By Liz Shepherd
WARSAW — School safety and dyslexia training initiatives were the key topics of Warsaw Community Schools’ Board of Trustees meeting on Wednesday, June 8.
The combined work session and regular board meeting featured a brief update from WCS’ Assistant Superintendent of Elementary Education Dr. David Robertson on a county-wide tabletop drill, which took place in Winona Lake prior to the school board’s meeting. The purpose of the event was to provide an opportunity for county schools, law enforcement agencies, fire departments and medical services to plan for a coordinated response to a school-based emergency. Over 150 individuals from more than two dozen agencies attended the drill. Plans to hold the drill first began in March 2020.
“It was a really powerful day,” said Robertson. “We grouped agencies geographically together and were ran through an active threat incident at one of our schools. It’s extremely timely. This plan began over a year ago, but the events in the last couple weeks have made it specifically important. We’re going to continue these drills and continue active plans together.”
Title I Instructional Coach Megan Smith and Assistant Superintendent of Secondary Education Dr. Dani Barkey updated the board on dyslexia training initiatives occurring within WCS’ elementary schools.
Smith said dyslexia affects up to 20% of the general population.
“This is a very common disability,” said Smith. “Of our students who have been identified with learning disabilities, this affects about 80% to 90% of them. We’re talking about a large population of students, so we want to do our due diligence to make sure that we’re serving them and helping them be successful in school.”
This year, Smith said WCS adopted the use of a dyslexia screener through NWEA. Through that screener, 24% of students were flagged as having possible risk factors for dyslexia or other reading difficulties.
Smith said WCS has 44 educators who have volunteered to go through the dyslexia scholarship program to become certified in recognizing dyslexia.
“They will walk away understanding brain-based literacy and be certified dyslexia specialists within our corporation,” said Smith.
She also estimated the school district will have about 59 educators certified by the beginning of next year.
In other business, WCS Director of Human Resources Sheila Howe said the district is still actively hiring support staff. This includes paraprofessionals, bus drivers, custodians and food service positions. All starting pay is based on years of experience. During a May meeting, WCS’s Board of Trustees approved a 5% increase in support staff wages, which will take effect on July 1.
Howe said the HR department is actively working to distribute a flyer on the different components for the new starting wages for various support staff positions available at WCS.
Online registration for the 2022-2023 school year for new and current students is also still open. Parents can register their children online and are encouraged to contact their child’s school or the WCS central office for assistance. Families can also seek assistance for registering their children for school at Combined Community Services’ Tools for School event on Aug. 3 at the Kosciusko County Community Fairgrounds.
The school board will have a combined work session and regular meeting at 4 p.m. Wednesday, July 13, at the WCS central office.