The Emery County Board of Education met in their regularly scheduled meeting on Jan. 9 at the Cottonwood Elementary in Orangeville. Board members present were Chairwoman Laurel Johansen, Rue Ware and Sam Singleton. Superintendent Kirk Sitterud and Business Administrator Ross Huntington.
The first item of business was the approval of the minutes from the previous meeting.
Dennis Jones, principal of Cottonwood Elementary was next on the agenda with the principal's report. He said, "We would like to thank the board for the new carpet in the upper hall and in two of the classrooms. This year we plan on carpeting three of the lower classrooms. We are doing great things at Cottonwood Elementary. The peer tutoring program is continuing with 5th graders reading with 2nd graders for the first part and then reading with 1st graders. Testing is done before and after and all of the second graders have increased their reading by one grade level.
"Linda Nelson and Teresa Jeffs are the two teachers trained in the CLIP reading program. They are able to CLIP at least two students each per year. It is a very extensive program that targets children who wouldn't be able to read otherwise. The students who have participated in CLIP are still reading on or above grade level three years later. Three teachers participate in the four block reading program. They trained at the service center during the summer. This program works on proven strategies and reading in the content area like math, science and social studies. It helps kids become active readers. It is an extensive reading program that builds comprehension in reading.
"The program helps students who can't remember or make sense of what they read. Comprehension is always an area of concern where test scores are low. This area needs development. Students need to attack reading and be able to relate it to themselves. They need to evaluate reading and making sense of questions and where to find answers. They need to use prior knowledge to help them assess their reading and understand better.
"Lori Labrum is in charge of the accelerated reading program. Lorraine Frandsen helps with rewards and activities. We have purchased the Utah Book Awards books for the students again this year.
"We have found the UPASS training to be beneficial and we have monthly meetings to discuss areas where kids are having trouble and target these areas.
"We have planted eight Olympic trees which were donated by the Olympic committee. We have 24 students going to the ski jump competition and 35 students attending the paraolympics. We will be presenting the governor's Olympic Program, "Light the Fire Within" at our school on Jan. 31 at 1:30 p.m. and again at 6:30 p.m. The students are practicing the songs for this program and preparing for it. On Feb. 1 we will be having our school Olympics. Each teacher will be assigned a different country and the students will be assigned a country. They will meet with the teacher of their country and learn about that program.
"We have ordered flags for the countries and the students will sit in the gym with their country groups. We will also have competitions like a ski race and give out medals. These activities are to help increase awareness of the Olympics.
"We have a warm and friendly atmosphere at Cottonwood Elementary and it is an enjoyable place to be," said Jones.
The comment was made that Cottonwood Elementary students sing the National Anthem each morning.
Johansen expressed her appreciation to Jones and the staff at Cottonwood Elementary for the great job they do.
J.J. Grant was next on the agenda with an update on the Olympics. Grant said, "I was appointed to be the district liaison for the Olympics a few years ago. The Olympic committee has done a marvelous job involving the students of Utah. They sent 12 students to the Nagano Winter Olympics and Mike Truman of Huntington was one of those who won a writing contest and went to Japan. They have held a number of essay and art contests for school children. One traveling exhibit was on display at the high school last spring. Some of the art work has been framed and will be on display at the Olympic Village. They have also donated trees to local schools which have been planted on the school grounds and also in communities.
"They have brought assemblies with hands on activities into the schools. I have one more meeting with them where I will pick up the tickets for the events. BookCliff Elementary is also presenting their Olympic program on Jan. 16. The Olympic committee had a lot of criteria for how the tickets were divided. Different categories were used and reports had to be sent back to the state on how the tickets were dispersed," said Grant.
Jon Crawford, director of student services was next on the agenda with test scores for the Emery District. He pointed out that students are tested in a variety of ways. Stanford Achievement Tests and Core assessments, secondary math and science, language arts, national assessments and direct writing assessments and a basic competency test are among the many tests students will take at various grade levels.
