Having been in education for 26 years, Chad Fletcher started out as a high school history teacher in Metro-Nashville schools. He became Bedford’s federal program supervisor in 2019 and and received the county’s “Supervisor of the Year” award this year.
Having been in education for 26 years, Chad Fletcher started out as a high school history teacher in Metro-Nashville schools.
He became Bedford’s federal program supervisor in 2019 and received the county’s “Supervisor of the Year” award this year.
Budgets and history may be two different subjects, but Fletcher assures he enjoys what he does. And he’s humbled at being named top supervisor for Bedford County schools.
“I feel very humbled that my colleagues felt that I was deserving of that honor. And, frankly, I am really blessed to be a part of a really good group,” he said.
As supervisor, Fletcher oversees many tasks, like state testing with TN Ready and school safety coordination.
But his primary responsibility is to oversee the yearly federal budget, which comes in two bulks. Title I money is given to children who are identified as being impoverished, while Title II is money given for professional development of teachers and school leaders. Title IV funds are used for a well-rounded education, Fletcher explained.
This year, on top of the other federal budget categories, the school system received millions of dollars in COVID relief funds, better known as Elementary and Secondary Schools Emergency Relief or ESSER funds. Bedford County Schools received a total of $24.7 million dollars in three installments:
—$1.7 million for ESSER 1.0
—$7 million for ESSER 2.0
—$15.9 million for ESSER 3.0
“We will never see money on this scale again most likely,” Fletcher said.
According to Fletcher, ESSER was initially used for investing in technology as classrooms went remote. Once ESSER 2.0 and 3.0 came out, the focus shifted to keeping kids in school and mitigating any academic loss.
Tutoring and summer school were big factors in combating this.
“The bigger need is we want to make sure we have facilities and infrastructure in place that if we see another resurgence of COVID, we can keep kids as spread out as we can,” Fletcher said. This led to the school system’s decision to buy more school buses as well as build the new wing at Community High School.
By the state of Tennessee’s standard, Bedford County Schools spent this federal money “correctly,” which is why they received a “Best for All” designation last Friday.
Fletcher said when the “Best for All” designation came out with ESSER 3.0, he thought it was important as that would qualify them for additional grants.
“We were really deliberate that when I built those budgets...that we would do what the state intended,” he said. Next year, Fletcher said they will aim to get the TN ALL Corps, which is sponsored by the state’s Department of Education and requires a low student teacher ratio and tutoring.
The challenge: the fast growing community.
Increasing the number of tutors has helped tailor education for each student’s needs as they return from a virtual environment.
“I’m just so pleased with the number of people who have stepped up. It’s retired people. It’s stay-at-home mothers. It’s retired teachers. It’s grandparents... folks who love our kids.” Fletcher said if anyone is interested in becoming a tutor, they can contact any of the principals at any of the 15 schools in Bedford, or to call central office at (931) 684-3284.
“Success breeds success,” Fletcher said. “And let’s get kids to experience this success because they’re getting the extra help they need.”
There are as many needs as there are kids. Approaches to aid students, according to Fletcher, include one-on-one time and online resources that measure a student’s progression.
Therefore, a little over $8 million of the ESSER funds (50 percent of ESSER 3.0) have gone into tutoring.
Putting kids first
But in the span of Fletcher’s nearly 30-year education career, the biggest change (and challenge), he says, has been with phones and social media. On one end, technology has changed the curriculum and made it more accessible. But the downside, kids deal with the 24-7 bombardment that comes with constant media use.
“That’s why it’s really important to us to invest with some of our federal funds―with our ESSER funds―a social, emotional learning coordinator for the district,” Fletcher said. Lindsay Wiley, a team leader in the Tennessee Department of Children’s Services and a licensed social worker, will be starting on February 28 in this position.
“While our teachers are really well trained to help kids academically, we recognize that we still need more training in helping kids with the emotional and mental components outside of academics,” said Fletcher.
For example, the school system receives federal funds to help families they know are struggling financially to get food, clothing, and get them to medical appointments.
“I think that’s important: that we see beyond what is and look into what could be.”
With the new BEP formula being debated on Tennessee’s legislative floor, Fletcher said he hopes the schools can invest in high quality teachers, nurses, school counselors, and social workers to provide an even larger “safety net” for kids.
It’s all the more important that parents interact in their children’s education by making sure to ask three questions when they get home: How was your day? What did you learn? What did you enjoy?
The goal, Fletcher said, is to “make your child feel like education is important,” which creates a great desire for them to go back to school the next day, according to Fletcher.
“When we work together in concert with parents, with community agencies, and with groups that support kids’ physical, emotional needs, amazing things happen...That’s what transforms a community.”
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