Thursday, May 28, 2009

School lunch survey

This month, the Board of Trustees appointed a group of parents, students and staff to serve on the school lunch committee. The committee met last evening. Members include: Kim Monk, Kelly Porter, Becky Kopf, Nancy Becker, Sherrie Tilleman, Becky Pickard, Sammy Sperber, Tauna Tyler, Jan Hasfurther, and me.

The goals of the committee are to:
  1. develop a parent and student survey to determine attitudes regarding the lunch program.
  2. Analyze the results of the questionnaires.
  3. Make recommendations to the Board of Trustees in July for possible implementation.
The surveys will be sent home with elementary students on Friday. Secondary parent surveys will be mailed home today. The survey has also been posted on our web site on the home page. Your feedback is very important to the success of this endeavor. Please take a few minutes to complete the survey and return it to school by Monday.

The students will take a few minutes next week to complete their surveys in class. Results of all surveys will be available on our web site and will be presented to the Board in July.

The genesis for this committee came from the increasing financial deficit the school food service program generates which has a direct impact on the funds available for academic instruction. Next fiscal year the district will transfer $34,000 to the food service program to eliminate the deficit. Ironically, $34,000 is the amount a beginning teacher earns! Previous studies, using food service consultants and Idaho Department of Education Nutrition Program program managers, have been conducted.

The cost per plate has been analyzed, menus have been scrutinized, labor has been reduced, breakfast has been dropped, portion control has been emphasized, lunch room atmosphere has been improved, entree options for secondary students have been offered and other steps have been taken to control costs. It is obvious that the only way the program can break even is with increased participation. Currently we hover around 50% participation. We need at least 70% to have a chance to break even.

Please complete the survey and return it promptly to school to help the committee formulate suggestions for Board consideration which may increase participation. Thank you for your help.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Thank you for your support

On behalf of the Board of Trustees, administration and staff of the Genesee School District, I want to thank the community for once again supporting quality education in Genesee through the passage of the supplemental levy.

Your trustees worked very hard during the past five months to listen to all stakeholders regarding their desires for the Genesee School. Cutting a budget, and subsequently reducing the levy, created difficult choices that had to be made. The highest priority was to minimize the educational impact on students. After making some difficult choices, the trustees were able to reduce the budget by 5.8% and achieve their goal of continuing to offer a high level of educational programs for children.

The current budget does create some challenges but together we can continue to provide the high level of service you have come to expect. Again, thank you for the opportunity to serve in a community that values education.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Classified Employees - Backbone of the School

It is easy to think of teachers when you think about a school, but did you know about all of the classified employees who create the conditions for student success? We have bus drivers, bus mechanics, instructional aides, a technology coordinator, cooks, secretaries and clerks, custodians, and maintenance personnel.

Many of these valuable employees are the first and last school people your child may see during the day. It is the bus driver who first greets your child in the morning and the last to say goodbye in the afternoon. Our bus drivers hold commercial driver's licenses with additional training in school bus procedures. In addition to their annual training, they are under similar rules as truck drivers in that they must have periodic substance tests and have limits placed on the number of hours of driving time. Our transportation supervisor and bus mechanic keep all of the buses in working order. This includes inspections every sixty days plus a full annual inspection. Safety is our highest priority in transporting students. School bus transportation is the safest method of transporting students; even safer than parents driving their own children to school.

Our instructional aides provide numerous services for students and other staff members throughout the school year. These individuals provide one-on-one and small group instruction under the supervision of a certified teacher, recess and lunch room supervision, and individual speech therapy under the supervision of a contracted speech-language pathologist. Each of our instructional aides must meet the high standards of the No Child Left Behind act which includes at least two years of college and/or passing an extensive battery of general education assessments.

Our technology coordinator provides essential services to keep our computer systems operating for the benefit of staff and students. In addition to maintaining over 200 computers, a large bank of servers, and many peripherals, he insures that we meet state and federal law, such as the Children's Internet Protection Act. Then there are software updates, repair of hardware and future technology planning. The services of a qualified technology coordinator have become critical in school today. We are fortunate to have an individual with a bachelor's degree in information technology with extensive education experience.

Our cooks arrive early daily to prepare meals for the students. Before a meal can be prepared however, they must plan the menu which includes meeting federal nutrition guidelines. Our kitchen operates under similar rules to restaurants and employees must have on-going training so that we meet all of the requirements. The cooks are also responsible for inventory and budget plus serving meals to students.

