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USD 234 awarded early childhood grant

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The USD 234 School District will have a little extra to add to its coffers, thanks to a $212,486 Early Childhood Block Grant from the Children's Cabinet and Trust Fund. The grant is intended to be used for a myriad of programs revolving around early childhood education, including professional development for staff and kindergarten teachers, parental education and the Literacy First instructional framework.

The district worked through Greenbush and the Family Resource Center to prepare the grant application. Greenbush will serve as the fiscal agent for the grant.

The original proposal included Bourbon, Cherokee, Crawford and Neosho counties, but the Cabinet singled out USD 234 from the original application.

During its regular monthly meeting on Monday, the U-234 board also heard a report on the Interventions program at Fort Scott High School from English and reading teacher Jane Campbell. Campbell gave a heart-tugging recap of the academic progress and emotional ties that have been forged between struggling students and the roughly 20 FSHS students who have volunteered their time to tutor others.

Four teachers were selected as instructional coaches for the implementation of Literacy First, an instructional framework the district is adopting.

Campbell will work with FSHS instructors Stephanie Witt at Fort Scott Middle School, Marianna Daugherty at Eugene Ware and Melissa Tatro at Winfield Scott Elementary.

Tracy King, FSHS computer teacher, and Brian Weilert, FSHS debate and forensics teacher, illustrated the use of Edmodo, a Facebook-like application that allows teachers to communicate assignments with students and allows students to turn in assignments. The application also can be accessed by the district and parents and has a variety of features that allow students to interact with their teachers.

Superintendent Diane Gross told the board she has been working with Jan Hedges, a mentor for first-year superintendents. She also shared the district's actions and communication following incidents in the district after the Newtown, Conn., school shootings and informed the board that KOAM-TV will be interviewing staff members as part of a project the station is doing on school safety.

Gross also shared the findings of the Kansas Learning Network's Needs Assessment Report, which showed there was a "significant achievement gap" between the lowest performing 30 percent of students at Eugene Ware and the highest performing 30 percent of elementary students across the state. According to the report, Eugene Ware saw a decrease in students who met standards, exceeded standards or were at the exemplary level.

The report also said there was a decrease in the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards in both reading and math.

However, the report did include several district-wide commendations, including general optimism about recent transitions in leadership, improved communication, parent and community involvement and professional development initiatives. Commendations were also noted for Eugene Ware, including a positive culture for students and staff, highlighting students' work and teachers who have been well received by various groups.

In other business, the board:

*Approved a grant for an Apple iPod Touch and accessories for Eugene Ware from DonorsChoose.org.

*Approved a $2,500 grant from State Farm Insurance for a teen driving safety program.

*Approved $16,500 in donations for a new scoreboard at Frary Field, which included $400 (Kale Nelson), $500 (George Hudiburg), $600 (State Farm), $5,000 (Cheney Witt), $5,000 (Citizens Bank) and two incremental donations totaling $5,000 (Mercy).

*Approved the resignation of Curt Toll as Fort Scott Middle School track coach.

*Approved employment of Carolyn Thorpe as a preschool paraeducator; Erik Yoakam as a winter conditioning coach at Fort Scott High School; Ken Klassen, Whitney Dauben and Jared Martin as FSMS basketball coaches; Ronette Center as a FSMS gymnastics coach; and Bob Johnson as a FSHS forensics coach.

*Approved a maternity leave of absence for Kelsey DeMott, Winfield Scott paraeducator.

*Approved an early retirement request from Patty LaRoche, FSHS speech and drama teacher, effective at the end of the 2012-13 school year.

*Approved letting of bids for a new activity bus.

*Approved a request from Business Manager Susan Brown to explore options for refinancing bonds with Piper Jaffray, an independent financial analyst.

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