By Al Owens
Meeting in regular session Monday night the Lewis County Board of Education began by electing officers for the year. All the current office holders were quickly re-elected so Joe LeMaster remains board chairman, Jack Sapp vice-chairman, Maurice Reeder Jr. secretary and Joe Kennedy treasurer.
The board learned that the Boys and Girls Club of Lewis County will begin this week. The school district is providing after school transportation for the program.
The club is a joint effort between the Lewis County Fiscal Court, the Board of Education and some of the local churches.
Reeder said, "Hopefully this will give some of the kids around here a place to go and something to do other than what they've got right now."
Reeder added that Michael Kennedy is in charge of the program.
The superintendent told the board that he had hoped to report that so far this school year the district has missed no school days but water is over the road in six or seven places and right next to the road in several others and school was called off Monday and Tuesday. He said the water usually goes down rather fast but this time he understands that won't be the case with more rain in the forecast for the week, but he expressed hopes that school could resume on Wednesday.
Principals of two of the elementary schools attended the meeting to give progress reports on their efforts to improve education in Lewis County in order to meet the goals set by the state and the No Child Left Behind initiative of the federal government.
Jerry Bloomfield, principal at Laurel Elementary, told the board that Laurel had ordered the KASC Toolkit on Gap Analysis in October 2004 and had used that kit and the data from two early release days to review all the assessment data from school testing. The kit helps discover the learning gaps between different categories of students.
Bloomfield reported that no significant learning gaps exist at Laurel. However, the educators did identify some areas for growth. The girls perform at a higher level than the boys in the area of the Arts and Humanities. Social studies was also identified as an area for growth.
He listed several programs that have been implemented to help the students improve. They include the Arts and Humanities Toolkit, the Econ and Me Program, Math Trailblazers for the fourth and fifth grades, the Connected Math Program for the sixth grade and the "Reading and Writing Connections To Teach Idea Development" program in grades four through six.
Bloomfield said that the staff conducts scrimmage activities weekly and will do so until testing begins. CATS Blitz will be conducted just prior to testing.
He said that staffing changes have been made to enhance student achievement and instruction, and grades four through six have been departmentalized. Primary students are regrouped as needed to address individual needs.
Bloomfield pointed out that the staff works in conjunction with Mary Campbell, the State Reading Coach for the Reading First Program, and with Belinda Forman to administer the Grade Assessment in Kindergarten through the third grade. Campbell also helps the school develop strategies to ensure that all students in the Primary Program meet with early success.
He stated that as principal he monitors instruction on a daily basis. Scrimmage activities, open-response, on-demand writing and the writing portfolios are monitored on a weekly basis.
Mildred Richardson, principal at Garrison Elementary told the board that all the teachers at Garrison participated in the two one-half days of released time last October. Their data analysis identified several areas of concern.
Their research addressed the gender gap in learning because the girls out perform the boys. They also looked at differentiation of instruction to find ways to meet the needs of all of the students.
The data analysis revealed that in all areas of content the students score much lower on open response questions than on multiple choice questions. The students, therefore, need to be taught a method to write proficiently and above on open response answers.
The analysis showed that students need more hands on activities in science, and they need to be more active learners in all academic areas. Also critical vocabulary needs to be taught to students in all content areas.
Richardson said that the gap analysis showed a gender gap where the girls perform better than the boys in Arts and Humanities and in Practical Living and Vocational Studies.
Brown/Lewis County Herald
Members of the Lewis County Central
fourth, fifth and sixth grade cheerleaders performed a routine recently
during a tournament at the Lewis County Middle School.
She added that comparing free and reduced lunch students to non-free and reduced lunch students showed gaps in reading, math, science, arts and humanities and in practical living and vocational studies as well.
Richardson elaborated on her school's plans for improvement. They include training all teachers in grades four through six in reading-writing connections in order to teach idea development for open response questions to the students. They were also trained to teach and model the four column method using a step-by-step approach to ensure students can make connections and elaborate on ideas. Teachers are using strategies from the book "How Boys and Girls Learn Differently".
The Math Trailblazers program is being used in grades four and five and the Connections Math Program in grade six.
The school is also setting high expectations for the students and is making the students aware of their goals. The Reading First program is being implemented in the primary grades and History Alive is being used in fifth grade social studies.
Garrison is also using the KET toolkits for drama and dance in arts and humanities.
Richardson informed the board that for the third time Garrison Elementary has been selected to participate in the National Achievement Education Progress testing in math, reading or science. She said the school perfectly fits the demographics the state is looking for and studying.
She closed her presentation by saying that the school is doing a lot of new things to improve education and to help the students achieve at a high level and reach their goals.
The board turned to some annual and routine business matters and took care of them rather quickly.
The board retained the same place, time and date for the monthly board meetings and approved that decision.
The board also approved the semi-annual report of the District Comprehensive Improvement Plan that simply informs the state on what the district is doing to improve education in order to meet the schools' goals as set by the state.
The board approved the annual staffing allocation formula. Reeder said that the formula is based on the class cap size and varies in the elementary schools but is set at a 24 to one ratio in the secondary schools.
The district report card was approved. Forman told the board that the report will be put on the state's school web site as well as the local web site and will be published in the local newspaper.
The board approved the draft budget for the 2005-2006 school year. This is the first of three steps in setting that budget.
Reeder explained that without the legislature setting a budget for the state setting a draft budget was a lot of guesswork. He did point out that expenses are increasing and funding is not.
Reeder said that natural gas, gasoline and electricity costs will all increase in addition to a state mandated but unfunded mandatory three percent raise for all employees. That employee salary increase alone will cost the local district about $300,000 more than this past year. He said the only way the district can meet that budget is to make some more cuts.
Regarding the one percent raise this year he said that everyone will get their money but they will not all get it at the same time due to the different schedules between 12 month employees and those that work only nine and a quarter months of the year.
The board approved the annual non-resident contracts. Again all the surrounding districts have an any and all contract except Mason County that has a one for one contract.