When kids begin kindergarten, they aren’t all cut from the same mold. “They come to us at all stages of development,” said Diana Parker, Title I coordinator for the Wawasee Community School Corp.
Parker, instrumental in writing a grant that was eventually awarded by the Dekko Foundation, gave a presentation to the Wawasee school board during its regular monthly meeting in Tuesday. Dekko awarded a grant to the Wawasee district in the amount of $113,000 in late August 2011.
The grant has been used to help kindergarten teachers deal with new common core state standards being implemented. It has meant the way kindergarten is taught has to be redefined. A kindergarten coach, Kim Conrad works part-time to support and help teachers. Professional development to include teachers attending conferences is also part of the grant.
As part of the common core standards, more of an emphasis has been placed on encouraging students to work together to develop problem solving and thinking skills. Professional development for teachers has also focused on how they can better encourage child development.
Challenges have included the fact the 2011-12 school year had already started before the grant was awarded. Also, some teachers have half-day kindergarten classes, while others teach full-day classes. It has also taken time for teachers to change teaching methods and to build trust.
But, Parker noted, teachers are striving to work together and seem to be more willing to explore the new teaching methods for encouraging childhood development.
In other business, the board approved resolutions to issue bonds for construction projects at Milford School and Wawasee Middle School. The roof needs replacing on the elementary portion of Milford School, while some driveway and masonry work, lighting panel upgrades, replacing air units for the gym, enclosing the media center and other work will be done at WMS.
Estimated cost of the projects is $985,000. The board also approved permission to bid for the projects. Jim Evans, director of finances for the school corporation, said the bonds will likely be sold in 2013 and the tax impact would occur in 2014.
He estimated the tax impact would be a 49 cent increase per $100,000 of yearly assessed valuation for a home.
Traci Henn was at the board meeting and said she appreciates the efforts to keep the tax rate as low as possible for the Wawasee district, but she and her husband have a home on lakeside property and are concerned about the amount of taxes they already pay.
“I can see both sides of this (bond issue), but we already pay a lot in taxes and I don’t want to see people with lake homes having to get out of their houses because of paying too much in taxes,” she said.
Mike Wilson, school board president, said there is fine line when balancing the need for school building projects and trying to keep the tax rate as low as possible. “Sometimes we need to spend money along the way or there could be a much larger bill later,” he said, referring to improvements needed for school buildings.
The board also approved bids to be issued for roof work on the administration building, Wawasee Academy and the career and technical education building on the high school campus. Capital projects funds already included in the budget will be used.
In other business, the board approved the name for the alternative school, Wawasee Academy, to be changed to Wawasee High School Center for Academic Progress. Mike Schmidt, assistant principal for Wawasee High School, said there is still too much of a negative connotation with the name Wawasee Academy. “People still think all the bad kids go there,” he said, adding some of those kids are sent there but most go for other reasons.
Also on the agenda, superintendent Dr. Tom Edington requested the board approve federal education jobs funds, part of the stimulus package, be used to give one-time payments to some employees who are not full-time and would not otherwise get any pay increases. The board approved one-time payments of $250 be given to employees who work up to six hours per day and one-time payments of $500 for those working six to eight hours daily.
Edington noted the funds must be used by the end of December and must be used for salaries. Payments will also be given to some teachers “who otherwise wouldn’t get an increase due to longevity,” he said.
Edington also briefly discussed the letter grades issued by the Indiana Department of Education to public school districts. He noted the state released the information to school districts, then pulled back the information, re-released the letter grades then pulled them back a second time.
The information won’t be released to the public until a later date and the state extended the deadline for appeals until Oct. 24.
For a more in-depth account of the school board meeting, see today’s issue of The Mail-Journal.