The Starkville Oktibbeha School District has hired veteran educator Kimberly Pugh as a Certified Academic Language Therapist to support students with specific language disabilities, such as dyslexia and related disorders.
Pugh's hiring was approved during a special called school board meeting on Thursday. The board created the new position in June.
"Mrs. Pugh brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to this position, and most importantly, to our students and families navigating a dyslexia diagnosis," said Supt. Tony McGee.
"I am incredibly thankful for the opportunity to share my knowledge of an evidenced-based, multi-sensory language intervention to reach students who are struggling with reading," said Pugh, who is returning to the school district after serving as a reading therapist at Sudduth Elementary School from 2008 -2012. "I look forward to supporting students and their families on this journey to become succesful readers."
Pugh has provided private dyslexia therapy to students since 2008 using the Mississippi College Dyslexia Therapy Program based on the Orton-Gillingham method. She has been a special education teacher in the Choctaw County School District since 2012. Pugh began her teaching career as a fifth grade teacher in Chalmette, Louisiana in 1991.
"As a Certified Academic Language Therapist, Mrs. Pugh will integrate auditory, visual and kinesthetic channels into a structured small group or one-on-one intervention with students," said Asst. Supt. Anna Guntharp. "She will work directly with our students who have pronounced academic needs in the area of language across the district."
Pugh holds a Master of Education in Dyslexia Therapy from Mississippi College. She recently earned her specialist degree in psychometry from Jackson State University. Pugh has also completed dyslexia testing training from the Texas Scottish Rite Hospital. She is a member of the Mississippi Dyslexia Therapy Association and the Academic Language Therapy Association.
In addition to the new CALT position, the District is investing up to $170,000 over the next two years for up to 14 teachers who work directly with students to earn certification as a CALT.
Teachers will complete a two-year multisensory, structured language education training program offered through a partnership with the Northeast Mississippi Education Consortium, the Shelton School and Evaluation Center, and Dallas Baptist University. The training, Shelton Academic Reading Approach (SARA), utilizes Take Flight: A Comprehensive Intervention for Students with Dyslexia program developed at Scottish Rite Hospital. Teachers who complete the program will be prepared to sit for the exam to gain national certification as a CALT. Participants will also earn 24 hours of a 30-hour Master of Arts degree in Multi-sensory Education from Dallas Baptist University. The remaining six hours can be earned online.
"The District is committed to supporting our teachers, students and families at every level, and this is an investment in their success," said School Board President Wes Gordon.
The District will pay for the cost of the training for individuals who complete the two-year certification program and agree to a contract with the school district for a specified amount of time following completion of the certification program.