The purpose of all the testing is to interpret and use data which will help students become more competent. All of the school district's test results will be available on the state office of education's website. Hard copies will be made available upon request. Crawford pointed out that two indicators of how well students do on tests is socioeconomic background and teacher preparation. Language scores remain at a lower level statewide. Emery District is ahead of the state in all but five test subjects.
Superintendent Sitterud mentioned that he is pleased with the district's results and that they have remained competitive with the state. He said, "We still have work to do but our teachers are doing a good job preparing kids."
Johansen said, "The efforts are being realized and the teachers should be commended for their efforts."
It was mentioned that testing in the next couple of years might be done on line. Ross Huntington was appointed as the business administrator for the next two years.
The next item on the agenda was a request from Emery High to implement a new fitness program. Darrell Gardner said, "Fifty percent of kids are overweight. They have as much as 30 percent body fat and it's not good for them. This program is not targeted for the athletic population but for the average student. Everyone needs physical fitness. This is circuit training for strength and endurance. This plan elevates the heart rate at least three times a week for 30 minutes. The program is computerized and can tell each student their body composition and fat percentage. Teachers need to prepare kids physically for the world as well as in the classroom."
Singleton who participated in a trip to Richfield to check out their program said, "I was impressed with the program and the class participation."
Gwen Callahan, principal of Emery High, said they would like to make it a requirement that each sophomore take a semester of this class. After taking the class once they would hope that students would take it again later on in their school years after seeing how much fun the class is. Students are required to take one and a half credits of P.E. for graduation.
The fitness program includes a lease agreement with a company who provides the equipment. The school would pay the fee for lease of the equipment and then in turn be reimbursed by a nonprofit foundation for that lease fee. The only requirement being sending data to the company for analysis.
Huntington expressed his reservations about the program, he is concerned that if an offer sounds too good to be true it usually is.
It was determined that the school district would have their attorney look at the contract and make sure it is OK. The attorney would determine what if any risks are involved before a decision is made.
Callahan said, "We are looking at creating a student lounge which involves taking out a couple of nonweight bearing walls and removing Mr. Wagner's room, he will be relocated somewhere else in the building. The students have raised the money to buy couches and to furnish the area. This area of the school is the most congested and we feel opening this corner will be extremely helpful."
Ware requested a map of the proposed area and a more clear explanation of walls and rooms involved before making a decision.
Superintendent Sitterud said, "On Jan. 24 we are invited to the state capitol to meet with our legislators if any of you would like to go please let me know. Our 21st Century Schools have recently been notified that their bonuses for meeting their goals will be Castle Dale Elementary $16,500 and Ferron Elementary $20,880. The program is in its third year of funding.
"I have two requests from employees who wish to participate in the early retirement program. Randy Lake is a longtime bus driver for the district and Geniel Huntington, principal of Castle Dale Elementary." The board approved the requests. Johansen expressed appreciation for the service of these two employees.
Superintendent Sitterud informed the board of the $200 million shortfall in this year's state budget. He mentioned an e-mail from Pat Ogden at the State Office of Education concerning education cuts.
Huntington mentioned the school district would experience a shortfall this year of approximately $150,000 due to the drop in interest rates on investments. Projected interest rates of 5-6 percent are down to 2.5 percent creating this shortfall. The district will curb spending for the rest of the fiscal year but will not cut any staff. Sitterud said the district will be cautious with all expenditures.
Sitterud said, "The district performance report is being readied for publication and will come out soon. Over the next couple of years these reports will be done individually by each school. Letters have been sent to the Grand County residents of Green River so they can fill out applications for their students to attend school in Green River. This is being done so we can start collecting funds for those students from Grand County.
"Because of conflicts the school board meeting for February will be moved from Feb. 6 to Feb. 13. at Huntington Elementary. This change will need to be advertised. The honor choir is requesting board approval for an overnight trip to Provo," said Sitterud.
The trip was approved. Sitterud expressed his appreciation to the Emery County Progress for their coverage of school activities and support of the school district.
Singleton said he recently attended school geography bees and he has been impressed with the elementary students.