The USD 234 board gave overwhelming support to Superintendent Diane Gross' request for a district-wide instructional framework.
The program, called Literacy First, has proven successful in Arkansas City, Emporia and Liberal. After seven years of implementation, Literacy First saw a 36 percent increase in the number of students performing at the "Meets Standard Level" or higher in Arkansas City. After four years, Emporia students improved their numbers by 13 percent and Liberal increased its numbers by 12 percent in just two years according to information provided by Debbie Whitfill, director of school partnerships for Catapult Learning, the firm which offers the Literacy First program.
Gross and Whitfill were quick to point out that the program is not another reading program, but rather a district-wide approach to training teachers in all courses for the best learning outcomes possible.
Whitfill's description of the program paints a picture of students having a more active role in their own learning, versus the lecture-oriented classes so many are familiar with.
Gross said the program will fit seamlessly with the transition to Common Core Standards and provide consistency across the district. The program offers coaching and support for administrators and teachers.
Gross admitted that though expensive, the funds are already in place.
The first year of the program would cost the district $77,400 for the 2013-2014 school year, followed by $75,000 for 2014-2015 and $48,800 for the third year.
"I'm not going to lie. It is expensive," Gross said. "I'm not going to try and skirt the issue. But I look at it as an investment, because I know and I feel confident."
USD 234 Business Manager Tiffany Forester said the funds are already in place under Title II (money used for training, recruiting and preparing educators) for this year. She also said there should be enough Title II funds even after anticipated funding cuts from the state for the following year. After the first year, some of the funding may be shifted to Title I funding.
Whitfill told board members the program has been implemented more than 300 schools in the past 18 years. Gross said one of the positives is that it offers instructional strategies for both successful and struggling students.
After reviewing the success of the Arkansas City schools, trustee Justin Meeks was quickly on board.
"These numbers are shocking," Meeks said. "This is worth millions of dollars if that is the kind of numbers we are going to get."
In other business, the board:
*Accepted the resignations of Amanda Metcalf as Fort Scott High School assistant softball coach and David Brown as FSHS assistant track coach.
*Approved employment of David Brown as FSHS assistant softball coach, Pam Brown as District Wellness Coordinator, Dakota Hall as FSMS wrestling coach and Brent Malone as FSHS assistant freshman girl's basketball coach.
*Approved maternity leave for Rachel Pommier, Winfield Scott paraeducator; and approved a leave of absence for Jacqueline Jordan, Winfield Scott paraeducator.