When you call the school, you are likely to be greeted by a member of our secretarial staff. The secretaries in the school office must answer the telephone, communicate via radio to the bus drivers, provide band aids for students, call home when students are ill, and maintain student records including data entry. Their duties can include student supervision, helping teachers enter their grades, maintaining the student database, tracking purchase orders, accounting for student body account funds, paying bills and much more. The Clerk of the Board handles all Board business including minutes, elections, legal advertising and documents plus she is responsible for accounts receivable, accounts payable, and payroll. She also handles our attendance reporting, federal grant reports and helps the superintendent complete his work.

The District employs two full-time and one part-time custodian. These people work hard each afternoon and evening cleaning the school and conducting maintenance so that the building is ready for children and staff every morning. During holidays and summer break, they conduct heavy cleaning and maintenance so that the facility will last well into the future. Recently, they have been conducting additional sterilization to protect against the swine flu.

Facility maintenance requires significant expertise to keep all the sophisticated systems operational and safe. These include the HVAC system which is computer operated for efficiency, electrical, plumbing, refrigeration and other mechanical systems. Much of this work must be conducted during non-school hours in the evenings or on weekends to minimize the disruption to student learning. Grounds maintenance, including snow and ice removal and landscape maintenance, is another important aspect of this department. We want patrons to be proud of their investment in their schools.

As you can see, we have a myriad of classified employees working hard to support our important work and make school a safe and welcoming place for our students. You may not always see them or their work, but understand how important their contributions are to the proper functioning of an effective learning environment and say thank you when you get a chance.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Retirements and new staff

We have been very busy with end of the year activities in school and at the district level. The legislature finally concluded their session and we have been working our way through preparation of the final budget.

We have several staff members retiring this year:
  • David Aiken, 7-12 science teacher
  • Karen Hagen, Instructional Paraprofessional
  • Loretta Stowers, K-12 Principal
  • Sue Bull-Pelfrey, School Psychologist
We wish them well in their retirement. It is well deserved. Mr. Aiken has been teaching science and math to students in Genesee for 29 years! Mrs. Pelfrey has been with the District for 20 years as has Mrs. Hagen. Mrs. Stowers has been with the District for eight years.

Along with retirements, comes the need to hire replacements. With Mr. Caldwell moving into the 7-12 Principal/AD position, we hired Kristen McMullin as his replacement. Ms. McMullin recently earned her master's degree in music education from the University of Idaho. She student taught at Genesee School several years ago. Originally from Rathdrum, Ms. McMullin brings continuity and new ideas to our well respected music program.

Casi Allington, a recent graduated of WSU, has been hired to teach 7-12 science. Ms. Allington student taught at Garfield-Palouse this spring. Originally from Wyoming and more recently from Spokane, Ms. Allington comes very highly recommended by her colleagues at Garfield-Palouse and her college supervisors.

We hope soon to fill the School Psychologist and instructional paraprofessional positions. We have been fortunate to have good pools of candidates to select from which can be difficult in science, music and school psychologists. We like to think that the positive reputation of the Genesee School and education-minded community helps us to attract the best and brightest to teach and work in Genesee.

Goodbye Dave, Sue, Loretta and Karen. Hello Kristen and Casi.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

School District Bus Garage and Shop

In June, we will be doing some remodeling and construction at our bus shop and garage. This important facility was originally constructed in 1912 and added on to in 1960. Since that time, our buses have gotten larger and taller. We can no longer fit our new buses into the shop portion of the building for maintenance and it is a tight squeeze to get all of them parked inside due to the width and height of the garage doors.

The proposed work includes installing wider and taller doors into the parking garage. Infilling the windows with masonry to meet current code since they are on the property line. We will tear down the shop bay which is on the east side of the building and rebuild a new shop on essentially the same footprint. The new shop will be stick-built and will provide a taller and wider access door and comply with current codes.

The project goes out to bid this month and we hope to begin construction in early June. The estimated time for completion is four months.

The financing for this project comes from the interest earned on the bonds during construction of the school addition. The District earned $208,150 in interest. The cost of this project is expected to run about $150,000.

Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Preparation by 8th Grade Critical to College & Career Readiness

According to a recent study by ACT, The Forgotten Middle, students who are not on track for college and career readiness by eighth grade are unlikely to attain that level of readiness by high school graduation.

Essentially, the academic achievement that students reach by the eighth grade has a larger impact on future success in college or a career than any other single factor. This includes high school courses taken, grades in high school and even socio-economic factors such as gender, household income or race.

