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— Since the Decatur School District is on stable ground financially, superintendent LeRoy OrtmanÃ-s next focus is improving the districtÃ-s academic programs.

Ortman recently hired Dawn Stewart as a curriculum and professional development director. StewartÃ-s addition to OrtmanÃ-s administrative team was in part due to federal stimulus money, he said.

The district is set to receive $459,041 through the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act over the next two years, part of which Ortman plans to use to strengthen the schoolÃ-s academics through curriculum improvements, professional development for teachers and new technology in the classroom ó all under StewartÃ-s guidance.

ÃI thought that was as wise a use as I could come up with ... In two years her work will have enough impact to be around for a while,î Ortman said.

Stewart will be working with teachers to find weak areas and strengthen them and to find the areas that students are already excelling in and enrich them.

ÃItÃ-s truly about team work,î Stewart said, explaining that when everyone works together, the greatest strides can be made.

The school will be getting six CPS systems across the district as a pilot program, Stewart said. With the CPS systems, each student has a remote that works with the Smart Board at the front of the classroom. The teacher can put a problem on the board and then the students answer remotely, game show style. The new CPS systems will be used in the elementary, middle and high school math programs this year.

ÃThe kids love it, and itÃ-s a very quick way for the teachers to know if theyÃ-re getting it,î Stewart said.

The district will also be getting several INTERWRITEMOBI boards. The boards allow multiple users and collaborative learning. Teachers can carry a tablet around the classroom and allow students to write on it. The studentsÃ- writing then appears on the Smart Board at the front of the classroom.

The new technology will help prepare students to be successful in a global society, Stewart said.

ÃItÃ-s so important to prepare them for the 21st century era,î she said.

The new technology aligns with the schoolÃ-s curriculum and literacy program and goes beyond what can be taught from a text book, she explained.

Part of the new program will be providing teachers with professional development so they feel comfortable using the new technology.

Stewart has also been working with Missouri State University to make a masterÃ-s degree program available to teachers in northwest Arkansas. Teachers will be able to take courses online and in the local area with no out of state tuition.

Representatives from the university presented information about the new program to teachers on Aug. 13.

Stewart said she hopes the program will provide teachers with opportunities and contribute to them becoming life-long learners.

ÃThe big picture is learning no matter what the level; kids, teachers, and administration,î Stewart said.

Stewart has 19 years experience in education. She taught in the classroom for 14 years, nine of which she spent as a gifted and talented teacher. This is StewartÃ-s fifth year as an administer.

Outside of her career, Stewart has two children that have graduated from the Gravette School District. She also enjoys walking, but her real passion is education.

Stewart is looking forward to working with the staff at the Decatur School District.

ÃWe can make great strides if everyone is walking together,î Stewart said.

Community, Pages 8 on 08/12/2009

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