By Tim Ashley
SYRACUSE — “Financial wellness is a part of being healthy,” said James Flecker, director of finance and legal services for the Wawasee Community School Corporation, during the regular monthly meeting of the Wawasee School Board Tuesday evening, March 8, in Syracuse.
Flecker was giving a report to the school board on the Your Money Line program that will now be offered to all employees of the school corporation. The program was created by well known financial expert Pete the Planner and allows for direct contact with financial experts and personalized financial plans of action among other benefits.
Flecker said the financial experts for the program “don’t try to sell you anything extra” because they have no incentive to do so. He noted they “will jump right into your financial business” and offer needed recommendations. “If you are reluctant to discuss your finances, this is probably not the program for you,” he added.
He said he is excited to be able to offer the program because he feels the resources can help employees manage their finances better. The board approved the program for one year at a cost of less than $20,000, which is being paid for through approved funding that will not come out of the regular school corporation budget.
At the end of the one year the effectiveness of the program will be evaluated.
In other business, the monthly school report was presented by Milford School and included the publications and media class, the leadership class and the staff book club. The publications and media class interacts with other students and uses social media and a newsletter to keep parents and students informed about what is happening at the school.
“We use social media and other outlets to tell our story,” said Chris Gerbers, principal of Milford School.
The leadership class is involved with the Reading Buddies program where they read to kindergarten students, the 12 Days of Christmas and Christmas store, service projects around the school, a canned food drive and other projects.
“What we have noticed is the need to teach kids how to be the hands and feet of the community,” said teacher Peg Zimmerman, adding raising funds for the Riley Children’s Hospital is another project.
The staff book club is a way for teachers to meet with Gerbers and “have genuine, authentic conversations about education topics,” Gerbers said. A few teachers commented on the club and said it has been a good way for them to hear different perspectives and thoughts about education topics.
Also during the meeting the board heard a report from Jim Best, who has been the transportation director for the school corporation since December. Best has implemented some changes since taking over including changing some of the mapping for routes, having drivers now do walk throughs on their buses when students are unloaded at a destination and only allowing students to ride a route bus who are on a list of the riders (with some exceptions), among other changes.
One big change will be reducing the number of pick up and drop off points for students. He said presently some students are delivered to pick up or drop off point one week and a different one the next week. Best said he feels it is one of the biggest safety issues currently faced and “ends up being a logistical nightmare for buses.”
He admitted it will likely cause some parents to be upset but he feels it is important the change be made.
The board also heard a report from Dr. Shelly Wilfong, assistant superintendent, about 2020-21 NWEA scores and math and reading cohort groups for NWEA, an assessment tool utilized by the school corporation to track learning. Wilfong said the scores show more work is needed and also how much learning was hindered by the pandemic.
She noted it is important to understand the national norm scores are based on five to seven years of learning and don’t necessarily take into account how much COVID has impacted academic progress. Moving forward, she said staff will focus on understanding the data properly, realize one size doesn’t fit all, meet students where they are at, keep the focus on student impact and provide intentional and focused instruction.
During his brief report to the board Dr. Steve Troyer, superintendent, said new state department of health guidelines no longer require schools to do contact tracing for COVID, quarantining or reporting COVID statistics.
“What a huge relief this is,” he said. “Our nurses can be nurses again.”
Other agenda items included:
• Unified Sports received a $500 donation from a local autism support network.
• Wawasee Robotics received three donations totaling $2,000 from Protech Marine, Via Credit Union and Powell’s Property Care.
• Wawasee Athletics received a $1,500 donation from the Wawasee Basketball Support Group.
• A pilot program was approved and Wawasee will utilize FEV Tutor to provide online one-on-one tutoring for some third to fifth grade students. The school corporation is purchasing 100 hours of tutoring, which will be done virtually and enable teachers to focus on other groups of students in need of assistance. The pilot program will last about four weeks and may be utilized further if it is shown to be effective.
• The board approved entering an agreement with the Four County Counseling Center to offer another option for mental health services in addition to what is offered by the Bowen Center.