The report indicates significant implications for the our economy. "The skills necessary for entry into the majority of the fastest-growing jobs that require a high school diploma and offer a livable wage are comparable to those needed for success in first-year college courses." The President of ACT Education Division, Cynthia Schmeiser, noted that high school-level interventions which could include taking more rigorous courses, studying harder and earning higher grades in high school would certainly help but the fact remains that eighth grade students will have a very difficult time making up the lost ground.

Many middle level students have not developed adequate academic skills and attitudes that foster this readiness. In other words, junior high classes matter! It is that simple. Students cannot wait until high school to begin school in earnest, they need to have continual achievement from early elementary through their high school careers.

The report makes the following recommendations:
  • Focus K-8 standards on the knowledge and skills that are essential for college and career readiness and make these non-negotiable for students.
  • Monitor student progress toward college and career readiness beginning in upper elementary school and continuing through middle school and intervene with students who are not on target.
  • Improve students' academic behaviors (homework compliance, attendance, and other aspects of academic discipline).
  • Increase federal and state support for intervention programs that help all students become ready for college and career.

Monday, May 4, 2009

May 5 - Teacher Appreciation Day

May 5 is Teacher Appreciation Day.

We have outstanding teachers in the Genesee School District. They are well qualified, appropriately state-licensed and highly qualified as defined by the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Perhaps, more important, our teachers, and all of the staff who work for the school district, care about students and our community.

These are dedicated employees who work hard to prepare all of the students for success. Being a public school, we do not have the opportunity to select our clients. We take everyone who walks through the doors and work diligently to provide each student with an education that meets the needs of the individual student and society.

American schools, and thus our educational professionals, are often compared to those from other countries such as Japan, India and China. One huge difference between our educational system and their systems is that ours is egalitarian. All students attend the same school regardless of innate ability and knowledge. In the United States we believe all students can learn and all students must learn to insure that our democracy flourishes. In public school, we do not send the brightest to one school and the average to another. We want them to learn together so that, as a society, we can all share in the benefits of our democracy. Comparisons are never "apples to apples."

It is interesting to note that when parents are asked to "grade" their school they always seem to give it a higher grade than the schools in the next town or down the street. Generally, parents appear to be satisfied with the job their schools are doing. That is not to say that we should not continue to seek improvement. Schools will change as society changes and we must constantly be willing to reform so that we are looking forward and not backwards. We can ill afford to live with success made yesterday.

Working with students day in and day out is satisfying but tiring work. Students sometimes bring "baggage" from outside of school that we have no control over yet we must educate all children regardless of what each brings to school on a daily basis. We do so with enthusiasm and hope.

So if you get a chance, thank your child's teacher, bus driver, classroom aide, cook, secretary, principal, etc. They care and they do their job every day so that your children's future will be bright.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Bike Month

May is National Bike Month and May 11-15 is Bike-to-Work week. We would like to encourage students to ride to school this month. Bicycle racks are located on the east side of the playground and students can lock their bikes to the rack, if desired.

If your student would like to ride to school or currently does ride to school, the two most important precautions you can encourage your student to take are:
  • Always... always wear an approved bike helmet and always wear it correctly.
  • Always wear light colored or bright clothing so it is easy for motorists to see the bicyclist
As our culture has evolved with more and more electronic games and entertainment devices, young people are not getting adequate exercise. This is a serious problem locally, statewide and nationally. We are seeing a frightening increase of obesity in children attending school. Walking or biking daily, in addition to physical education and active recess goes a long way towards helping your student remain healthy and fit.

Believe it or not, Idaho is nationally recognized for their bicycle laws. Idaho is the only state where a bicyclist is not required to come to a complete stop at a stop sign or stop light. That does not mean a bicyclist can blow through an intersection. It means the rider should slow down and make sure it is clear before entering the intersection. Not having to come to a complete stop allows those riders who are clipped into their pedals to continue without taking their feet off the pedals.

Otherwise, bicyclists should follow normal driving rules including signaling turns. A bicyclist has the same right-of-way as a motorist even if the rider is traveling at a slower speed. Again, this is not to say riders should ride down the middle of the street oblivious to motorists, but motorists have an obligation to pass riders with care. All motorists should pay particular attention when passing young children as they often weave back and forth and they may not know the motorist is behind them.

Encourage your student to ride to school during National Bike Week (May 11-15) and encourage them to walk, run, bike, play sports... get outside as much as possible. But remember... if your child rides to school make sure they have their properly fitting helmet on.