PIERCETON - Eight second grade students of Bill Rhodes opened the Whitko Community School Board meeting to a rousing chorus of “The Stray Dog,” accompanied by Rhodes on the guitar.
Superintendent Steve Clason talked about three education-related bills under discussion by state legislators.
The “calendar bill” would start school the Tuesday following Labor Day and end it no later than June 10, still allowing local districts to determine vacation days.
"The superintendents say, if they’re going to start and end it, just make it a state-wide calendar," Clason said.
The calendar bill and a proposed law regarding school board election times both reduce local control.
Currently the local district, and other school board districts, has decided to hold school board elections during the May primary. The proposed law would move school board elections to a November general election.
“The feeling is those who vote in the primary are more aware of the different school board candidates,” Clason said.
The third bit of legislation Clason talked about was the school budget for the next two years, which now looks like a “flat-line” for schools.
In employment actions, Bruce Hansen was advised he is now the principal at South Whitley Elementary School and his two year contract was approved. Hansen has been interim principal since the beginning of the school year.
The board also accepted Erik Hisner’s resignation as the Whitko High School boys’ head tennis coach.
The following people were hired: Abby Spurlin, PES technology assistant; Ruth Romeo, PES Title 1 assistant; Nicole Watson and Sarah Bechtold, SWES teacher assistants; and Stephanie Campbell, PES office assistant and recess and lunch supervisor.
Hansen gave his building report noting that the student assessment tests – MAP, DIEBELS and AIMsweb – were underway.
He said four staff members would attend the Indiana Conference on Learning in Indianapolis, January 25, to participate in strategies that work and to receive a "Top Gainer" school award.
The Mizpah Shrine-sponsored trip to the circus is January 28 this year and will include fourth graders and third graders because the trip was cancelled last year due to weather conditions.
The Whitley County Spelling Bee is Feb. 3 at 5 p.m.; the FRIENDS Volunteer Mentor event is Feb. 7 from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. and the annual father-daughter dance is Feb. 11 from 6 to 8 p.m.
Two teachers assistants were hired for third grade class rooms.
More than 60 applications were received for a Title 1 assistant position. Hansen commented that many applicants were certified teachers seeking this assistant’s job.
SWES began to pass out Bulldog Bones Awards as part of a Positive Behavior Intervention and Supports (PBIS) program.
PES principal Barb Ihnen said the Winter Literature Theatre is coming soon along with the Afternoon Rocks, a 12 week after school program designed to prevent drug and alcohol use.
PES also hired a Title I assistant and replaced the office assistant.
Ihnen said a committee will meet to discuss high-ability student needs; the school will host a Poetry Alive program brought by the Honeywell Center and a Mad Cap Science show sponsored by Whitley Forward.
At the middle school about 70 students enjoyed a ROAR rewards night, according to principal Jerry Klausing, which included a movie and getting the kids “liquored up on sugar.”
“There’s no supervision problem with these kids," Klausing said, "and they fall all
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over themselves to help out."
Whitko Middle School’s ROAR program rewards positive behavior and students with 10 reward slips are treated to the awards night.
"The eighth graders are too cool to come to the awards night," Klausing said, "but they put their slips in at the end of the year for the grand prize of an iPod."
Two students are using the APEX system - courses programed into a computer - to study certain subjects. One has a special education label, Klausing said, and basically he doesn’t do well with someone hovering over his shoulder. The computer-guided courses "have opened up the material for him."
A high ability seventh grader is using APEX to learn at a high school level.
"This really opens up questions about who can really benefit from APEX," Klausing said. "We’d like to get the money from someone and expand it to the middle school."
Principal Parrish Kruger said the Indiana High School Athletic Association ruled that the high school doesn’t have to count Pierceton Woods students unless they participate in athletics.
Whitko is currently has the smallest student population of the 3A schools and could go to 2A where they would be the largest school.
Finance officer Tom McFarland said the students wanting to play soccer will be under the $80 Pay-to-Play umbrella. Gate receipts are figured to be enough to cover officials’ pay and transportation. The coaches will be volunteers.
A social media policy is being drafted for school employees, according to Clason. One of the main questions of the policy is whether or not a teacher, with a Facebook account, say, should "Friend" a student. And, if a student is a designated friend and writes about an illegal activity, what the teacher’s responsibilities to report the comment are.
The next school board meeting is Monday, February 21 at 7:30 p.m.