D-W approves school improvement agreements

The DeLand-Weldon school board has approved two measures aimed at helping the district improve its educational opportunities – and its state report card test scores. The agreements with the Regional Office of Education lay out plans that are required because two of its schools received under performing grades from the state.

But for Superintendent Amanda Geary, it’s about much more than better test scores, although that is what the district is required to accomplish in the next four years.

For her, it’s more about using the $120,000 extra in state funds that comes with improvement plans to make D-W a better landing spot educationally for students.

“This is an opportunity, and we’re going to flourish now. We’re not sitting back and sulking, and we’re not saying ‘oh, goodness look how we have been marked,’” said Geary. “The minute we got these (scores) we started talking about what we are going to do.”

Middle and High School Principal Matt Goldman feels the process has brought the best out of administrators and staff, providing more urgency to the area of improving as a school district.

“We’re always looking to improve as an organization, but it’s made that a priority. To sit down and look at the things that are working, and emphasize those, and what are the things that need improvement, and what can we do? It’s made that a priority, pre-k through 12,” said Goldman.

At the Feb. 12 school board session, a work plan for school improvement was approved, along with an agreement with the Macon-Piatt County Regional Office of Education to provide help with the endeavor.

The plan also outlined how the $120,000 will be spent, with $33,000 going to purchase Achieve 3000 to improve literacy. It is a program that can be used in any classroom, regardless of grade.

“It will put each student at their own level. This is also something teachers can use in their classrooms in science and social studies,” commented Geary.

Another $33,000 is earmarked towards supplemental supplies and materials, instructional interventions, visual aides and books for the middle school, which was given a lowest-performing tag in last year’s state report card. The elementary school was in the under- performing category.

Other uses for the influx of state funds includes: $4,000 to fund a professional development day prior to the start of the 2019-20 school year; $15,000 for the regional office to serve as the district’s improvement partner, and $7,000 for Forecast5 Data Analysis.

Geary is excited about the data portion of the improvement scheme, which will provide more precise figures about the effectiveness of programs in the district.

She also sees students doing their part by taking a larger part in their learning, including a more collaborative classroom style as opposed to the lecture-style model.

“We want them to feel like they are in charge of their learning. A lot of times the focus is the teacher, and we need to remember to put some of this back on the learner, too. It can’t always just focus on the teacher,” she said. “We want to be a community of learners.”

Other improvement activities include bringing in a specialist to help the district compile its own writing curriculum, and the possibility of more time for teachers to collaborate during monthly early student dismissal days.

Expectations for parents
Alleged outbursts from two parents at a recent boys basketball game pointed out the need to provide consistency between policies spelled out in the athletic code and school board policy manual, Geary noted at the Feb. 12 school board meeting.

She said the incident involved cursing and the throwing of glow sticks, but that both parents had apologized.

Geary added that an updated policy may eliminate the parental appeal process, since it is usually not possible to get an appeal called before the entire board in a timely fashion.

Energy service contract
Laura Weber of GRP Mechanical asked the board to be considered for a performance contract that is under consideration to pay for improvements that could include roof repair, parking lot drainage and surfacing, and restroom remodels.

The district has been working with a different company, Enjie, which provided a review of the district for free before the board issued a request for proposal.

Weber pointed out her firm helped the district complete a $2 million project in 2015 that included the installation of air conditioning, exterior brick repair and new windows.

“We also have the ability to self-perform,” said Weber, noting GRP can accomplish a majority of tasks in-house. “That helps cut out some layers” and can lead to lower prices, she added.

In other action, the board:
–Congratulated high schooler Wyatt Summers for winning the Outdoor Recreation division at the Section 16 FFA Proficiency Awards. He advances to the District level in March;

–announced spelling bee winners. Jackson Dunn, last year’s countywide winner, placed second at county this year and advances to the regional bee March 16 in Decatur; and

–was informed that security cameras on district buses have been repaired. Geary said new cameras may be needed next year.



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