By Tim Ashley
SYRACUSE — Brent Berkeypile, principal of Wawasee Middle School, summed it up when noting “there are a lot of good things going on at Wawasee Middle School,” but in a brief report only a few things could be shared. He gave a report on a few of those good things during the regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee School Board Tuesday evening, Feb. 8, in Syracuse.
For the past few months the board has heard reports about each of the schools in the district. This month it was Wawasee Middle School’s turn.
Berkeypile focused on Tier 2 social and emotional learning interventions. More specifically, Tier 2 is for those students who are struggling or behind in their learning for various reasons. “We pull them into small groups and reteach them,” he said.
Teachers and other staff members refer students in need of Tier 2 to a committee that looks at the specific needs and then groups students together according to needs. Berkeypile said it is hard to measure how successful Tier 2 intervention is, but many of the students who go through it say they want to be in a small group again.
Angie Bontrager, seventh grade math and science teacher at WMS, talked about math interventions and said “we are seeing success translate into the classroom,” adding the students are getting more practice on their math skills during interventions.
A few National Junior Honor Society students at WMS also spoke and said students earning all A’s or B’s are eligible to become members but must be recommended and are required to perform community service of some type.
In other business, during the patron comments Rich Rhodes again spoke about his desire to see Warrior Field, the Wawasee High School football field, be renamed Harry J. Michael Warrior Field in honor of the World War II Medal of Honor recipient who grew up west of Milford. Rhodes read a letter from U.S. Rep. Jackie Walorski who is in support of renaming the football field.
Rhodes also read briefly from a few other letters, including one submitted by Harold Young, the principal of Milford High School at the time Michael attended there in the 1940s. Young offered condolences to the family after Michael was killed during the war. Another letter was from State Rep. Curt Nisly who supports the renaming of the football field.
Becky Tusing also spoke and said she disagrees with renaming the field, saying all veterans should be honored not just one. She suggested putting in some type of a tribute wall to WHS graduates who served in the military.
Also on the agenda, the board approved utilizing EduStaff to operate the substitute management system and Red Rover to operate the absence management system. Dr. Steve Troyer, superintendent of the Wawasee Community School Corporation, said trying to find substitute teachers especially since the onset of COVID has been a major problem. He noted on some days principals are teaching in classrooms or paraprofessionals must be brought in.
If classrooms can’t be covered by a teacher, they are sometimes combined. Utilizing EduStaff will at least allow Wawasee to draw from a larger pool of substitute teachers in the area.
During his report to the board, Troyer said the school corporation had 206 positive cases of COVID in January due to the Omicron variant, which easily was a larger number than most recent months. But he noted “it is crashing out as quickly as it came in” during February so far and the trend indicates things will return to normal soon.
Also during his report, Troyer talked about CARES/ESSER funding to schools from the federal government. The first round of CARES funds must be spent by September 2022. Wawasee received $380,014.64 and has spent $289,984.40. The remaining $90,030.24 will be spent on science of reading training for teachers, a partnership with the Bowen Center, after school remediation and more.
Troyer said it is often asked how much of the funding is actually helping students, but he said nearly all of it is such as for curriculum and resources, operational supplies, technology, stipends for staff and more. There is a button that can be clicked on the WCSC website, www.wawasee.k12.in.us, with regular updates on the spending of CARES/ESSER funds.
Other agenda items included (all approved by the board):
• Wawasee Early Learning Centers received the first round of Build, Learn, Grow Stabilization Grants totaling $54,800.
• Wawasee Early Learning programs received a $25,000 grant from the Dekko Foundation.
• Wawasee FFA received donations totaling $1,500 to enable students to attend leadership conventions.
• Wawasee High School super mileage team received a $1,000 donation from the Rosema Corporation of Fort Wayne.
• Shoop Sports & Youth Foundation donated $750 to the Boomerang Backpacks program.
• Wawasee Robotics received $3,500 in donations.
• Blackboard will be the new host for the WCSC website for a term of three years at a cost of less than $10,000. This will allow the number of pages used on the website to expand.
• The 2022-23 school corporation calendar will include a full week for fall break instead of only two days as had been the norm.
• School improvement plans will be developed during a summit June 1-2, in addition to being discussed March 1 during a meeting of building instructional leadership teams.