THOMASVILLE — Thomasville City School System teachers got ready to begin the upcoming school year during a professional learning day Tuesday, at MacIntyre Park Middle School.

On hand for the session were nationally renowned speakers Julie Weatherly, founder of Weatherly Law Firm in Atlanta, and Sylvia Hooker, educational consultant with the Georgia Leadership Institute for School Improvement (GLISI).

Hooker’s presentation was entitled “Building a High Performance Team.”

“Distributive leadership has to be a part of the school leader’s and the school teacher’s repertoire. We can’t do it by ourselves,” she said. “The work of education takes not only the people within the building, but also on the outside of the building.”

Hooker said encouraging teachers is an important part of getting off to a good start at the beginning of a school year.

“With all the different mandates we have, we’ve got to motivate people to not just look at the acronyms of No Child Left Behind,” she said. “The reason we get into this profession has to do with a lot of people’s hearts and what they want to do for young people.

“The top and the bottom line in this profession is young people.”

Hooker said every staff member in any given school, from teachers to paraprofessionals to food service and custodial workers, plays a role in a child’s education.

“It takes a team. Yes we’ve got some struggles, but (school personnel) are more than capable of handling those struggles. That’s why they went to school — to learn more about how they can serve their young people better,” she said.

Weatherly, owner of Resolutions in Special Education Inc., talked about legal issues in the field of special education.

“We’re touching on common mistakes that tend to happen in special education that can lead to litigation. We’re talking about how to keep those things from occurring,” she said.

Weatherly offered several tips on how to avoid making such mistakes regarding special education.

“Focus on the individual needs of children with disabilities rather than saying, ‘This is how we do it for everybody.’ You really need to see each child individually,” she said.

She also encouraged teachers to stress parental participation in their schools.

“Make sure that parents are equal partners, or have the opportunity to be equal partners. Many of them don’t necessarily want to be a part of (their child’s education), but if they do, we certainly want to give them that meaningful opportunity,” she said.

Weatherly has been a faculty member for several national and state legal institutes and is a frequent speaker at special education law conferences. In 1998, she was honored by Georgia’s Council for Exceptional Children as Georgia’s Individual who had Contributed Most to Students with Disabilities.

Hooker is a 20-year educator who has served as teacher, principal and central office administrator at schools in Georgia, Alabama and Connecticut. In her first year of teaching in 1984, she received honorable mention in Teaching Magazine’s annual awards. The New York Times recognized her all-male “school within a school” as one of the most innovative public school programs in Connecticut in 1994.

To contact reporter Brewer Turley, call (229) 226-2400, ext. 226.

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