USD 108 makes new staffing decisions


USD 108 will look to hire a 7-12 at-risk teacher, an elementary counselor and two additional elementary teachers for the 2021-2022 year.

Staffing considerations were reviewed Monday night by the USD 108 Board of Education.

Present were Rod Stewart, Jill Hoover, Kevin Elliott, Keelie Welch, Rhonda Manley, Brad Jones and Kelsie Beikmann.

Supt Denise O’Dea said USD 108 would receive $197,846 in federal Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Round 2 funds. The money will be available March 1 and must be spent by September 2023. Funding is based on Title I numbers and percentage. The money is designated to assist students who have fallen behind due to the pandemic in several categories such as academics, social-emotional, and behavior.

With those funds, she proposed the district hire an at-risk teacher for grades 7-12 and an elementary counselor. Positions would be reviewed in two years. Other possible ideas for the funding include reading and/or math interventions and new curriculum purchases that can be tied to student achievement.

In information prepared for the board meeting, 7-12 principal Brock Funke outlined duties for the at-risk position that will include responsibility for FastBridge testing the district will begin next year for grades 7-12, building supports and interventions based on FastBridge data and designing personal goals and plans for at-risk students who would receive extra help and intervention during study hall or specified times during the day. Funke said the data would help not only with state reports and accreditation but would help address specific academic gaps.

O’Dea said the at-risk position would be involved in testing and gathering data. Currently, the only data available at the secondary level is from state assessments.

“We need to do more,” she said. “If you don’t have the data, you don’t know what you’ve done, where they are.”

The new position will help the district understand how the pandemic has affected students. In addition, beginning in the fall, the district will have to assess every student for dyslexia. “If they have those gaps, we’ve got to address that as well,” O’Dea said.

Manley asked about the district’s biggest gaps or holes.

Closure of school in March knocked some kids back, Funke said. USD 108 students were lucky to have been in class in person for the fall semester, but quarantines have taken a toll, he said, noting gaps in social-emotional and reading skills, but in math more than anything.

In the elementary, Hoover said reading was the biggest challenge currently, but she said the district’s new phonics program was working well.

Hoover said the district needs a full-time elementary counselor. Professional guidelines recommend one counselor for every 300 students. She has been responsible for some counseling tasks but said there is a conflict between fulfilling a counselor role and issuing behavioral consequences as a principal. It is difficult to schedule regular classroom counseling curriculum with the fluctuating demands of principal, especially in a pandemic, she said.

Sixty-two percent of WCES students are at-risk in either math, reading or both, Hoover wrote in an information sheet for the board. “These numbers are higher than in previous years. We know last spring hurt academics, but it also created social-emotional issues with students. Quarantining of students has also created issues. Unfortunately, unless the social-emotional issues are addressed, academics will not improve.”

Hoover said 51.2 percent of elementary students qualify for free/reduced lunch. “It is difficult for families to afford counseling. Counselors can help find resources to get students and families needed help at an affordable cost,” she said.

Approximately one-fifth of the elementary student population is either in a home with a single parent or in joint custody households.

Funke said he had been tracking topics that students come to talk to him about. Topics might include divorce, hunger, drug addiction, being evicted, caring for younger siblings, etc. One student has dealt with all 23 topics he has on his list. “For the most part, most of our kids deal with one, two or three of those things,” he said.

Funke said 7-12 staff was working with several students during Tiger time and in individual meetings. “It’s kind of divide and conquer. It’s been very busy for sure.”

Both principals discussed how good social-emotional health sets the table for academic success.

The board agreed to continue to search for two more elementary teachers. Positions were approved last fall but were not filled because of the late openings.

Two sections of kindergarten, first, second, third and fifth grade will be offered in the 2021-2022 year.

A personal finance class will become a new graduation requirement beginning with the Class of 2024. Michele Bruna currently teaches the class and reviewed a course outline with the board.

Personal finance will continue to be a semester course. Bruna said she strongly believed it should be a required course. “This is something we can do; this is something we can give our kids.”

Funke said the course material gives students skills they will use in their daily lives.

Bruna said the course could be offered for dual credit through Cloud County Community College. She said through the process of taking online professional development classes, she had found a $10,000 grant if the course were to be required for graduation.

Jones voted against the motion and said he wanted to implement the requirement before 2024. O’Dea said students and parents needed time to prepare for the new requirement.

In other business, the board:

• Voted to extend the contracts for the superintendent and two principals through the 2021-2022 year following a 15-minute executive session to discuss non-elected personnel that included the board and superintendent.

• Voted to set the driver’s education fee for the summer at $150 per student. Mark Fritzon, who taught the driving portion of the course last year, will be the instructor. Classes will begin June 1. Students must be 14 on or before June 1. Registration deadline is April 30.

• Heard updates from principals Funke and Hoover. Both said COVID numbers were low.

Funke said he had assembled a team to create the 2021-2022 7-12 schedule. Members are Teryl Goeckel, Bruna, Robert Smith, John Kern, Tommy Tryon and Funke.

WCHS student Alejandra Martinez is preparing for exams for the Kansas Department of Education’s Seal of Biliteracy that recognizes students who have attained proficiency in English and one other world language by graduation, Funke said.

Some WCHS Explore project-based learning projects will be submitted for a Virtual PBL Student Showcase that will run throughout March. Each day in March, WCHS students will have the opportunity to view a student-created video and will learn about stating project objectives, showing a finished project, explaining how a project was created and summarizing what students learned in the project.

The school was able to host King and Queen of Courts Friday night as scheduled.

Hoover said elementary students were participating in the Great Kindness Challenge this week and collecting loose change for Edith’s House.

Tentative dates for spring concerts are 7 p.m., May 6, 4th-6th May Fete and 5th/6th band concert. The K-3 spring concert will be at 7 p.m. May 7. Audience will be limited to parents, but the concerts will be streamed on Facebook.

D.A.R.E. began in February for fifth-and sixth-grade students. Funke said an officer was working with seventh-grade students, since the pandemic cut short their classes last year.

The elementary students participated in a Super Bowl Spirit week.

• Authorized a $500 contribution for the 2021 After Prom as part of the consent agenda.

• And approved updates to the board policy handbook as recommended by the Kansas Association of School Boards on topics such as communicable diseases, gang intimidation, local health and wellness and a waiver of compulsory attendance form. The board also added language to the handbook for USD 108 retiree medical insurance plan rules.