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Data wall tracks students accomplishments, needs

A “data wall” that tracks student reading ability was the highlight when the New London School Board met off-site at Parkview Elementary School.

Board members, Parkview principal Jo Collar, school psychologists and others crowded into Collar’s office on Monday, April 22, to see the data wall and learn how it helps staff track student accomplishments and needs.

A card for each student, color-coded to indicate grade from kindergarten through fourth, hangs on a board under a number from 1 to 30 to indicate where each student fits in the Rigby Reading Assessment.

There’s more to the cards than meets the eye.

One third grader, who, staff said, was managing behaviors so that learning could take place, had advanced from level nine to 21. A first grader’s card hung among a crowd of second grade tags – the younger student was reading well ahead of first-grade level.

The data helps staff see who needs extra help, who’s working ahead of grade and needs added challenges, and how each class as a whole measures up to state requirements.

Although the names on the data wall cards are confidential, students in this data-driven generation are interested in their own numbers and proud of their individual progress, according to staff.

Transportation and Activities

The board approved another one-year contract with Kobussen Buses. The vote was 5-0, with board members Virginia Schlais and Jeremy Gorges absent.

Under the $98,900 contract, the Fox Valley bus company provides a transportation director from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, and a part-time office assistant for 25 hours a week.

The transportation director coordinates discipline with principals and is in charge of supervising and evaluating bus drivers.

Bus drivers are district employees, and the district owns 33 buses. There are 26 bus routes, according to Joe Marquardt, director of business services, and 40 drivers.

The work day is roughly from 6 to 8 a.m. and 2:30 to 4:30 p.m.

“It’s a hard spot to fill at times,” Marquardt said. “We are going to continue to struggle finding drivers.”

Before the vote, he asked board members if they wanted to consider contracting for full transportation service from an outside company.

“Kobussen has a much deeper pool,” of both drivers and additional work for them – such as field trips, Marquardt said.

He conceded that drivers for an outside company might earn less than the $18 to $21 an hour the district pays.

“When you give up local control, are you getting better?” board member James Auer asked.

Scott Eggart provided the board with a brief report on each extra-curricular activity – not including athletics – offered by the district.

He estimated later that there are about 35 activities, some with paid co-curricular positions and others with teachers volunteering their time as advisors. Activities emphasize academics, arts and humanities, and service.

“The staff really took this to heart,” said Eggart, athletics director and assistant principal for grades 10-12. He described the reports as advisors taking pride in “this is what I do for kids.”

Extra-curricular activities are a big draw for open-enrollment students, according to Eggart.

Girls’ swim, for example, is “huge for us in open enrollment,” he said.

There are other benefits.

Studies show that “kids involved in these things do better academically,” Eggart said.

He suggested that the district pay varsity assistants and let fundraisers provide money for equipment, calling it a “need vs. want” situation. Currently, most varsity athletics have assistants, who are paid a stipend from fund-raisers.

“Supervision is so important,” he said.

Board president Keith Steckbauer noted that there is a thorough evaluation of coaches and wondered if a similar assessment was done for advisors involved in the fall musical or other non-athletic activities. The musical, he noted, has a budget like sports.

The board asked Eggart to gather more details about extracurriculars.

Other business

• School psychologists Jessica Rice and Amy Menchl gave an overview of the Response to Interventions program, which they said would be ready to go by September. The program aims to identify the need for early intervention in academic or behavioral areas, as well as student needs for enrichment opportunities. The program is district-wide.

• The board authorized the issuing of teacher contracts for 2013-14. The contracts guarantee a job for the next year at no less pay than this year, according to Fitzpatrick, who said new wages had not yet been negotiated.

• Board officers were re-elected on a single unanimous ballot, 5-0. Officers are Steckbauer, president; Kim Schroeder, vice president; Schlais, clerk; and Connie Neely, treasurer.

• The board and administrator discussed possible changes to update the employee handbook for the 2013-14 year. No action was taken on handbook wording related to topics as wide-ranging as drug testing, felony convictions, retirement eligibility and holiday pay.

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