Emery County School Board met in their regular meeting at Cottonwood Elementary on Feb. 5. Board member in attendance were Laurel Johansen, Sam Singleton, Marie Johnson and Royd Hatt. Superintendent Kirk Sitterud and Business Administrator Ross Huntington were also present.
The meeting began with regular agenda items, minutes, warrants and consent items. These items were approved.
Principal Dennis Jones began his report to the board by expressing his appreciation to the board for their continuing support of the peer-tutoring program. This program teams a fifth grade student tutor with a second grade student. After training the tutor, the work begins with the second grade student. The second grade students have been tested and it was discovered that they have made a years progress in the few months since school began.
Jones also reported that Teresa Jeffs and Lynda Nelson, teachers at the school, have been trained in the Fourth Block reading program that is ongoing. Lori Labrum is currently in St. George receiving literacy training. Jones explained that they have discovered that most learning difficulties come from the students comprehension levels of what they are reading. The faculty has made it their goal to help the students read and comprehend more to increase the student learning capabilities. Up to this point, the programs and training are working very well.
In 1977, a federal reading panel pinpointed five key issues involved with how children read and what helps and what teachers can do. Jones stated that his faculty is working very hard to raise the levels of comprehension in the students. Part of the "No Child Left Behind" legislation is the goal to help raise reading levels, and Cottonwood's faculty is working in tandem with Jordan District from a book entitled "Putting Reading First." Jordan district is training the teachers at Cottonwood to implement the concepts of reading instruction.
"Reading in the Content Area" is another book that helps the teachers to work with students vocabulary along with reading. Another aspect of student reading is how the child interacts with the text in a book. "Strategies that Work" is another instruction manual that the faculty at Cottonwood is implementing.
"The kids at Cottonwood are finally learning to understand what they are reading. This is one of the critical issues we are facing in our school," said Jones.
Jones also reported the school is in the process of purchasing leveled library books to help with the strategies Cottonwood has adopted. He stated that Castle Dale Elementary has these same books and they have had much success. Cottonwood has received the books for grades 1-3 and are now in the process of acquiring the upper grade level books.
Jones commended the Parent Teacher Organization in the school for their cooperative effort in the reading at home program they have implemented.
Jones stated the school has participated in the ISQ survey which helps identify the strengths and weaknesses of a school. He is anxious to see the results, meet with the faculty and begin to work on the areas the survey points out.
The Utah Department of Health and the Utah State Office of Education are sponsoring a program called "Gold Medal Schools." Jones displayed the plaque they have received as part of their involvement in this program. The program includes healthy eating instruction along with proper exercise. The faculty and the students have been actively participating. Each year of participation, the school receives a medal for their involvement. The first year is bronze, the second is silver and the third is gold. It is designed to teach children over a three year period the importance of healthy eating and exercise.
Jones finished his report stating that overall the school is doing very well with their inservice programs and their actively involved PTO is doing whatever is necessary to accommodate the students education.
The next agenda item was Emery High School teacher Andy Pollaehne. He reported his progress in instituting a field geology class with the College of Eastern Utah. This class will provide the students at Emery High the opportunity to take this class over a period of seven Friday and Saturdays to earn credit at CEU while still in high school. The students and their parents have been informed that the work missed in the other classes on Friday will be made up by the student.
The board questioned Pollaehne about the class and the supervision the students would receive. Pollaehne assured the board that these issues have been addressed with Jim Garrison from CEU, and all the bases have been covered. There will be chaperones on the field trips and river trips and the students involved have been informed as to what is expected of them.
Pollaehne also explained that the class meets the Earth Systems core requirement for high school. After some discussion on the value and benefits from the class, the board approved this class. Johansen requested a detailed follow-up report at the conclusion of the class to inform the board of the outcome.
Property held by the school district was next on the agenda. The district has acquired a tract of property in Elmo for possible future needs. The county has been cleaning up the area as there has been an excessive amount of garbage dumped at the site. Huntington reported that the property had been posted but that someone had destroyed the signs and the dumping has continued. Commssioner Hatch has informed Huntington that the county will no longer clean up the area, the school district will need to take responsiblity.
Sitterud reported to the board that the sheriff's office could not patrol and issue tickets if the property is not posted. The problem is the signs keep disappearing. Huntington said Elmo Town is interested in buying the property, but after discussion, it was agreed upon that the district is not interested in selling. The board did approve the measure to explore leasing the property to Elmo Town.
The early retirement plan was the next item of discussion. Huntington reported that he has met with five different groups of employees and explained the various options in depth. He reported to the board the comments and reactions of the employees. He then handed out a draft of a policy for the board to consider and discuss at the next meeting. The date for the next meeting was rescheduled to March 12 with a work meeting to be held at 6 p.m. for the board to discuss the measures before the regular meeting.
Jon Crawford, student services director, gave the annual report on core testing and SAT. Crawford handed out packets to the board containing the testing materials. He explained that students in the third, fifth, eighth and 11th grades are tested each year. Crawford explained that according to the test scores Emery is at or above the expected levels in all grade levels.
Crawford went on to explain the No Child Left Behind implementation. This policy simply states that by the year 2014, 100 percent of the students in the nation will be at mastery levels in all subjects. Sanctions and rewards for this program are still in the planning stages.
Superintendent Sitterud reported that at the current time there are four employees applying for participation in the early retirement program. He also reported that Singleton and himself had been to the legislative session concerning the tuition tax credit legislation. The legislation had passed the Senate and was moving into the House. The vote is expected to be close, so no predictions are available, but the governor has promised to veto the bill should it get to him. Funding issues are still undecided but that is to be expected as they usually come in the final days of the legislative session.
Superintendent Sitterud then distributed the current field trip policy and the proposed changes. These would be used to study to make the final decision. Johansen then commented about the chaperone policy. On a recent field trip for the high school, she had gone along as a chaperone because the teacher could not find adequate people to satisfy the policy. Had Johansen not gone along, some of the students would not have been able to go on the trip.
A short discussion of the current chaperone policy with the input of a bus driver in the audience, prompted Johansen to ask for more input from administrators concerning what is in the students best interest. The board tabled the decision on the chaperone policy pending more investigation.
Kathleen Truman and Shirley Spears from the Emery County Archives were next to address the board. Truman asked to be given a deadline date for the archives to vacate their current premises in a house owned by the district. She also presented the board with verification of improvements the archives had made to the building during their occupancy.
Huntington explained to the board the urgent need by the district to reoccupy this building for more classrooms and expanded classes. Applied Technology also needs more computer based classes. When the building was leased to the archives, it was understood by all involved that it was a temporary arrangement and the districts needs are immediate with respect to the space.
After some discussion, the board approved to set March 1 as the deadline for the archives to vacate the space. It was also decided to discuss the reimbursement amount at the next board meeting. Singleton announced the assembly with USS Indianapolis survivor, Woody James at San Rafael Junior High. Garth Johnson, principal at San Rafael Junior High expressed the irony of this visit coinciding almost to the day with their school losing an English teacher who has been called up to active duty. A question from a bus driver in the audience concerning health insurance was taken under consideration before the board adjourned into executive session.
The next meeting for the Emery County School Board will be March 12 at 7 p.m. at Huntington Elementary.