By Nate Smith
Washington Times Herald
The new year will find a new beginning at Lena Dunn Elementary School.
Lena Dunn Principal Brenda Butcher explained to the Washington School Board on Thursday plans to introduce a new curriculum and schedule to the school, one that will better meet the needs of its students.
“The school is getting into really different ways of doing business,” Butcher said.
The school was the only one in Daviess County to receive an F grade in the state’s highly controversial grading system for schools. It has also been assigned in need of improvement by the state. To improve, administrators and teachers have found a school in Indianapolis that has the same diverse student population, yet is doing well. Many of the ideas have come from this school - Southport Elementary School.
Butcher explained many of the changes coming to Lena Dunn come from Southport, including the use of a reading team that moves from classroom to classroom and blocking classroom time reading.
“Every day, every child will read at least 20 minutes to an adult, at a minimum,” Butcher said.
Other changes include a new math curriculum that uses hands-on learning and the use of data-driven education, where data taken from the teachers is analyzed and shows teachers where their students are in terms of the classroom.
To accomplish that, funds from federal Title I grants have been reassigned to create a “Data Coach,” who will analyze the numbers and find trends in the data.
Southport was found by a consultant to Washington Schools contracted by Assistant Superintendent Paul White. The school is similar to Washington in many ways, including a new Burmese population. Despite a lack of native English speakers, the school ranks as one of the best Title I schools in the state.
Butcher said many of the ideas are mirrored off the concepts learned at Southport and she hopes Lena Dunn will develop some for Southport to model.
“It’s exciting. We are ready to go,” Butcher said.
The board passed the calendar for the 2013-14 school year, 7-0, but there was an interesting discussion started about future school calendars.
Superintendent Daniel Roach told the board an idea for a “balanced calendar” that might serve in the future. Roach explained that in a balanced calendar system, students would start the year in the first week of August, receive two weeks of vacation in the fall and another two weeks for the holiday break. In the spring, if there are no snow days, another two weeks of vacation would be available. Summer vacation would be in June and July, depending on the weather.
More schools are going to the balanced approach, Roach said. He told the board discussions are preliminary and he wants to get input from parents on their thoughts on the schedule. A letter is to be sent home to students in the coming weeks and a survey will be out in February. There will also have to be discusssions with other school systems due to the shared nature of some programs like Twin Rivers Vocational Program.
The board voted 7-0 to enter into a contract with Slam Dunk Sports Marketing to erect a new sign at the high school.
Roach, who has worked with the company in the past, said the sign will paid for not by the school, but a sponsor who will sign a five-year contract to have their logo or name on the sign.
He said the logo will be done “tastefully” and there is an opportunity to have more than one sponsor if needed.
The sign, Roach said, will be 8 feet by 16 feet and could be mounted on the school’s existing stand. It will contain an LED screen that can be used in a variety of ways and not just scrolling messages.
In other business, the board voted to: appoint member Mike Traylor to the city’s Redevelopment Commission.
It accepted the resignation of Eric Gilley as assistant freshman/sophomore football coach; appointed Larryn Hinkle as Lena Dunn cheer coach, Steve Reed as yearbook sponsor and Bridget Fellers as elementary teacher; entered into a contract with NEOLA to revamp school policies; modified the high school handbook to give students a chance to earn back credit; and accepted donations from the Kimball family, Graber Steel, Memering Farms, Daviess-Martin Retired Teacher Association and Channel One network.
Roach works on security
Washington schools, like every school in the country, have been reviewing security measures since the Sandy Hook shooting massacre last week in Newtown, Conn.
Superintendent Daniel Roach informed the Washington School Board Thursday he has met with building principals in the wake of the shooting that killed 20 children and six adults. He said building security plans, a requirement for every school in the state according to statute, are being reviewed.
Also, since Washington is the largest school system in Daviess County, Roach has initiated a series of meetings with administrators from Barr-Reeve and North Daviess schools, along with Sheriff Jerry Harbstreit, Washington Police Chief Mike Healy, Prosecutor Dan Murrie and others involved with security to review countywide planning to see if it needs updating. According to state procedure, the largest school in the county has to initiate the review.
“Everyone wants to work for the greater good,” Roach said.
Some of those meetings will not be open to the public, Roach said, because he believes procedural changes will be coming for local schools in the aftermath of Sandy Hook.
“We want to make certain our children are as safe as possible,” he said.
--- Nate Smith