When I was elected to the GCISD School Board in 2008, the district had 44 students being monitored under their dyslexia program. In a district with almost 14,000 students, a minimum number expected of students with the condition is around 700. Several dyslexia experts state that the incidence could reach 10% in some communities. Parents contacted me and informed me the situation was critical in our district, as many parents have left GCISD looking for private alternatives for their children.
To look for information on the condition and services in our area, I made an appointment with Dr. Jeff Black, Medical Director of the Scottish Rite HospitalLuke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders. The Scottish Rite Hospital is one of the nation leading experts in dyslexia, and the creators of “Take Flight”, a very successful intervention program for students. Dr. Black and his staff informed me they received many students from GCISD looking for an effective alternative for their children. One of the key findings during my visit was that one Scottish Rite Hospital’s main goals was to work with public school districts in a train the trainer model to expand the reach of Take Flight and help as many students as possible.
After my meeting with Dr. Black and his staff, I discussed my findings with our then assistant superintendent, Dr. Jim Chadwell (current superintendent at Eagle Mountain Saginaw ISD) and encouraged him to plan a visit to Scottish Rite. Dr. Chadwell did so and that started a great partnership that has resulted in over 800 students currently being serviced and monitored in GCISD’s dyslexia program.
Bringing a new program into a district has its challenges. This is where having a great parent support group is key. GCISD is lucky to have READ (Reaching, Educating and Advocating for Dyslexics), an organization dedicated to support our students with dyslexia. This group of parents described in detail the struggles of their students being served in GCISD’s program. They knew the old district’s program had its limitations, and it was not effective for the majority of the students with the condition. Using this feedback, GCISD has done a great job implementing the Scottish Rite’s Take Flight program, and also improving the accommodation services offered to our students. I worked with READ to write a district-wide goal to improve dyslexia services, and it was approved by the School Board as part of our superintendent goals. READ has also been a critical partner in helping us monitor progress at the school level. Our first dyslexia goal was to “Create and implement a comprehensive development plan to significantly increase the quality of Dyslexia Services, with emphasis in identification of students to include building awareness of Dyslexia at the campus level and monitoring of individual progress”. The establishment of a dyslexia goal set the district on the path to rapidly expand the quality and reach of our services, improving the educational experience for hundreds of students and their parents for the last 12 years.