Tech committee strives for effective use at schools

    Going forward with technology in Holyoke School District Re-1J, the tech committee is focused on effective use of materials, as explained by Holyoke JR/SR High Principal Shane Walkinshaw at the Nov. 19 meeting of the board of education.
    The district purchased the book “Learning First, Technology Second,” and committee members are using it to guide the district’s efforts as they go forward with technology.
    Walkinshaw explained the book’s emphasis on engagement, enhancement and extension.
    He also noted that the professional development piece is key as they split teachers into their individual levels of technology comprehension (beginner, intermediate and advanced) to get a baseline on moving forward.
    Superintendent Kyle Stumpf added that the district’s Student-Centered Accountability Project review challenged the staff to use technology to enhance learning.
    Walkinshaw said the staff has taken that to heart. He referenced the sound teaching strategies in the book that are about more than just technology. “We have a great start so far,” he added.
    In a Leadership Team report from chairperson Angela Powell, Stumpf reviewed the goals and visions for 2018-19.
    The overarching question driving the Leadership Team work this year centers around how the S-CAP, curriculum and visible learning tie together to reach the district’s goal of “graduating every student with the necessary knowledge, skill and character to find success in life.”
    The team is working to ensure that the district curriculum is vertically aligned K-12, and is utilizing and supporting work with visible learning. The district is also focusing its work on the key components that were addressed in the S-CAP review last spring.
    Sample drafts for more staff time to work toward the goals and visions will be proposed for the school calendar.
    
Principals give updates
    Turnouts at recent parent-teacher conferences, enrollment statistics and events were among the topics addressed by Walkinshaw and Holyoke Elementary School Principal Andrea Kammer in their reports at last week’s board meeting.
    Kammer cited a 94 percent overall turnout for K-6 parent-teacher conferences last month.
    She praised a behavior expectation matrix created by the staff, adding that a discipline matrix will be created to match the expectations. She said the staff believes it will have great success with this tool after the discipline piece is in place.
    She reviewed upcoming testing timeframes and noted that a high school FBLA project group will start teaching fifth-graders the lessons for Rural AmeriTowne.
    Keeping an eye on class size, Kammer noted that there are currently 311 students in grades K-6. The smallest classes are second grade with 36 and kindergarten with 37. The largest class is first grade with 52 students.
    She emphasized the value of staff helping regular classroom teachers to divide into more reading groups for each K-4 grade level.
    Walkinshaw cited a total enrollment of 252 in grades 7-12. With 46 students, the junior class is the largest, and the seventh-grade and senior classes have the fewest students with 39 each.
    Overall, there are a few more males than females in grades 7-12, and 25 percent of the students receive support services, including English Language Learning, Individualized Education Plans and Response to Intervention.
    Looking ahead to next year, Walkinshaw said the upcoming seventh-grade class will become the largest at Holyoke JR/SR High.
    Over eight periods in a school day, 147 classes are offered, with between 17-21 classes per period. Most classes are under 20 students per class.
    This year’s turnout for parent-teacher conferences was right at 50 percent, which was down from last year, according to Walkinshaw. He cited weather as a potential factor for the drop in attendance.
    In addition to conferences, he noted there was financial aid and Free Application for Federal Student Aid help from presenters in the school library.
    
Sample policies reviewed
    In further policy review at last week’s meeting, Stumpf led the board through discussion on policies dealing with accountability/commitment to accomplishment, evaluation of superintendent and administering medications to students.
    Second-reading policy approval was given for two new and two revised policies that passed first reading at the Nov. 6 meeting.
    First-reading approval was given for two new policies on students in foster care and parent notification of employee criminal charges and for five revised policies on safe schools, homeless students, drug and alcohol involvement by students, administering medications to students and administration of medical marijuana to qualified students.

Board meeting times addressed
    Board meeting times for December and January were addressed for changes at last week’s meeting.
    The regular December meetings on Dec. 4 and 18 will be canceled. The board will meet Wednesday, Dec. 12, at noon for a formal recap of the previous year’s audit and to set the mill levy for 2019.
    In January, there will be no meeting Jan. 1, and the Jan. 15 meeting will be conducted as a board retreat. Potential retreat topics were presented, including superintendent’s evaluation, development of junior high/middle school concept, facilities needs, next year’s calendar and goals.
    
Other business
    In other business Nov. 19, the school board:
    — Approved First Pioneer National Bank for the lease-purchase agreement for two new buses.

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