Changes in the AmeriCorps Reading Coaches program at the Purdy R-2 School District were described at the February meeting of the school board.
Renae Neill, program coordinator, said the largest changes in the 13-year history of AmeriCorps were announced in the spring of 2011. All of the reading coaches went to part-time employees as the current school year began, and the staff dropped from 14 to 10 people. The change resulted in a reduction in cost of $37,000 to the district.
In addition, the focus of the program has changed, Neill said. In the past, all the reading coaches concentrated on students who had struggled. Beginning last fall, half the time is now spent providing lessons for children reading above their grade level.
By working with higher performing students, Neill said the number of students reaching the top tier benchmark has increased by an average of 7 percent since the beginning of the school year.
Reading coaches spend their mornings on enrichment work and afternoons with traditional students having reading problems. Neill said 120 students, approximately half the Purdy Elementary School population, receive one-to-one attention from AmeriCorps staff members.
Neill said the outstanding relationship the reading coaches had with teachers has improved even more in the transition. Not seeing the same children daily may hinder developing an emotional bond with under-performing children, but Neill felt the educational product delivered through AmeriCorps remains just as strong.
The grant application for AmeriCorps' next three-year cycle has started. Neill said the reading coaches are partnering more with the Purdy Renewal Project and Purdy Recycling Project and will propose a broader mission in the future. The change in program parameters would require a much different application, Neill said. High school students would again be able to volunteer and gain benefits for their service.
Board members adopted a calendar for the 2012-13 school year. Superintendent Jerry Lingo said starting classes on Aug. 15 followed the pattern used in recent years.
Teachers offered an alternative calendar that received overwhelming support before going to the school board. Lingo said the primary change established a longer Christmas vacation with classes out from Dec. 20 through Jan. 2, 2013. Lingo said an eight- or nine-day break was more typical.
The only major change in the calendar was the addition of two more half-days, one in November and another in April, for professional development training. Lingo said teachers will use the time getting ready the fifth cycle of the Missouri School Improvement Program.
Reorganization of the board after the April 3 election was scheduled for Monday, April 16 at 6 p.m., a half-hour prior to the monthly meeting.
The March 19 board meeting will serve as the night board members evaluate and decide on employment for the certified staff.
Board members voted to retain the services of the Springfield accounting firm of Davis, Lynn and Moots to do the audit for the 2011-12 school year. Cost of the audit will be $12,500, up $500 from last year.
Lingo said Davis, Lynn and Moots had been a valuable resource over the years. He was sure the firm would be a big help for the new school superintendent in keeping up with changing state requirements.
Board members voted to accept the resignation of Lisa Francis as a food service employee.
The district's 1991 Chevrolet Suburban was declared surplus property, allowing its sale.
Bob Vice, high school principal, said the average daily attendance at the high school was over 95 percent, the highest in 10 years.
Attendance at the elementary school was 95 percent in January, reported Principal Jeff Swadley. The year-to-date attendance total at the middle school is 95.72 percent, fairly typical for mid-year, said Principal Janet Boys.
In upcoming events at the high school, Vice said the National Honor Society induction ceremony will be held at 6:30 p.m. on March 27. Students planned to compete in numerous events through the month.
Boys shared the letter going home to parents of students in the Title III English language learners program mandated by the No Child Left Behind Act. No students attained English proficiency by the end of the school year, and the district did not meet the state target for improvement in math and communication arts on the state tests, like 70 other districts in the state.
Boys was pleased to report county funding had been reinstated for the Drug Abuse Resistance Education (DARE) program, which she felt provided a good service.
With one snow day used, Lingo said the district should be able to keep its calendar intact for the rest of the school year. The last day of classes is scheduled for May 16. Baccalaureate will be held on May 9, and graduation will be May 12.