USD 410 preschool gets high marks from Yoder

The Sept. 11 Unified School District Board of Education meeting began with a positive preschool report, focused on positive teacher/administrative relationships, and ended shrouded in secrecy.

As juicy as it sounds, the secrecy was not only prudent, it was required.

The meeting ended in executive session in order to protect the district’s financial interest and bargaining position concerning the acquisition of property.

Preschool update

At the start of the meeting Hillsboro Elementary School Principal Evan Yoder proclaimed the success of the district’s preschool project.

“It has really started off well,” Yoder said. “It is amazing how they’ve started off in a routine.”

He further sang the praises of the agencies involved, touting excellent communication among all parties.

Yoder went on to critique a disappointing turnout for parent information night. He said the event may be rescheduled to the night before school starts.

“We think we may get a better turnout,” Yoder said. “It may also help to alleviate some of the students’ first-day jitters.”

Later in the meeting, Superintendent Gordon Mohn said the only concern is the program does not have as many at-risk 4-year-olds as planned, which would affect the funding the program would receive.

Yoder said children have to meet one of six criteria to be considered at-risk, and the district simply did not find another qualifying child that wanted to attend.

Mohn said he thought they could fill the need via the Head Start program, but having to deal with the federal regulations that govern Head Start has been a challenge.

Elementary report

According to Yoder, the recent staff edition of crossing-guard Elmo Rhae may be the highlight of the school year thus far.

“He’s just done a wonderful job,” Yoder said. “He’s really conscientious about being there, and when he has to miss because of other job obligations, the kids ask, ‘Where’s Elmo?'”

Yoder informed the board that Police Chief Dan Kinning had given them tips about how the job should be handled.

“It’s something that has worried me,” Yoder said. “Even though the fifth-graders did a very good job, they’re still fifth-graders. I wanted to have an adult out there and Elmo’s doing a great job. If you see him, thank him.”

Middle school report

Hillsboro Middle School Principal Greg Brown discussed state-assessment standards and indicators.

“I gave an outline, and the teachers could look at how they’ve conducted business throughout the last year to see whether or not what they were doing was as successful as they’d hoped it would be,” Brown said.

For the most part, he added, the results were very good.

Brown said he would be traveling to Abilene Middle School to assist with the implementation of their bullying-prevention program. It is the same program Hillsboro Middle School uses.

High school report

High School Principal Dale Honeck said the ACT composite for the graduating class of 2006 was 24 (out of a possible 36), compared to the state average of 22 and the national average of 21.

“That’s something to be proud of,” he said. “We did very well there.”

Honeck said the TEEN (Technology Excellence in Education Network) renovations “looked great.”

“I’d like to thank Janet Whisenhunt for the great job she’s done in pulling all of this together,” he said.

Whisenhunt was responsible for the logistics that enabled the network to stay up and running during renovations.

Honeck said special education was one area that had been challenging this year due to the numbers and composition of students. He said hiring a new para-educator will help.

High achievement on state-assessment reading tests were due in part to an exceptional junior class, said Honeck. He also praised English teacher Bob Woelk for doing an exceptional job of preparing the students.

Business matters

In other business matters, the board approved the following:

a three-day increase from 192 to 195 days in contracts to Stuart Holmes, Scott O’Hare, and Jim Robb as additional compensation for teaching a class on the TEEN network.

a supplemental contract offered to Diana Holub to serve as a 0.5 sophomore class sponsor.

a classified employee contract to Marlene Klassen to serve as a nutritional aide in the HES preschool.

several changes to the master contract for 2006-07, including the addition of a $20 per day stipend for teachers who volunteer to supervise students during their lunch period.

a salary increase of around 7 percent for teachers. Mohn mentioned the positive interaction and goodwill throughout negotiations.

“Hopefully this practice can help us when times are tough, so that negotiations don’t become adversarial,” Mohn said.

He said teachers ratified the contract by a vote of 38-0.

“I think it speaks volumes about our school system, and where we want to be,” said Rod Koons, board president. “I am very appreciative of our teachers and staff.”

Mohn added that almost 50 percent of the additional funding from the state went to salaries.

District boundaries

The board discussed at length how the member districts should be recast to meet the state’s mandate for near-equal representation.

The board has three options:

(1) Redraw boundary lines for the current six board member districts.

(2) Change the method of election to “Alternative D: At-Large Method.”

(3) Change the method of election to “Alternative B: Three-Member District.”

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