By Tim Ashley
SYRACUSE — Some students don’t necessarily have problems requiring discipline, but rather have social or emotional issues that can prevent them from being in the right frame of mind to do well academically. The Wawasee Community School Corporation has placed greater emphasis on dealing with those issues in recent years.
During the regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee School Board Tuesday evening, Feb. 9, in Syracuse the board heard a report about the 5 Star program being utilized at Wawasee Middle School. Presenting the report were Brent Berkeypile, principal, and Drew Graber, assistant principal.
Berkeypile noted “Disciplining these kids is not the right thing to do because they are just not in the right frame of mind.”
Staff at WMS began researching programs that deal with social and emotional learning and discovered the 5 Star program. “The great thing about 5 Star is it originated in Elkhart,” Berkeypile said. “We have resources to use right in our back yard.”
He said academic achievement is the ultimate goal of schools, but social and emotional issues can get in the way of learning. And when the coronavirus pandemic hit last year, it was decided the 5 Star program would be offered to all students in the school.
The program is built around the core values of respect, responsibility, courage, sacrifice and integrity. There are four seasons for the 5 Star curriculum and Graber noted the school is in the first season. He said having a growth mindset, dealing with social anxiety, respecting yourself and your education, overcoming trauma and suicide prevention have been among the topics covered.
Graber noted in a typical week, 5 Star is implemented three to four times first thing in the morning. There is a journaling process students go through, discussion time and a weekly reflection time.
A short video was shown and a few WMS teachers noted the program has helped students to open up and be more willing to discuss challenges they face. A few students said 5 Star has made them realize there is help available and others may be going through the same problems they are facing. The program has also been a positive encouragement and can result in improved self-esteem.
Berkeypile noted it is a big part of the school’s improvement plan. Seth Maust, president and executive director of 5 Star, referred to as “Coach Seth,” will be visiting WMS in person Feb. 26.
In other business Dr. Stephen Troyer, superintendent of the school corporation, said 24 students and 13 staff members tested positive for COVID-19 during January and there were 168 total quarantines. But the trend recently has been more encouraging and the positive test rate has dropped considerably. He said the state department of health will no longer require quarantines if masks are worn at all times by students, they remain forward facing and stay 3 feet apart from others in classrooms.
Troyer requested a special school board work session be held at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, March 3, at a location yet to be determined where he will present his “state of the school” report to the board.
He also thanked Mike Snavley, director of transportation, for his years of service. Snavley will retire from the school corporation effective March 2 and has accepted a position in the private sector.
Other agenda items included:
• Wawasee High School student Nyla White was recognized for being chosen to receive a Lilly Endowment Community Scholarship. Samantha Kolberg was also presented the scholarship and was recognized at the January board meeting.
• WHS teacher Traci Henn was recognized for being named the Indiana Council for Exceptional Children Special Education Teacher of the Year. It was also announced she has chosen another position outside the school corporation and is resigning effective Feb. 19.
• The Phillip Fawley Scholarship was reopened after a $1,000 donation was received from Nancy and Larry Stoner. Fawley was a language arts teacher and the scholarship had been closed in 1995.
• Wawasee High School’s super mileage car team received donations of $3,000 from Sally Mahnken and $500 from Main Channel Marina and the money will be used to update and modify one of the super mileage cars.
• Syracuse Church of God donated $500 to be used for the clothing closet at the high school.
• WHS basketball players Kameron Salazar and Ethan Carey were recognized for exemplary behavior during the Jan. 15 game at Mishawaka.
• Former WHS gymnastics coach Nika Prather received the NLC Outstanding Service Award Jan. 26.
• Korenstra Family Foundation donated $10,000 to the school corporation to be used by building principals as needed and also for the DECA program at the high school.