Masons partner with AISD to support dyslexia

Masons partner with AISD to support innovative dyslexia program
Posted on 05/03/2018
Masons partner with AISD to support innovative dyslexia program

A partnership between Athens ISD, Athens Masonic Lodge #165 and the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital for Children was celebrated Tuesday evening at a Lodge dinner bringing representatives from all three parties together. The focus of the partnership is to introduce a new intervention program for students with dyslexia. 

Athens ISD has selected four existing teachers within the district, and is hiring a fifth, to begin an intensive two-year mentorship program with Scottish Rite’s renowned Dyslexia Education Center. Under guidance from program instructors, the five educators will both train in and begin implementing the “Take Flight” curriculum for students with dyslexia. Take Flight is proven to allow children to learn course material more quickly, with a higher retention rate than other programs. With successful completion of the two-year training course, the teachers will become certified academic language therapists. 

“This will provide dyslexia therapy in a two-year course for students, equipping them with reading strategies in a more timely manner than our current multisensory teaching approach,” said Brooke Brock, director of special populations for the district. “We are excited to help our students become more successful and fluent readers.” 

Not long after the school district began discussions with Scottish Rite about purchasing services to implement the Take Flight program, members of the Athens Masonic Lodge reached out to AISD to promote both the program and the idea of Athens Masons assisting the district with the program’s cost. (The hospital’s roots are Masonic, having been established in 1921 thanks to a partnership between a group of Texas Masons and Dallas’ first orthopedic surgeon, W.B. Carrell.) 

“Dyslexia has touched so many members of our lodge,” said Jeff Almrud, the Masonic lodge dyslexia committee chairman. “The Masons are committed to helping.” 

Toward that end, the Lodge has arranged to host a chili cook-off fundraiser Saturday, May 26, during the 87th Annual Athens Old Fiddlers Reunion on the courthouse square. The cook-off will be 8am-noon, with judging at 1 and the results announced at 2. Proceeds will assist Athens ISD in funding the Take Flight program. Sponsorships range from $1,000 down to $499 or less. For more information, call 512-940-7831. 

“We’d love to have more competitors as well as additional sponsors,” said Almrud. “And not only do we want to help with fundraising, but also through public outreach to keep this program in the public eye … and help it spread to other school districts.” 

Several elected officials were present at the dinner, including State Rep. Lance Gooden, Athens Mayor Monte Montgomery, Athens councilmembers Ed McCain and Toni Clay, AISD School Board President and Mason Rob Risko, and Pct. 1 Justice of the Peace and Mason Randy Daniel. 

“Our school is doing amazing things in the city right now,” Montgomery told those gathered. “And there’s a saying that moss doesn’t gather on a rolling stone. There is no moss on this lodge. You’re very active in our community.” 

On hand to present a history of the hospital and an overview of the Take Flight program were Dr. Jeffrey Black, medical director of the Luke Waites Center for Dyslexia and Learning Disorders at Scottish Rite, and Karen Avrit, director of education in the Center for Dyslexia. 

“You’ll be among the best of the best providing instruction to children with dyslexia,” Black told the AISD educators embarking on the mentorship program with Scottish Rite. 

Lodge Master John Bell told those gathered that he and his fellow Masons are eager to see the Take Flight program launched within AISD. 

“We hope this program catches on and spreads across East Texas,” he said. 

Those educators training to become certified academic language therapists with AISD are: Sara Chamblee at Central Athens Elementary; Angela St Valentine at Bel Air Elementary; Sheri Leamon, who will be at South Athens Elementary in the coming school year; Sarah Davidson at Athens Middle School and Athens High School; and Erica Rodriguez, providing bilingual instruction as needed at all campuses.

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