EACSD School Board hears report on early childhood and first grade reading programs

by Susan Cantine-Maxson

The Eastern Allamakee School Board held its regular board of directors meeting Monday, April 18. President Heather Schulte called the meeting to order and Board members in attendance were Bobbie Goetzinger, Melanie Mauss, Bruce Palmborg  and Kelli Mudderman. In addition, school district personnel included  Superintendent  Dale Crozier, New Albin Elementary Principal Chad Steckel, Kee High School Principal Mary Hogan and  Board Secretary Janet Heiderscheit.

New Albin Elementary teachers Jana Troendle and Shelly Baumgartner presented an overview of the district's early childhood and first grade reading program. Troendle described a recent professional development workshop at Keystone Area Education Agency which involved assessment of individual growth and development for four-year-olds. This screening involves rhyming, picture naming, sound identification, and identifying what does not match in a picture. Students will be tested three times per year to measure individual growth. There are currently 28 students in the four-year-old classrooms. These measurements will determine where students are in readiness and where they are headed.

Baumgartner then described the reading program used in first grade. She and two associates work with the first graders for 90 minutes of instruction per day on reading. The first graders are divided into three groups determined by a variety of factors including, but not limited to, peer relationships, leadership skills and fluency scores. The groups change many times over the course of a year. The six main areas of curricula include leveled readers, comprehension, grammar, spelling, daily phonemic awareness and sight words. Grammar skills are also incorporated into writing/journal time.

Baumgartner stated that her individual professional development is concentrating on writing with the students. Mrs. Thomas, Title 1 Reading teacher, works closely with the classroom teachers as well, maintaining  consistency with the classroom curriculum. She sees three groups of students for 15-minute blocks. This system allows for meeting all student needs. Currently there are three students reading below grade level, four students at first grade level, 10 students at second grade level and four students at third grade level.

Baumgartner, who has worked in the system since 2003, is a model teacher for the Teacher Leadership & Compensation (TLC) grant and welcomes colleagues to visit her classroom so that they can provide insight into improvement of each other’s teaching methods. She stated, “The most rewarding part is you take them where they are at and move them forward. Focus of school is changing. First grade is real meat and potatoes anymore, there’s not much time for play. We do see amazing growth from the beginning to the end of the year. Parental support is extremely important. That doesn’t just mean going over spelling words; it means finding opportunities to re-enforce learning; to take advantage of learning situations. For teachers, parents and students, extra time and dedication are needed as well."

The Board approved the agenda, the minutes of the March meeting, bills, the financial statement and customary authorizations. Additional approvals included:
• No classes May 25 since students will have attended the required number of hours for the year. It will be a regular contract day without students for teachers.
• The 2016-17 calendar.
• Purchase of 1:1 Dell laptop computers so all high school students will have a laptop next year.
• Mary Hogan as the Level I Investigator and Dale Crozier as Level I Investigator Alternate.
• Mary Hogan as the Affirmative Action Coordinator.
• The SIAC agenda and minutes.
• The University of Northern Iowa Cooperative Agreement for student teachers in  2016-17.
• The closure of a bank account which was a small inactive PPEL Savings Account.
• Graduation candidates, which include 25 students.
• Termination of contracts for both Melissa Cota and Forrest Ellis pursuant to Iowa Code Section 279.15 reduction in force due to budgetary reasons.
• Resignation of Kathy Renk, Teacher Aide.
• Contracts for Danyce Jacobs and Tiffanie Peters as Student Council Advisors.
• The 2016-17 contracts for certified staff and support staff.
• Separate one-year contracts for TLC teachers.
• A public hearing date of May 16 for a 2015-16 Budget Amendment, which is set in case it is needed because any amendment needs to be done before May 30.

Principal Steckel reported that he is examining the schedule for summer school and may recommend changing the format so that students work with the classroom teacher throughout the summer for a few hours each week rather than in blocks of time four days a week. The same number of contact hours would be included and the cost would be similar. The change in format may be more effective for increasing student learning. The New Albin campus is having telephone issues because the phones are outdated and cannot be replaced with similar models. They are looking at upgrading to a voice over IP phone system.

Construction of the concession stand at the ball diamond is progressing. The water and sewer have been roughed in. Target date for completion is during the second week of May.

Principal Hogan met with Keystone personnel to discuss professional development for next year. The senior trip will soon be underway, with 20 seniors taking off April 29 for Washington, DC and returning the following Thursday. The eighth graders will have their annual trip to Des Moines, and several other field trips are planned for the upcoming weeks. Hogan is also working with Dr. Crozier on assembling data from several sources to be reported to the Board in late summer or early fall.
Superintendent Crozier reported that a third softball coach will need to be hired because of the number of girls who are out for the sport this season, which led to a discussion about a summer activity bus. A parent had asked Board President Schulte if this was a possibility. The Board discussed the pros and cons of that possibility, and ultimately decided it would be too expensive for the district since it would involve four trips a day to accommodate both the softball and baseball programs.