement with a consultative service.”

Anderson said the system is a way of organization and management that unifies different aspects of a school system and community. It brings together instruction, operations and learning supports — including counselors, parent coordinators, etc.

Dyer said school systems using the framework work with a consultant to analyze why students are or are not excelling in certain areas, then apply research strategy to do something about it.

“It’s not a complicated thing,” she said. “It’s just staying the course.”

Dyer said Gainesville was one of the first four districts involved in the Unified System of Learning Supports and it was the district selected to be in its research study.

“For three years, an education research group out of New York measured the progress here in Gainesville,” Dyer said. “As far as individual school districts, Gainesville’s been at it longer than anyone else.”

Anderson said the framework caused schools in Gainesville to focus on prevention, instead of waiting for problems to occur and then reacting to them.

Dyer said attendance improved by 16 percent, achievements improved particularly in black males, and teen pregnancies decreased by 60 percent since implementing the Unified System of Learning Supports.

“There’s been a huge decline in discipline referrals, and in middle school particularly it’s been incredible,” Dyer said. “For example last school year, they had zero students referred to alternative schools. That’s after having a pretty good number every year for years.”

Anderson said they are looking forward to presenting the results of the work in Gainesville at the conference. He said it can help other school systems throughout the country improve the way they work to help students.

“It’s provided us a framework for working systematically,” Anderson said. “Instead of everyone working in isolation on the same issues, it guides us in such a way that all of the stakeholders come together and we communicate more from a holistic standpoint.”

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