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November Site Council Minutes

by Debbie Berges

November 21, 2011

U.S.D. #322 Site Council Minutes
November 2, 2011

The Site Council for U.S.D. 322 was called to order by Jeanette Eisenbarth, Chairperson, at 6:35 p.m. in the school library on November 2, 2011.  These present were Jeanette Eisenbarth, Randy Kufahl (Board of Education representative), Robin Kolterman, Dan Peters, Blake Behrens, Debbie Berges, Mary Pennington, Hillary Koch, and Amy Spoonts.  Guests were Marshalla Allen and Jeri Gerek.  Introductions were made.  Minutes had been previously approved via e-mail.  Debbie reviewed the highlights of those minutes.  Jeanette asked if everyone was in agreement to post their e-mail addresses on the Site Council on the District web site.  All present were in agreement, noting this as a way for patrons to contact a site council member with a concern or a suggestion.

Under old business,  the current status of MTSS (Multi-Tiered System of Supports) in the district was reviewed by Amy Spoonts for the grade school, Jeri Gerek and Marshalla Allen for the junior high school, and Blake Behrens for the high school.  Intensive training with Susan Bechtel for a team of teachers from the District was held last school year, getting ready for implementation of the program this school year.  At the current time, MTSS is in place for reading only, with the process to be implemented for math in the future.  A third strand of MTSS includes behavioral objectives.  MTSS is highly research based.  MTSS is highly recommended by the Kansas State Department of Education, but not yet required.

Amy explained that all students are pretested, placed in skills groups based on these pretests, instructed, and then progress monitored to see if the skill has been mastered.  If the skill has been mastered, the student moves onto another skill and with perhaps a different group of students and the cycle repeats itself.  Students are placed in three tiers of skill groups:  Tier 1 is for students who are basically on track for their grade level and benefit from a higher level of instruction in a skill group; Tier 2 are for students who need a little extra support in mastering a skill; and Tier 3 are for those students who need intensive skill instruction.  Generally Tier 3 skill groups are small so the student can receive more individual instruction; however, the size and number of groups depends upon the staff available at any given time in the day.   Every child in grades K though 5 receive  two hours of reading instruction per day (to include reading, spelling, phonics, writing) an thirty minutes of intensive reading instruction targeting very specific skills Monday through Thursday with progress monitoring on Friday.  Decisions in the entire process are data driven.  When asked if all teachers supported the program, Amy responded that all teachers K-5 were on board with the program.  They are excited about the successes they are seeing in the reading skills of students with this one-on-one attention, especially the struggling readers.  Data sheets are kept on all students.  There is a need for collaboration time to work with the student data being collected.  When asked how the teachers are finding time to cover all other subjects, Amy responded that all subjects are still covered, but less time is given to them, especially those which are not part of the AYP (Annual Yearly Progress) accreditation.   Teachers are more selective in the information they indentify as crucial for students to learn and give this instruction first.  Projects are still a part of the curriculum.

Mrs. Gerek and Mrs. Allen explained the similarities in the MTSS process to the elementary process.  The same type of pretesting is done using the AIMSweb, placement in skill groups, instruction, and post-testing.  Intense instructional levels include small groups for phonics, fluency, comprehension, and enhancement groups.  MTSS groups are five days a week for thirty minutes.  Progress monitoring is done within the skill level groups with large group reading screening done three times a year.  The next large group screening will be in January.  The main goal to the junior high MTSS reading program is that all students will become fluent readers and comprehend at grade level.  The biggest challenge to the program is scheduling and having sufficient personnel for the various skill levels.  Both certified staff and paras are used to meet the needs of these groups; however, paras cannot legally be in charge of a group of students without a certified staff member being in the room unless the para has a least 60 hours of college courses or an Associate’s Degree.  In Junior High, all subjects are still offered, only Study Hall has been taken from the schedule.

