Goessel board hears about Parents as Teachers program

Lori Soo Hoo, representing the Marion County Parents As Teachers program, attended the Nov. 10 Goessel school board meeting for her annual visit.

?We are laying the foundation, one child at a time, for school readiness,? Soo Hoo said about the purpose of the PAT program. ?Seventy-five percent of the neural connections are made in the first three years of life.?

John Fast, superintendent and elementary school principal, stressed that PAT helps prepare children for kindergarten.

?Early childhood education benefits so much,? he said.

Added Soo Hoo: ?The earlier children start, the higher the success rate in school.?

Soo Hoo said the county hopes to eventually enroll children in PAT at the same rate schools are assessed for special education fees.

For example, Goessel pays 12.4 percent of the special education budget. Therefore, the hope is that Goessel will supply as many as 12.4 percent of the children in the PAT program.

Currently, the Goessel district has 10 children in the PAT program, which is 9.9 percent of the total. The PAT program is open to any family in the county, regardless of income level, and it is for any young child of any level of ability.

?More teen parents are accessing our program,? Soo Hoo said, adding, ?We are seeing an increase in families with low income.?

She said the number of relatives raising children has increased, as well as the number of children with behavior problems. Also, more families are uninsured than in the past.

Soo Hoo said a new PAT teacher, Rhonda Suderman King, is bilingual and can work with Spanish-speaking families.

Soo Hoo said the first goal of PAT is to establish a relationship with families, and the program is individualized for every family. A PAT teacher provides in-home visits to individual families with the intent of encouraging, supporting and providing observations.

The PAT program uses the ?Born to Learn? curriculum, which is based on brain development. For example, Soo Hoo explained that a baby can only see black, white and red colors until five months of age.

Store-bought and homemade toys are used at every PAT visit, and parents are given instructions for making their own homemade toys. The toys are designed to encourage development.

Literacy is stressed at every visit. Books are given to the children, and parents are encouraged to read to the children. Parents receive handouts with suggestions and ?homework? for them to do with their children.

When board member Mary Rosfeld asked how long the PAT teachers stay in individual homes for their visits, Soo Hoo said about an hour.

The PAT program connects families with area resources when there is a need for such services. The program also provides group events. A PAT resource library is available at Hillsboro Elementary School.

In other business, the board:

n heard Fast report the district had ?excellent participation? at parent/teacher conferences Oct. 27. The elementary teachers made nearly 100 percent contact with every child?s parents, including a few conferences that were held by phone.

?We sincerely appreciate parents? interest and involvement in the education process,? Fast said.

n heard Marc Grout, junior/senior high school principal report that he was pleased with parent participation as well.

?We had an 85 percent attendance rate,? he said.

Parents had the opportunity to complete a survey for the school?s technology plan. Parents who had not already signed up for online access to their student?s grades and attendance report could sign up at conference time. Grout said a high number of parents check the grades of their children.

n heard Grout?s report from the national FFA convention in Indianapolis, Ind., in October. Six Goessel students attended the conference, along with teacher David Graham. A highlight of the trip was an unscheduled stop at a campaign rally in downtown Indianapolis, where they got to see and hear presidential candidate, now president-elect, Barack Obama speak.

The Goessel FFA group toured the Fair Oaks Farm, which has 30,000 cattle. They also toured the Indianapolis Raceway and saw the Gateway Arch in St. Louis.

n heard that Goessel graduate Jared Unrau received his American FFA Degree, which is attained by less than 1 percent of FFA members nationally.

n heard Grout report that 24 high school students were playing in the Heart of America league honors band at Inman High School Nov. 10.

n heard Grout report that the high school cross country, volleyball and football teams all made it to the state level.

n heard that junior high basketball practice was scheduled to begin Nov. 10. This is the first year sixth graders will be included. He said 11 girls are planning to participate; without sixth-graders, only six girls would have participated.

Twenty-six boys had expressed interest, including eight sixth-graders. Grout said a number of C-team games will be scheduled for the boys.

n heard that 32 high school boys are planning to participate in basketball. Consequently, Grout said another assistant will be needed.

n heard Fast explain the food drive that the elementary students will have Dec. 3-11 as a benefit for the Tabor (Church) Food Pantry. Students will be allowed to choose a ?consequence? for Fast if they reach the goal.

n looked at the ?Walk Across Kansas? map that shows the ?route? children have taken as they walk with Fast during the noon break. The children average about 35 miles a day as a collective effort. The children learn about various locations on the map.

n heard about projects that custodians Norman Schmidt and Londell Duerksen have completed at both the elementary school and the junior/senior high school recently.

Fast said, ?Their skills are very much appreciated.?

The board went to the work room at the elementary school to view the new table work space and cabinets. A lockable cabinet on wheels had been built at the junior high school. The board commended the custodians for ?exceptional work.?

n heard that the third grade will host a ?Grandparents Day? Wednesday, Nov. 26. Fast said 60 grandparents attended the event last year, and teacher Dale Wiens is expecting about that many again this year.

n heard Fast report a projected state deficit. ?In all likelihood, we need to prepare ourselves for a reduction in our budget,? he said.

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