Board tables K-6, 7-12 restructuring

CES Principal Nicole Singer, CMS Principal John Davis, CHS Principal Austin Couch and Superintendent Steve Darnell have been researching the idea of a restructuring project for several months by looking at the models of other K-6, 7-12 configured schools and also attending conferences such as the Professional Learning Communities (PLC) Conference. They also held several meetings involving staff, students, parents and community members. 

The first phase for SG schools, if reconfigured, is as follows:

* Shift to Elementary and Junior/Senior High resulting in K-6 and 7-12 buildings

* Shift MS principal to Jr/Sr high school assistant principal in charge of student services

* Appoint a new assistant principal at the elementary level using funds saved through restructuring of selected positions

* Restructuring of certified and non-certified staff assignments with no loss of personnel but likely change in responsibilities 

* Reassess utilization of physical space for classrooms and offices

* Researching the implementation of an alternate schedule in the Jr/Sr High

CMS Principal John Davis has been working with CHS Principal Austin Couch to identify factors that put students “at-risk,” beginning at the middle school level and continuing on through graduation. Some of the risk factors include poor attendance, disciplinary referrals, failure on standardized testing and “F’s” on report cards. Davis noted that the ISTEP passing rate is between 78 and 80 percent, which is above state standards, but also means that 20 to 22 percent of students fail. With the proposed restructuring, Davis said he would be reassigned as a counselor or mentor for at-risk students and keep them from falling through the gaps. 

“Hopefully we will make a difference and give kids a hope that they can succeed,” he said. 

Staying on the topic of success and failure rates for ISTEP scores, CHS Principal Austin Couch noted that the restructuring would offer time and space to benefit all students. Advanced Placement (AP) students would benefit from 80 minute classes, while at-risk students would have special mentoring times. 

“We will be enhancing what we already do well,” Couch said, “bolstering the 80 percent and pushing for the 20 percent.” 

In addition to academics, Couch said the District needs to take a proactive approach in restructuring to designate space for various programs, such as Navigation 101–a careers and college program–and to become ADA compatible. 

At the elementary level, Principal Nicole Singer said the restructuring will allow for character education and peer mediation beginning with fifth graders and continuing into the sixth grade. Singer noted that sixth grade students have a higher leadership capacity and could mentor younger students. Davis said many parents share concerns that their children just aren’t ready for the independence and structure of middle school at the sixth grade level and often have a difficult transition. 

To conclude, Couch said the time is now to restructure. 

“If we keep doing the same things over and over again, we’ll get the same results. We’ll be good, we’ll be adequate, we’ll be better than average on a lot of things,” he said, “but why not be better? Why not be the beacon for the entire area? Why not have other schools look at us and go, ‘Wow, look what they’re doing. They took a chance.'” 

Noting that SG has the time and resources to reconfigure, Couch called it the “perfect storm.” “It’s all coming together, we can make this work.”

Calling the reconfiguration an “opportunity,” Davis added, “What we’re really trying to do is make a difference for those kids who are at-risk. If we’re not in this business for what’s good for kids, then we might as well just give it up. I don’t see how we can put this off if we want what is best for kids.”

After the presentation, Board members shared comments and concerns.  

The administrators agreed that the majority of staff and parents are mainly concerned about logistical issues, such as space and scheduling, rather than learning and curriculum issues.

“The space is there,” Couch said, “we just haven’t done well with how we’ve delegated that space.”

School Board President Tanya Young said she needs to see three years of data from schools who are configured K-6, 7-12, including graduation rates and ISTEP scores. 

“I believe it is the right thing to do, but I’m missing information tonight,” she said. 

Board Vice President Cathy Petrie presented concerns about space in the elementary since reports indicate a possible increase in enrollment in the next few years. Petrie said it is not the time economically to ask taxpayers to pay more to make possible building additions to allow for more space. 

Board member Rick Trump said although he is supportive of the restructuring, he still has some questions and concerns regarding the plans and thus motioned to table the issue for a few weeks. With the motion, Trump proposed a Board/Administrator retreat to discuss the plans, in addition to taking the plans to the Strategic Planning Committee. The Board will hold a special meeting, with a date yet to be determined, to make a final decision. 

In other Board news: 

* CHS Senior Zane Sade was honored as the “Spotlight on Success.” Throughout his high school career, Sade has maintained high academic performance in combination with his numerous involvements in extracurricular activities. Sade is involved in New Era and NE12, CHS’s select a capella singing ensemble. Sade was recently awarded as a National Merit Commended Student, which puts him in the top five percent of students nationally on his PSAT. In addition, he scored a “5” on the AP Chemistry Exam and a 141 on the InView test for High Ability, which is a perfect score. Sade plans to major in music after high school. 

* CHS Science/Chemistry teacher Jim Folland was named Teacher of the Month for his tireless work in preparation and delivery of material and for giving freely of his time to students at all levels. CHS principal Austin Couch said, “This recognition comes not only from staff members, but from students. Several students have commented that he is the hardest teacher in the building. Those same students nominated Jim because of those challenges. He epitomizes how to challenge students and gain respect while nurturing the drive for life-long learning.”

* Athletic Director Lee Etzler presented a list of winter lay coaches for which the Board approved 5-0.

* Girls Basketball–Head Coach: Jamie Perlich; Varsity Assistant: Justin Snyder, Lay Coach; JV Coach: Denny Bucler, Lay Coach; 8th Grade Coach: Molly Snyder, Lay Coach; 7th Grade Coach: Larina Spieth, Lay Coach; 6th Grade Coach: Jessica Wright;

* Boys Basketball–Head Coach: Michael McBride, Lay Coach; Var.Asst.: Phil Brackmann, Lay Coach; JV Coach: Jon Pelz,Lay Coach; JV Asst: Jody Herendeen, Lay Coach; 8th Grade Coach: Tom Mercer, Lay Coach; 7th Grade Coach: Tim Herendeen, Lay Coach; 6th Grade Coach, Doug Pence, Lay Coach; 6th Grade Volunteer Coaches: David Keister and Dean Geiger, Lay Coaches;

* Wrestling–Head Coach: Sam Riesen; Asst. Coaches: Randy Dreibelbis, Rick Hamilton and Andrew Zolman, Lay Coaches; HS Vol.: Jake Riesen, Lay Coach; Middle School Head Coach, Joel Barrett, Lay Coach; MS Assts. Brad Knapp and Daymon Schinbeckler, Lay Coaches;

* High School Cheerleading–Head Coach: Carla Horne; Asst. Coach: Melissa Shearer; Lay Coaches

* Middle School Cheerleading–Head Coach: Emily Polakovic, Lay Coach;

* The Board accepted grant funds of $600 from the Noble County Foundation and $150 from HANDS to be used for the CES Study-A-Country Program. CES Art Teacher Jill Bontrager applied for the Celebrating Diversity grant through the Noble County Foundation. She has requested the funds so all of the elementary students would be able to experience the Egyptian culture through many activities during the Study-A-Country Program.  

* CHS Principal Austin Couch recommended seven new course offerings, including Career Planning and Success Skills, Medical Intervention, Biotechnical Engineering, Early Childhood Education, Construction/Building Trades, World Geography and Personal Finance, for the Board’s approval. The first five courses are vocational and would generate over $100,000 for the school district if taught by vocationally licensed teachers. World Geography would meet the history graduation requirement and Personal Finance would be required for all sophomores to meet the graduation requirement.

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