Mr. Behrens explained how the high school is using Learning Link and the A+ program to meet the high school students’ needs to intensive instruction in both math and reading.  Each student is pre-tested and through this computer-based program given an individual prescription for their instructional needs.  This “prescription” is equivalent to the Tier system in the grade school.  All high school students are receiving individualized instruction two times a week during Seminar.  Upon achieving a certain level of competency, the student receives an “apple” which is traded in for a ticket.  “Tickets” may also be given by staff members who observe a student doing a spontaneous random act of kindness.  Once a certain number of tickets s is earned, the student may exchange these for a certain privilege such as preferred parking spot.  Thus, the behavioral side of MTSS is tied into the high school program.  A+ is for the Tier 1 and Tier 2 students.  Tier 3 students receive direct instruction for their deficits rather than the computerized instruction.

Mr. Behrens explained how A+ can be used in numerous other situations, such as helping students catch up on credits, take courses they are interested in, and study for ACT exams.

Both the grade school and the junior high teachers expressed frustration over the scheduling of classes.  Several high school teachers help with MTSS at both the elementary and junior high levels.  With the sharing of several staff members, including paras, when some schedule are based on the traditional 50 minute class and other schedules are based on a block scheduling, it appears to limit the options available to all levels of instruction.  Many staff members have had to learn new skills, perhaps outside their comfort zones, in order for the MTSS program K-12 to be successful.  Randy summed up the MTSS program in this way, “This seems to be a program that is addressing the reading needs of students who have gotten by not reading. This finally seems to be a program to provide opportunities for a future whether it is further education or the job world.”  It was noted that MTSS is skill-based whereas the State Assessments are a summative assessment with terminology being a large part of being successful.  State Assessments this year will reflect some of the Common Core Standards which will fully replace the present tested standards beginning 2013-2014 school year.  Common Core Standards will drive certain curriculum changes within all school districts in the state.  According to the Kansas Department of Education “Common Core State Standards provide a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn, so teachers and parents know what they need to do to help them.  The standards are designed to be robust and relevant to the real world, reflecting the knowledge and skills that our young people need for success in college and careers.  With American students fully prepared for the future, our communities will be the best positioned to compete successfully in a global economic.  The Standards are for 21st Century Learning where teaching and learning combine a discrete focus on  21st century student  outcomes with innovative support systems to help students masters the multi-dimensional abilities required of them I the 21st century.”  A focus will be on problem-solving and performance assessments.  How many of us demonstrate knowledge in our jobs by taking a multiple choice test?

Debbie shared that the District collects all brands of printer cartridges, laptop computes, cell phones, GPS systems, and digital cameras to send into the Funding Factory.  In exchange, the school earns points (or cash if they prefer) to buy items needed by the school such as new head phones.  The community businesses and members are encouraged to recycle these items through the school.  Debbie coordinates the program.

In other school activities, the grade school is involved in the annual pull-tab collection for Ronald McDonald House in Topeka.  Although the pull-tabs are sold and generate funds for the Ronald McDonald House, the collection is ore about creating an awareness of how the RMH benefits families when a medical crisis with a child confronts a family.    The used book sale at Parent Teacher conferences was a huge success with over 300 books being sold.  

Friends of USD#322 have funds available upon request by staff members for needs that the school budget is not set up to meet.  It was suggested that contact information be posted on the Friends web site which is found under the USD web site.

The biggest project currently facing the Board of Education, according to Randy, is the Trane Audit which includes a roof replacement, upgrades in lighting, heating and air.  Renovation of the track is being considered.  It was pointed out that the District has one bond payment left and then it will be debt-free.   Randy noted that more needs to be done in the search for grants and grant-writing.  Hillary indicated she would be willing to help with grants.  Randy also shared that there is now a U.S.D. #322 diploma based on the required state-mandated credits.  A student must qualify to be considered for this diploma which is for students who have not had the opportunity in their four years of secondary education to get the required credits.  A situation like this might be a result of changed schools frequently.  With the U.S.D. #322 diploma, a student does not get to walk across the stage at graduation with the other students who are receiving a full Onaga High School diploma.  

Lisa Trostle, Title I teacher, will be holding a parent awareness meeting on Thursday evening.  The goal of the parent meetings is to provide information to parents on how to best help their children be successful learners.

With no further business, the meeting was adjourned at 8:30 p.m.  The next meeting date was changed from January 4 to February 1, 2012.  

Minutes submitted by Debbie Berges, Secretary

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