2001 to 2016
Greengate School was born of parent frustration and worry for the future of their dyslexic children. Though bright and curious, their children struggled to learn to read and by second or third grade, they were often experiencing outright failure. With each passing day, the window for learning to read was slipping away. Reading instruction in their schools wasn’t working, and something needed to change.
2001 – 2004
In 2001, a core group of parents (John and Cindy Allen, Charles and Lydia Alexander, Greg and Barbara Combs, and Mrs. Marie Lambert) refused to accept the situation any longer and began looking for answers outside their public schools. Working with Orton-Gillingham trained dyslexia tutor Marcia Ramsey, they decided the best option was to start a new kind of school, one that would be dedicated specifically to educating and supporting dyslexic students. The curriculum would include daily individual Orton-Gillingham tutoring as well as a full array of subjects. All teachers would be trained in the Orton-Gillingham approach so that multisensory principles would be embedded in all subject teaching. And most importantly, a community of dyslexic students would discover their particular strengths, see themselves as competent and creative learners, and to advocate on their own behalf.
The parents formed a board of directors, honed the mission, and chose the name for their new non-profit school. Finally, in August of 2002 after 18 months of research, consulting, and planning, Greengate School opened its doors at Sherwood Baptist Church with three students. Their two teachers, Patti McLanahan (the beloved Miss Mac) and Marcia Ramsey shared teaching and Orton-Gillingham tutoring. After two more students enrolled in January, Mrs. Wendy Lenentine joined the team as tutor and teacher. Marcia Ramsey served as the school’s founding head.
In the summer of 2003, we began reaching out to the community through the addition of three programs. The first was our Summer Reading Camp, which offered four weeks of intense reading and writing intervention to any struggling reader. It was an immediate success and remains well attended every summer. That year also marked the first of our 15 annual Orton-Gillingham multisensory training courses. Despite little promotion, the response was bigger than expected with 30 participants. Since then, hundreds of teachers, speech language therapists, tutors and parents from across the southeastern region have enrolled in our Orton-Gillingham training courses. The last outreach service added that year was low cost testing to help identify students with dyslexia. Like the other outreach services, this has proven to be an important resource for the community.
2004 - 2009
By June of 2004, Greengate had outgrown its space at Sherwood Baptist and found a home at Holmes Street Methodist Church in downtown Huntsville. Holmes Street was warm and welcoming, with room to grow, and soon student enrollment more than doubled. In 2007, the school celebrated two milestones, our fifth anniversary and hosting the Annual National Conference of the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators. Being chosen to host the National Conference was a huge honor and brought recognition to our program from across the country. At this time, Greengate added limited tutoring services as a fourth outreach initiative.
2009 - 2014
After 6 happy years in Holmes Street Church, the congregation decided to build a new facility on the site occupied by the school, prompting another building search. Fortunately, the generous support of Drs. Jim and Ana Byrne and the Thurber Family Foundation made it possible to move to the dramatic Lincoln Mill facility on Meridian Street. Teachers and students alike reveled in having their own unshared space at last and loved the “cool” factor of the Mill. During that time the school accomplished several major milestones. In 2010, Greengate School received dual accreditation from SAIS and SACS/AdvancED, as well as from the Academy of Orton-Gillingham Practitioners and Educators, making Greengate one of 13 Academy accredited schools in the country. Greengate staged its first major foray into fundraising in 2009 with Spring Swing Gala, organized by board members and supported by many community friends.
After leading the school for 10 years, the founding Head of School, Marcia Ramsey stepped down to spend more time training teachers and tutoring students. Orton-Gillingham Fellow, Trudy Odle succeeded Marcia and brought her deep knowledge and clinical experience of dyslexia to Greengate. Mrs. Odle led the school until her retirement in July of 2014.
2014 – 2016…
The board of directors appointed Dr. Debbie Hargett as the third and current Head of School in 2014. Dr. Hargett is well known and respected for her many years of teaching and school leadership in Huntsville public schools. Her strong leadership and dedication to high quality education for all students benefit Greengate School as well as dyslexic students across the area.
In 2015, the City of Huntsville purchased the former Academy for Academics and Arts magnet school and refurbished it as a hub for community non-profits. Recognizing its contributions to Huntsville’s quality of life, the city invited Greengate to join the partnership and become the first tenant. We were delighted to accept the invitation, and with more than three times as much space, we have room to spread our elbows and dream.
Over the years, other accreditations, honors, awards, and grants have come our way. Among others is the HATS-STEDTRAIN program that has frequently rewarded Greengate teachers with grants for their innovative STEM projects. In 2009, Greengate was nominated for the Chamber of Commerce best small non-profit of the year award. In 2012, school co-founder Marcia Ramsey received the Leadership in Literacy Award from the Georgia Branch of the International Dyslexia Association for her work at Greengate and with the Alabama branch of the International Dyslexia Association. In 2015, the International Dyslexia Association approved Greengate School as an accredited teacher-training site, stating that its program meets the rigorous IDA standards for teachers of reading.