Planned in roughly a month and a half, admittedly staff members were just not ready to deal with 19 at-risk students for six weeks during the summer. But by the time the six weeks was completed, the outlook and attitude had changed for the better.
During the regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee school board Tuesday on the first day of the new academic year, the board heard a report about the Early Career Opportunities Summer Challenge program from Kim Nguyen, director of the Wawasee Area Career and Technical Cooperative.
The ECO Challenge was a six-week program held mostly at Wawasee High School and offered to at-risk students, or those not on the right track to graduate from high school on time. A total of 19 students entered the program and they were mostly middle school students or those entering their freshman year of high school. They participated in several programs during the challenge including robotics, agriculture, culinary arts, construction, photography and others.
Nguyen said the first week of the summer program was a huge challenge and stressful. “We really were not prepared for the students,” he commented. But as the ECO Challenge progressed, the students calmed down and became more engaged in the various programs.
He noted some students shared their stories of what their home life is like. “When you hear what they have to go home to, you can understand why they are not so successful in school,” Nguyen said.
Of the 19 students who entered the program, 12 made it through and each earned two high school credits. The other seven either missed too many days or had discipline problems.
Nguyen said he feels the summer program can encourage students to stay in school, hopefully help the high school graduation rate, close the gap between middle school and high school, open up scheduling and give students career opportunities to consider.
In other business, the school board heard a little more about just how federal health care reform will affect the school corporation. Jim Evans, director of finance for the school corporation, said paychecks can no longer be stretched throughout the entire year, including summer break, for support staff, or non-teaching staff. The measurement period for employees has been changed to Aug. 1, 2013, to July 31, 2014, and time clocks will be installed in all buildings for all non-exempt employees due to an increased need to keep track of employee hours.
Evans noted no longer being able to stretch paychecks will create challenges with overtime pay and hours will have to be more closely monitored.
Other agenda items included the Stat of the Month report from Dr. Bob Cockburn. He gave a brief report on Northwest Education Association, or NWEA, spring 2013 testing results. Wawasee is at or above the state percentile average scores in many areas, though Milford School in grades one through five was slightly below the 40 percentile scores in reading and math.
Other items included:
- Among the personnel recommendations approved by the board was the resignation of Don Harman, former WHS principal, effective July 31. Harman had been replaced as principal earlier, but has now effectively resigned from any employment with the Wawasee corporation. Wawasee Superintendent Dr. Tom Edington said he heard Harman was hired by a school district in southern Indiana.
- Wawasee Education Foundation grants awarded for this year include $1,000 for iPads for fourth-grade classrooms at North Webster Elementary; $250 for improving behavior through literature for third-grade at North Webster; $250 for explore and learn for third grade at Syracuse Elementary; $1,000 for a 21st century skills program for fourth-grade at Milford School; $1,000 for improving literacy skills through technology for special education students at Milford; and $1,000 for the ECO Summer Challenge at WHS.
For a more in-depth account of the school board meeting, see today’s issue of The Mail-Journal.