Roper says he's committed to ECS Early Childhood program

By Thomas Wilson

   Superintendent Dr. David Roper says he is committed to maintaining Elizabethton City Schools' early childhood education program; the challenge is finding a new home for it.
   "I am determined that program is going to continue," Roper told members of the Elizabethton Rotary Club at a luncheon on Thursday.
   The Early Childhood Program has operated at an office space on Bemberg Road - known as the Cyclone Center - leased from Mountain States Health Alliance (MSHA) since 2000. However, MSHA officials have given the system notice they wish to terminate the lease to find new space for physicians' offices.
   The Cyclone Center houses the program, which provides preschool learning for dozens of children. The Center has 64 students enrolled this school year with a waiting list of more than 50 children, according to school officials.
   The program is funded through federal Title I funds, and a Goals 2000 grant as well as local funding by the school system. The Goals 2000 grant is expected to expire after this school year. The program serves as a training site for East Tennessee State University and Milligan College students studying Early Childhood education.
   Roper said school officials have scouted out some buildings around Elizabethton as prospects for the future home of the Cyclone Center, but, thus far, there are no solid leads.
   Roper also said an enormous challenge facing public school systems across the nation was the No Child Left Behind Law. The federal No Child Left Behind Law raised the bar for student performance and school system accountability, but provided little new funding to assist schools in implementing the accountability measures.
   "It is a wonderful initiation to do just that, leave no child behind," Roper said. "If it were fully funded, it would be better."
   The Tennessee Department of Education reported in September a statewide No Child Left Behind report for 2002 found that 53 percent of state schools performed adequately on measures that ranged from test performance to attendance, while 47 percent of the schools failed in at least one of the standards the state is monitoring. The report put 711 schools on what is known as a "target" list for not meeting some of the criteria this year.
   Elizabethton City Schools met the majority of federal benchmarks set forth by NCLB. East Side and Harold McCormick elementary schools were designated as "target schools" for narrowly missing a federal attendance benchmark set forth in federal standards. Elizabethton High School received a target school designation after failing to meet the federal benchmark of testing proficiency among economically disadvantaged students taking the English Gateway exam.
   Roper took the reins as ECS superintendent last month. He spent more than 20 years as an educator with Birmingham City Schools before accepting the superintendent's position with Roanoke Alabama City Schools in 1999.