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Webutuck High School outlines goals

WEBUTUCK — Webutuck High School Principal Ken Sauer focused on topics such as student and faculty morale, dropout prevention and college acceptance during his Building Excellence Team presentation at the Board of Education (BOE) meeting on Monday, Jan. 6.Sauer began his report by outlining the three main goals of the team: increase the graduation rate by 10 percent, increase mastery rates by 20 percent and reduce the number of failures by 10 percent.In order to reach these goals, members of the high school staff broke into numerous committees.The community relations committee was formed to help sell the school to the community through signage, teacher web pages and Webutuck’s upcoming new website. They also plan to brainstorm ideas this month with The Millerton News.The dropout prevention team is attempting to identify why students drop out, and combat the impulse through the creation of new clubs and the distribution of positive graduation facts. Sauer emphasized that students who are involved in activities such as sports, band and drama tend to stay in school.Teachers have also identified a few “at risk” students who will receive additional attention.The rigor committee would like to implement more honors classes and explore whether e-books are a feasible alternative to traditional textbooks. Teachers in the group also plan to provide “intense support” for select students who are failing or falling short of achieving the merit roll.The curriculum and instruction committee is focusing on techniques that will help students challenge themselves and become independent learners.“I see evidence of that in action in the classroom,” Sauer said.Separate committees have been formed to focus on staff and student morale. The faculty and staff are being brought together through events such as breakfasts and baby showers, while students are being asked for their input regarding pep rallies, job fairs and the possibility of the technology class creating new school signs.“We’ve got to try to build a family,” Sauer said, noting that staff morale is tied to student happiness.On a similar note, the school pride group suggested that more events and contests be held throughout the year, such as theme days and a staff vs. students volleyball game.School pride was paired with the athletic program, which Sauer said needs to provide a commitment to success through consistency in leadership. To accomplish this task, the presentation focused on hiring effective coaches, organizing the athletic director’s responsibilities, supporting the coaches with resources, communicating with the public and providing a good experience for spectators at games.Sauer ended his presentation with some figures regarding college applications and acceptance. Of the 62 seniors in the class of 2012, 42 have applied to 165 colleges; 16 have not yet applied to college; three have enlisted in the military; and one plans to travel for a year before going to college. To date, the school is aware of 61 college acceptance letters that have been received by students.Miscellaneous notesEnglish teacher Steven Pollak, who has tenure, requested an unpaid leave of absence from Tuesday, Feb. 7, through Friday, Aug. 31. Superintendent James Gratto said the request “came out of the blue,” leaving the board with no notice to find a replacement.Following an executive session, the board approved Pollak’s request. Gratto said that a young teacher who was just certified will fill in for Pollak on a temporary basis while the board works on “getting a plan in place.”Pollak will continue to teach his first period class, which is a Dutchess Community College class.The board gratefully accepted a $10,000 donation from the Amenia Lodge, F&AM No. 672. The funds will be used to give a graduating senior a $500 scholarship each year for the next 20 years.The board approved the purchase of Edline, a host and provider of web services, at an annual cost of $5,200. This purchase will allow the district to update its website, www.webutuckschools.org. The new site may be up and running by September.Athletic Director Jon Zenz submitted an intramural proposal for students in grades five through eight. He would like to start a basketball program as soon as possible, followed by a volleyball program. Varsity players have already agreed to run clinics with the students.“This would address a population that hasn’t been offered anything like this is quite some time,” BOE President Dale Culver said. “I think we can all support the essence of this program.”The board agreed to extend Gratto’s employment as superintendent to Aug. 31, 2014, with no changes in terms and conditions until negotiated.

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