April 30, 2007
AUGUSTA, Ga.---Richmond County's reading program was under fire tonight. The school board heard publicly for the first time from opponents of the Voyager Universal Literacy program.
Those opponents were mostly teachers who said they were glad for the chance to speak out at last.
Dr. Virginia Bradshaw, superintendent of instruction, stands by Voyager.
"It gets harder and harder to tell the difference between advantaged schools and disadvantaged schools," she said.
And Gracewood principal Mary Braswell again got up in support of the program.
"Voyager listens to the teachers and values input," she said. "In fact, they make changes based on teacher input."
But then board members started asking questions. The first, Frank Dolan, asked about how Voyager came to Richmond County in the first place.
"This was brought to us by Linda Schrenko and Merle Temple and Dr. Larke...and two of out of three of them are in jail tonight," he said.
And then three kindergarten teachers from Warren Road Elementary spoke.
"Voyager is taught at Warren Road and we strongly supplement it because of huge deficits in specific areas," Sonya Graham said. "If we want to teach Voyager exclusively, we'd be doing a terrible disservice to our children."
"It really saddens me to see so many wonderful, qualified teachers leave this county--not because of students, not because of pay, which is less than other counties, but because of Voyager," Leesa Lyles said.
"While the positives are minimal, the negatives are plentiful," Laura Mobley said.
Finally, teachers spoke about why other teachers are afraid to speak against it.
"Teachers are afraid and scared to speak up," said Paige McLemore, who teaches at Rollins Elementary. "You would not believe what comments we got at school today, what was going to happen to us for coming down here."
Tonight's meeting was just for informational purposes only. Board members did not make any decisions on Voyager.
Laurie Ott has opened a blog topic for further discussion. To join in, click here.