Goessel board OKs switch to new management system

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN CYNTHIA GOERZEN
After listening to a thorough presentation, the Goessel Unified School District 411 Board of Education approved at its Sept. 12 meeting the acquisition of the Powerschool data-management system information.

Superintendent John Fast described how the system would allow parents to access information about their children.

Parents, he said, could be updated automatically by e-mail, including such things as grade-progress reports, behavior reports and lunch fee information.

“I think the public is going to be very pleased,” he said.

Junior high/high school principal Curt Graves said Powerschool would allow teachers to work on grades from home or on a lap top computer that they could take anywhere.

He said teachers can use Powerschool to let him know about behavior problems. He will get those messages instantly and can deal with the matter quickly.

Graves said the school currently uses Pro-Star, which takes longer.

In response to a question from board member Dan Miller, Fast said the new system would not allow patrons to pay their bills electronically.

Graves added, “You can be billed electronically.”

Board chairman Lynel Unrau asked if Powerschool is harder to use than the current system.

Fast replied, “It will be like getting into a new vehicle; one doesn’t know where all the controls are at first.”

He said the “navigation” will be different.

“No system is going to be without its challenges,” but it should be easier to use overall.

Fast said training teachers won’t take long, but “it will be a major change for us, especially for the offices.”

For that reason, he said the recommendation would be to install Powerschool sometime during the school year or at the end of the year, but not at the beginning of the year, when the secretaries have much enrollment information to enter.

Fast said Powerschool can customize reports. Graves said that Educational Services and Staff Development of Central Kansas would help train personnel for preparing end-of-year reports.

Graves said “about one-third of the schools in Kansas are going to Powerschool,” and a large percentage of ESSDACK schools are using it.

In regard to security, Fast said Powerschool is more immune to computer viruses and “worms” than the school’s current system.

Fast and Graves said a switch to Powerschool would require upgraded teacher computer work stations. The district has 33 teacher work stations. Fast said he thought the work stations could be upgraded for under $45,000.

The cost of the Powerschool system is $14,000 until Sept. 15, after which the price would likely go up. That amount includes $2,000 for four days of on-site training.

Board member Richard Drake said, “So this is a $60,000 deal roughly.”

Fast confirmed that estimate.

As the board moved toward its decision, Miller commended Fast and Graves: “You’ve done your homework.”

FFA trip

After discussion, the board approved a request from the high school FFA group to travel to the organization’s national convention in Louisville, Ky., Oct. 26-29.

“We’ve got some excitement with this…. It will be a valuable trip,” Graves said.

Ten students and two sponsors are planning to go.

“Right now the cost would be $80 to each student,” he said.

Graves said ESSDACK’s sponsorship fund had provided $1,000 for the trip and that he had looked into the cost of van rental and air flights. He said the costs seemed comparable at first, but airfare prices increased and flight scheduling was not convenient.

Therefore, the current plan calls for driving. Students would miss two days of classes.

Graves said some FFA officers are starters on the football team. If they go to the convention, they will miss two football practices and a football game. He said they have a choice to make.

‘Breaking Ranks’

The board was told the school had been accepted for the “Breaking Ranks” program, which is a reform movement based on a national study.

Graves, Janna Duerksen, Chrysta Guhr, Justin Schrag and Dan Miller comprise the school’s Breaking Ranks team. The team has initiated a “personal advocate program” for every high school student, as well as sending home more progress reports.

Graves said the team will focus on curriculum and assessments and will visit some schools in October to observe their assessment procedures.

According to Graves, “We believe these trainings and dialogues with other professionals in education to be helpful as well as challenging us to continue a tradition of outstanding academics in Goessel.”

Other business

In other business, the board:

— heard Graves report that banners made by Ratzlaff Draperies had been hung at the high school in recognition of Standard of Excellence ratings for reading, social studies, science, and math.

Last school year, the Standard of Excellence was met in eighth- and 11th-grade reading, eighth- and 11th-grade social studies, seventh-grade science, and seventh- and 10th-grade math.

The banners list all the years the school has attained the Standard of Excellence, beginning with 2001.

— approved a contract with Gayle Voth for 10.5 hours a week as an aide for at-risk assistance in kindergarten through grade three.

— approved a contract for Megan Duerksen, Pathways teacher, for three hours a week. Sheri Janzen and Jodi Schmidt attended the meeting and explained the Pathways method of learning language.

— was told that the band would compete at the state fair on Sept. 14.

— learned that FFA students helped organize donations for hurricane victims.

— learned that elementary school students had donated bottled water for the hurricane-relief effort. A parent, Diane Kruger, had helped load it for transportation.

— learned that students had requested clocks in the hallways. Graves said work is being done to grant that request.

— heard from Fast that supplies for the new floor at the elementary school should arrive Sept. 26, and installation should begin Oct. 10.

— listened to Fast’s report that “enrollment continues to fluctuate.” The number of students stood at 277, with a full-time equivalent of 267.4.

— listened to Graves’ report that Jeff Penner, who is a para-educator at the high school, has also been hired for bus duty 20 minutes before and 10 minutes after school at the high school.

Fast said a number of grade-school children board and exit the bus at the high school before and after school.

“Supervision is so important,” he said.

— discussed a bus purchase for sometime in the future.

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