UL schools ‘effective’

BELMONT-Thursday night’s Union Local Board of Education meeting included a mixed bag of information relating to programs and performance.

Superintendent H. Kirk Glasgow presented the preliminary state report card status of the three schools and the district. Overall the indicators met are down, but the district and its three schools are still rated “Effective,” which has not changed from the 2010-2011 report.

The middle school met six of eight indicators, down from last year’s seven of eight, but the sixth grade reading scores were at the highest levels of student proficiency, 91.5 percent up from 87.7 percent last year. The high school met 11 of 12 indicators, also down from 12 of 12 last year. The indicator missed was graduation rate, and Principal Joel Davia attributes it to a change in the state’s scoring formula.

First, the school is penalized for students who withdraw for any reason, including a move out of the district.

The indicators are also based on students entering high school in the ninth grade and graduating in four years. If students drop out and return to school, then pass their final tests during the summer to graduate, it doesn’t count under the new state formula. Furthermore, says Davia, special education students are allowed to attend school until they are 21 years old, but the new formula again penalizes the school if the students don’t graduate in four years. A combination of these scenarios dropped the graduation indicator when they were within two students of meeting all indicators.

Percentages were not as close at the elementary school where fourth and fifth grade math and fifth grade reading proficiency scores were below the 70 percent mark, and the school met five of eight indicators. However, fifth grade science proficiency was at 76.8 percent. In general, according to Principal Scott Bowling, fifth grade scores were lower throughout the state during the 2011-12 year, adding that testing scores cycle high to low from year to year with all the different grades.

The administrators cautioned the board that the new core revised standards from the state will be much more difficult, and test scores throughout Ohio will most likely reflect that in two years.

Bowling elaborated on the elementary school’s status during a presentation to the board. In relation to six other Belmont County districts, the elementary school is holding its own, falling close to the middle area in most proficiency ratings. Last year the school split its Building Leadership Team into four groups–Reading, Math, Intervention and Climate-in an effort to address possible shortfalls. Each group is already working on a specific directive that will improve performance on this year’s tests. In addition, the Gifted And Talented Education (GATE) program is back.

Other helpful additions in the works are a computer lab and an on-site doctor. Bowling says the PTO has been very supportive in working on the lab. Thirty percent of those surveyed by the school said they would like to see an on-site doctor. The Intervention Assistance Team (IAT) would also have valuable diagnosis information for possible medications or attention that a student may need.

“We’ve been waiting for some parents to get their children to a doctor for over two years,” Bowling explained. “Plus the people here for the oil and gas don’t have any in the area, so having a doctor here would be convenient for them.”

He noted that teacher Kara Erwin has been asked to present the school’s “Buddy Groups” program at an upcoming state association conference. She places an autistic student with a small group of classmates to help him/her learn social skills and interaction. The program has been successful in improving communication.

Bowling then introduced the Jets Kids’ Clubs program for fourth and fifth graders. They are held during the school day and include a variety of interests: cooking, computer, anti-bullying, jump rope, gardening and a school newspaper.

Glasgow relayed more promising numbers to the board in the form of preliminary enrollment data. It looks like regular enrollment is up by eight students, which Glasgow notes, “It’s the first positive gain we’ve seen in some time.”

Open enrollment is also up to 236 students, and he says that there are 27 fewer students leaving this year.

Treasurer Janet Hissrich noted during her report that the district’s cash fund balance was up by more than $381,000 in September 2012 compared to September 2011.

Board president Ed Stenger brought up more anonymous letters that board members have been receiving regarding someone working with the district. He stressed that the board will not take any action unless the writer or writers come forward.

“There’s nothing we can do if we don’t know who we’re talking to. We can’t investigate anything without a name,” Stenger explained. “Right now these are only accusations. You got our addresses, so you can get our phone numbers and talk to any one of us in confidence. We’ll talk to you about it.”

He added, “One of the letters said something about the board members not caring. That is absolutely not true. There’s not one of us sitting up here that doesn’t care.”

Finally, board members voted to accept the resignation of H. Kirk Glasgow as superintendent due to retirement effective June 30, 2013. Glasgow has been Union Local’s superintendent for 13 years.

Valenti can be reached at gvalenti@timesleaderonline.com.