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Behavior problems down, work continues on performance

WEBUTUCK — At the beginning of the school year, the Webutuck Central School District announced its goal of becoming the highest performing district in the county.To accomplish that lofty goal, the district has been implementing new programs and improving existing ones to mold the district’s education system into one that produces solid students.The high school and the elementary school have made presentations to the school board regarding these programs. The middle school is scheduled to give a similar presentation during a later Board of Education meeting.To begin his update, which was given to the school board during the Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Monday, Nov. 21, high school Principal Ken Sauer recited some statistics regarding the current student grades as collected from the student report cards that were released on Thursday, Nov. 17.Sauer told the board that 22 percent of students made the high honor roll, 18 percent of students made the honor roll and 17 percent of students made the merit roll, for a total of 57 percent of students with an average of 80 percent or better in all of their classes.He also said that 18 percent of students were failing at least one class, but noted that the instances of in-school suspension (ISS) and out-school suspension (OSS) are down 17 percent from the same time period during the last school year.Sauer has previously said that ISS and OSS can have a negative effect on a student’s learning because they remove the student from the classroom instruction.During a BOE meeting at the beginning of the school year, Sauer proposed reinstating the Saturday Support sessions to give students an additional resource for extra tutoring and studying help.He reported that the school has offered three Saturday Support sessions, which were attended by an average of five students each time.He said he wished that more students would take advantage of the extra support, but that when an the program is optional, it’s easier for the students to choose not to go, and it’s easier for parents to choose not to send their children when forcing the children to go might cause an argument.“We’re not seeing the numbers we want to see,” he said, but added, “It’s been a benefit for every kid that’s been here.”Board of Education President Dale Culver said he would like to make attendance at Saturday Support mandatory for the students who are failing two or more classes.The student representative to the board, Brian Christofel, suggested having the students receive tutoring from their peers, which he described as a “less intimidating” method of tutoring.There is currently a system in place in the school that offers students the opportunity to receive tutoring from their peers, but Christofel said that it is generally by word-of-mouth instead of something more substantial.Culver replied by saying that he would like that system to be taken over by the guidance office because the guidance counselors are usually the first people — after the students themselves — to know when a student is failing two or more classes.Sauer said that the seven committees that were formed to help the district reach its high performance goal missed their most recent monthly meeting in October due to the power outages, but he said that they are continuing their work and developing plans to keep the district on the path toward its goal.Elementary schoolThe elementary school presented an update regarding its Building Excellence Team (BET) during the BOE meeting on Monday, Nov. 7.Renee Palmer, chair of the BET, gave the presentation.She reported that the team has added two new goals — one for math and one for English Language Arts (ELA) — “related to establishing baseline data using district adopted formative assessments.”She said that this will help the teachers plot the progress of the students.The teachers will also look into using other tools, such as educational testing web sites, as daily or weekly assessments.Palmer also gave an overview of the action plans for the math and ELA programs in regard to the new common core standards implemented by the state. The action plans include reviewing the new standards to ensure that the assessments give the information needed to meet the common core standards, using co-teaching as an instructional strategy, developing a schedule that includes more blocks of teaching time for uninterrupted instruction and researching other methods, which may include new technologies, to help students who are struggling with specific skills.In response to a question asked by Culver, Palmer said that the teachers are developing a plan for sharing information about student weaknesses so that the teachers are prepared for their new students each year, which will prevent the students from falling between the cracks.

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