Details on activities in Jefferson City that could potentially impact the Monett R-1 School District were among several reports offered at the regular February meeting of the Monett Board of Education.
Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann said state legislators are considering many of the same issues that surfaced at the last General Assembly. The elimination of tenure, fixing the Foundation Formula and vouchers or tax credits for private schools will again move forward. Jungmann said educators will watch what form the issues take.
The State Board of Education voted to proceed in seeking a waiver from the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Jungmann said the education community remains somewhat anxious over increased requirements the state will have to take on. Changes in teacher evaluation and assessment procedures are not yet clear.
A letter from the City of Monett indicated increases in electricity and sewer rates would be phased in over the next two years. Jungmann said the district has been fortunate to have stable utility rates in past years and would watch the situation closely.
Power issues change over time. Jungmann said the introduction of laptop computers for every high school student may result in a considerable energy drop. Unlike traditional computers, the laptops do not remain plugged in all the time, and many are charged at home.
Jungmann distributed copies of an initial energy audit report of the R-1 District to search for ways to save. Board members took the report for study and discussion for the next two months.
Russell Moreland, director of the Southwest Area Career Center (SWACC), described a new strategy for helping students graduate. Most vocational technical schools have begun imbedding credits in math and communication arts into class work.
Moreland explained that students pick up specific skills in core subjects in the process of learning their vocational skills. Giving writing credit for building a personal resumé or a construction manual provides a handy boost for students who may struggle in a regular classroom setting.
In some schools, the only chance to earn a strategic commucation arts credit falls at the same time as SWACC classes, Moreland said. With imbedded credits, students will not have to sacrifice technical training to keep up needed course work.
Board members received an update on the district's technology program. Director Jerry Swadley said input from members of the technology and instructional team provided insight into how well the expanded use of technology has helped education.
The program has gained strength through the "One to the World" program decreasing the number of students having to use a single computer unit. Student interest and creativity has increased. Internet bandwidth has increased as well.
Technology expectations for teachers have been better articulated. Even primary grade teachers have greatly improved their technology expertise, Swadley said.
Professional development practices have included a greater use of technology, Swadley said. The school administration has further helped through leading by example.
The technology staff has used the resources of SchoolDude as a problem solver and a way to organize efforts. Swadley said continued use has helped his staff better identify security threats and email scams.
Swadley saw the need to continue putting more technology in primary grades and training young students to use the devices.
Internet bandwidth needs monitoring to see how much is actually needed. Installing the new wireless system for the intermediate and middle school campuses will be needed as the district looks at expanding its "One to the World" initiative down to the middle school level.
Technology staff will need additional training in newer technologies, Swadley observed. Time management becomes more crucial as staff deals with more machines and meets the needs of users.
Swadley asked board members to consider getting a second member of the technology team certified in Apple hardware to help with repairs.
A review of the preschool program was provided by Sarah Garner, assistant principal at Monett Elementary. Garner said the goal of the program is to prepare at-risk students for the academic challenges of full-day kindergarten.
The program "engages students in learning activities that increase vocabulary skills, develop emergent literacy and early math skills and concepts, facilitate social-emotional growth and builds fine and gross motor skills while fostering a love of learning," Garner said.
Eighty children participate in the preschool program, paid for through federal Title I. Students either attend a morning or an afternoon session taught by three teachers and two para-professionals.
Staff use the Dial 3 screening tool to assess student skills. The information shows whether early childhood special education may be needed and which students may have the greatest need for support offered through Title I. Year-end screening also offers a way to measure the progress each child has made are areas still needing attention.
"The information allows the school to create a balanced class in kindergarten," Garner said.
Average percentile scores for students entering preschool was 24.4 percent. Garner said spring assessments last year showed average percentile scores of 49.2 percent. Garner said the big gains reflect readiness in kindergarten.
Experienced staff are able to collaborate to improve teaching and learning, Garner said. Their professional training enables them to better utilize strategies that strengthen the program. Staff provide a ratio of one educator for every 10 students, maximizing the learning environment.
The staff investigated different Title I curriculums at the encouragement of Assistant Superintendent Brad Hanson and chose the Emerging Language and Literacy curriculum as the best fit for Monett's diverse population. Training is scheduled in April and May in Rolla.
Garner said all-day preschool remains a major need for working parents. Many take students from Head Start to Monett Elementary. A more streamlined arrangement would have positive benefits for students and result in higher enrollment for those who lack mid-day transportaion.