For the fifth year in a row, pupils at Middle Valley Elementary School are reading winners.
Hamilton County commissioners on Wednesday honored the school for its fifth consecutive Scottie Probasco Literacy Award in the Read 20 literacy program.
Presenting a proclamation commending the school's achievement, Commissioner Greg Martin said he wanted to "trumpet their success" and that Principal Allyson DeYoung has "created a fabulous culture of reading at that school."
The Read 20 program, sponsored by Tennessee first lady Crissy Haslam, encourages parents to read with their children at least 20 minutes a day. The county supports the program in its budget. The Scottie Probasco Literacy Award, founded by the late Chattanooga banker and philanthropist, comes with a $5,000 prize.
DeYoung was present along with Shawn Kurrelmeier-Lee, director of Read 20, and Elizabeth Marshall, a parent who has been coming to the school for five years to read with the kids.
More than 800 students attend Ganns Middle Valley, and Martin said about 91 percent take part in Read 20.
"Test scores and grades have just begun to soar there because of the culture, because of the leadership, and because of the parental involvement," he said.
DeYoung said that, as principal, "I set the vision for the culture, because we know reading is foundational to every success in life."
From there, teachers must spark a love of reading and learning, she said. And equally important, "when my children leave Middle Valley Elementary and go home, there has to be someone there, too, that invests and creates that love and importance, so parents are key."
Commissioners showered thanks and congratulations on DeYoung for the achievement, and Commissioner Warren Mackey asked her for advice on boosting reading achievement in his 4th District.
Commissioner Tim Boyd, though, questioned the program's overall success. He has been a supporter of another program, Bookworm, that is also supported by Mrs. Haslam and is operated through Girls Inc.
Boyd said Read 20 has been in place in Hamilton County for more than a decade but third-grade reading scores have barely budged. How can the program reach more kids, Boyd asked, especially in the inner city?
DeYoung said it all comes down to determination.
"The success is based on the willingness of a leader, and teachers, and parents to get involved," she said. "Read 20 can't control that. They can encourage and provide the resources and put it out there, but people have got to step up and take advantage of it."
Commissioners on Wednesday also welcomed and honored a contingent of U.S. Navy personnel, and County Mayor Jim Coppinger presented a proclamation declaring Navy Week in Hamilton County.
No votes were taken Wednesday, which was an agenda session. Commissioners will vote next week on several items, including:
-A contract to design the new Mowbray Volunteer Fire Department building
-A $4.5 million contract to build a new headquarters for Walden's Ridge Emergency Services
-A $420,000 grant award from Tennessee's Office of Criminal Justice Programs for services to victims of sexual assault, trafficking and prostitution
-Grant applications to the U.S. Department of Transportation and the Federal Railroad Administration in the state of Tennessee for rail infrastructure improvements at Enterprise South Industrial Park.
Contact staff writer Judy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org or 423-757-6416.