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The Learning Center From the Archives: Brutus Clay's Letter to the Board of Trustees

Dear Judge and Executive Committee Members,

“Brutus can’t keep up. He can’t read. We can’t help him. Maybe he should go to a special school that can help him.” I overheard my 7th grade teacher telling my mother these words 28 years ago. My parents and I faced two problems. One, all I heard was that the teacher thought that I was stupid. Secondly, there was not a school equipped to help me.

I was fortunate; my parents realized that I had language processing issues at a young age. At four years of age I was barely speaking, so my parents took me to numerous counselors and experts to try to figure out what was going on. In the end, they discovered I was dyslexic. I struggled through grade school and in 7th grade was only reading at a 3rd grade level. It was then that we finally had a breakthrough. My parents found a tutor in Lexington that specialized in the Orton Gillingham method. My mother drove from Paris to Lexington 4 days week for these tutoring sessions. In a span of a year, my reading level went from the 3rd to the 7th grade level.

Once I got over the hurdle of learning how to read, I learned to compensate for my disability and experienced some success with academics. I ended up graduating from Georgetown University with BS and earned an MBA from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Today, I draw on these skills that I learned as a child in order to overcome what may appear to be insurmountable obstacles that I face as a commercial real estate developer.

Learning differences impact 10 to 15% of the population. 30,000 children in our community are struggling with learning differences today. I can assure you that many of their stories will not have as successful an ending as mine. Public schools are required to work with these students, but in reality they have limited resources. Subsequently, parents in the Lexington community have limited options on how to get the help they need for their children.

Prior to returning to Lexington, Sarah and I lived in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Sarah taught at Durham Academy, a school similar in many ways to The Lexington School. Durham Academy had a specialized school for children with learning differences- The Hill Center. The Hill Center has extremely small class sizes; a 3 to 1 ratio. The children come for a half a day from schools throughout the area for those subjects that are most affected by their learning difference. They then spend the rest of the day in their home school (Durham Academy or any other local school). The goal of The Hill Center is to teach these children the skills they need to overcome their learning difference and to have them back in their regular schools 100% of the time within a few years. They have been most successful. They currently offer seminars for parents and teachers alike, and travel to schools across the world to assist them in setting up similar programs.

Children that are able to work through their challenges develop robust coping skills at a young age. Once these children reach adulthood, they are able to use these skills to reach incredible heights as entrepreneurs, investment bankers, politicians, attorneys, doctors and educators. Speaking from experience, they never forget those who helped them get over that first monumental hurdle.

Lexington needs a school that specializes in working students with learning differences. The school would not only work to help their own students, but it would be a center of excellence that would reach out to the larger community with seminars for parents and teachers. It would be a resource for helping parents find tutors that have expertise in helping LD students.

The Lexington School Philosophy: Because we are a nurturing environment, children feel confident.When children are confident, they will take risks.Because risk taking is inherent in learning, the possibility of failure exists. When a nurturing community exists, challenges lead to growth. Our success is defined when our students have the life skills to make wise choices and overcome obstacles.

The Lexington School supports our children in a “nurturing environment”. The philosophy statement is true to how the school operates. We have witnessed this with our own children. Children with learning differences can know a lot about challenges, and failures. The Lexington School Philosophy statement perfectly fits a school that could specialize in teaching students with learning differences.

“When a nurturing community exists, challenges lead to growth. Our success is defined when our students have the life skills to make wise choices and overcome obstacles.”

The Lexington School could take this message a step further and help those who truly need help overcoming obstacles. Sarah and I propose that The Lexington School fill the void in our community and create a school specifically for students with learning differences.

To study this opportunity I would like the executive committee and Lexington School Board create a subcommittee to explore the need and feasibility of developing such a school. Both Sarah and I offer our assistance in the evaluation process. I also offer my help in developing a business plan for the proposed school.

Thank you for your consideration. Best regards,

Brutus J. Clay