School district hears report from Cottonwood
The last meeting of the year for the Emery School district board of education was held at Cottonwood Elementary. Principal Dennis Jones gave an update on Cottonwood Elementary. He said they love and care for the children at Cottonwood. They are very conscientious with their testing using Edutest, UDipps and Dibbels is given three times each year. The testing is computerized and easier to track each student's progress. The reading test determines where the student is in regards to grade level reading, if they are above or below, then it's noted and special help is given to bring the students to grade level reading ability. All students are mapped on a large board and their status can be monitored by the teachers. Improvement can be seen at a glance and also spot trouble areas. If kids are falling below grade level then they are monitored more frequently. Jones told of the six minute solution where daily students listen to each other read and then quiz each other about what was read. This practice has increased reading scores. Reading tests also go home so the child can read with a parent for extra practice. Other programs in use are Education City and Study Island. These programs give feed back to a student, they read a story on line and then take a quiz. Lorraine Frandsen works with community members on the Star Reading program and trains volunteers to work with children. Peer tutoring is also a popular practice at the school where first graders read with sixth graders and fifth graders read with second graders. The students participating in this program are trained. The PTA sponsors an at-home reading program where they read for 20 minutes a day for five days each week and they receive reading rewards. Jones said, "Our teachers work continually for school improvement. If a teacher is weak in an area we have teacher training for them."
Jones told of the 200 club where students are rewarded for doing good things at school, if they do homework, maintain their grades and are good leaders they can be a part of the community action team. They are trained in character education and help educate their peers. They receive yellow tickets for good positive behavior and are entered into drawings for special privileges which might include going to lunch early, playing basketball in the gym at lunch and other rewards. "We work with school improvements and get everyone on board to improve our school. There was a little boy who spilled his milk at lunch and he got a rag and cleaned it up. He told me, 'that's what we do at our school.' I was very proud of him," said Jones. Board president Laurel Johansen thanked Principal Jones for his efforts and for the teachers at Cottonwood.
Superintendent Kirk Sitterud reported the legislature will be in session again soon and some of the areas for education they are keeping an eye on for our district. He mentioned Huntington Elementary and Ferron Elementary had received recognition as high performing Title one schools. One legislator Aaron Osmond said he wants to give more control to local school boards. Sitterud said it's hard to convince the legislators along the Wasatch Front that it's harder and more expensive to educate a child in the rural districts. Changes in the WPU could hurt rural districts. The legislature is thinking of taking some items in the budget and rolling them into the WPU and increase the WPU by $268. The Emery district would lose funds. The rural districts are working to prevent this change. They have met with the state board of education and the governor's office. Small districts could lose anywhere from 1-60 percent of the WPU. The biggest winner if the changes are made would be charter schools. Sitterud said he will watch that bill. It is expected Utah will have a revenue increase this year of $140 million, but $120 million has been added to Medicaid costs. Another item being considered is three level diplomas.
The board was approached by BACA: Bikers Against Child Abuse, they asked if students in the Emery District can participate in a T-shirt design contest for their annual fund raising ride. The board and Sitterud agreed to make the information about the contest available to the children and those who choose to can participate. The ride is held each year in June. Sitterud said he will send an email to each of the principals alerting them to the contest.
The board approved the FCCLA students to attend a one day activity at Brigham Young University and also a two day event. The board will review the policy regarding eighth grade students participating in an overnight activity.
Sitterud announced the name of Doug Lowe for approval as the ESL aide in Book Cliff Elementary. This will be two days a week, six hours each day. He will help increase the literacy skills and language development for the students learning English. Sitterud said this position has been badly needed as there are several non-English speaking students in Book Cliff Elementary. They have also hired a three hour aide for kindergarten who will help with those students as well as other students in the extended day kindergarten program.
The board reviewed and approved the vending contract for the schools. The board approved the meeting schedule for school board meetings in 2012. The board rotates through the schools during the school year and during the summer meetings are held at the district office including the June budget meetings which must be held as close to June 20 as possible. In Green River the schools are alternated each year, but each principal will report when the board meetings are held in Green River. The meeting schedule will be advertised in the paper for the next two weeks.
The board approved an architect firm for the facilities assessment which will take place at all schools in the district. The architect selected will be BCBO Architecture. The company leaders committed to be on site while the assessments take place. The project will take several months and begin in January. The plan will cover what needs to be done in the next 20 years to renovate or replace school buildings. They will visit every school and go through them and rate the schools in several areas including a seismic rating. It is important for the school district to have this plan in place. The district is waiting for a cost from the architect and then they will negotiate with them, it's estimated the project will run between $200,000-$300,000. The money will come from the capital project fund. Board member Royd Hatt thought it was important that one of the areas for consideration is the aesthetic value of the buildings.
BCBO plans to be here in the county every couple of weeks and they will interview community members, too.
The board reviewed a number of policy actions and approved the needed corrections and changes to policy.
Jared Black, business manager reported they are still working on an update to the financial software. They are combining with 24 other districts to get a better deal for the district, hopefully by the next meeting that will be completed. The next school board meeting will be on Jan. 4, 2012 at Cleveland Elementary.