ICU program at VMS in the spotlight at Vilonia Board of Education meeting...

At the Vilonia Board of Education meeting, held Monday night, teachers introduced the new ICU program at VMS, launched February 1, that is designed to reduce student apathy and “sick grades.”

A student taking a zero grade at VMS is not an option any longer, said teacher Kim Simmons. The teachers said the ICU program is a motivational tool and not a disciplinary measure.  The program, they said, is not designed to shame a student into performance but to encourage them.  A lunch is delivered to the student while in ICU, held during lunch periods, where that student has the opportunity to “do a quality assignment” rather than opt for less.

Explaining the way it works, the teachers said, the names of students on the ICU list go into a data base with a notification immediately going to their parents as well as teachers. A couple of people at the school referred to as “lifeguards” are also in place to help the ICU students with roadblocks.

The program, the teachers said, has increased communication with parents. From March 1, until the presentation, the teachers said 1,038 assignments had been completed that would have otherwise meant “zeros,” for students.  Principal Lori Lombardi said the program is doing exactly what it was designed to do and she complimented the teachers who worked to implement it.

In researching the program and the workings, teachers said they visited Rogers School District in northwest Arkansas, where they met with some school officials who have been implementing it for a while. They were told, they said, to expect it to be hard to launch but that it is worth the work. The VMS teachers worked for several months developing the Vilonia process and presenting to other teachers for a “buy in,” before the official launch, they said.  

Following the presentation, board members asked a few questions and expressed their buy in.

“I love this program,” Dr. David Stephens, superintendent, told the teachers. The students, he said, currently don’t understand the long term effects of taking zeros. The ICU program, he said, also gives validity to grades and will measure a student’s ability to master content. 

Cathy Riggins, assistant superintendent, said district officials are now looking at expanding the ICU program school wide. The plan, she said, is for it to be implemented at the Freshman Academy during the upcoming school year. It is also being looked at, she said, on the high school level.

“As the kids progress, they are going to know we don’t accept zeros in our district,” Riggins said.