by Janet Schultz
Assessments - a key word in education today and one that has teachers focusing on outcomes and addressing the needs of today's student. The Lewiston-Porter Board of Education received its lesson Tuesday in how Lew-Port is handling the new directives from the New York State Education Department.
Primary Education Principal Tamara Larson and Intermediate Education Principal Andrew Auer explained how Lew-Port has implemented the Response to Intervention (RTI) program this past year. This is a state-required policy.
The program is a research and screening process that is conducted in grades kindergarten through 5. Students are evaluated and tracked throughout their educational career to see that they are receiving the instruction and interventions necessary for their success.
"If a child isn't responding to the interventions, a support team made up of teachers, (the) school psychologist and related support staff look at alternative interventions for those students," explained Larson.
"If a child doesn't progress after utilizing all interventions, they are given a full evaluation because other issues, such as learning disabilities, may be the problem," said Larson.
"The evaluation system will follow the children through all grade levels so teachers can make informed decisions on their training," said Auer.
A recent issue on the elimination of a second language at the seventh grade sparked conversations in the district during the past several days.
Superintendent Christopher Roser made the decision based on three items. The increase in English language learners due to non-English speaking students coming into the district, an increase in instructional time and the fact that there are no funds for hiring an additional instructor.
"Seventh grade foreign language is not a mandate," explained Roser. "Look at all the districts in the area and what they have lost. What have we lost here? We've held on to every program and the children are still getting the same instruction."
"We're doing good," he concluded.
In other areas there has been cuts in the clubs and activities at Lew-Port. But as Roser explained, in several of those cuts there are programs that really aren't clubs but more of an extension of classroom work.
In the 2011-12 budget, there was $123,319 designated for clubs and activities and this year there is $78,918. That said, there are 28 of the 36 clubs still left in the high school, eight of 14 in the middle school and no change in the Intermediate Education Center.
In other news from the session:
•An architect has been selected for the capital project. Scott Jones was hired to begin working on phase I, which will include replacing the roof at the high school, making repairs to the high school pool, repairs to the heating, ventilation and air conditioning at the high school and repairing the pool area of the middle school.
Plans will be developed and sent on to the state for approval and the project would begin next summer. Phase I was approved by voters in May.
Roser urged the board to take a look at what will be needed in phase II and phase III in order to take them through the next several years of funding. Phase II includes items that were eliminated in 2007 due to funding. Those include making sure the district is wired appropriately for the technology utilized today; upgrades to the kitchen/cafeterias; upgrades to the gym; window replacements; updating the heating/ventilation/air conditioning systems; and work at the Intermediate Education Center. Roser hopes to take phases II and III to public referendum in March.
"Our wiring needs to be top line," said Roser. "Beginning in 2014, state assessments and exams will be given online. We need to make sure we are wired properly."
"We need to do the right thing for our voters and our students," said Roser.
•A look at student enrollment sees a continuing decrease and Roser wants the board to look at what types of decisions will have to be made regarding the facilities. Lew-Port had 3,299 students in 1980-81; 30 years later they were at 2,304, and this year the enrollment is 2,105.
"Most reductions are in the elementary levels," said Roser. "It's possible we may have to reconfigure those classrooms or close a building at some time. We need to make sure what we fix is what we are going to be needing in the future."
In other business, the board:
•Accepted a $1,000 donation from Partners in Education to be used to purchase a telescope for the high school.
•Approved Personal Touch Food Service to manage the concession stand for 2012-13.
•Approved an agreement with Niagara University to coordinate on community education and non-credit programming.
•German students arrived and will be on campus until Oct. 7.
Upcoming at Lew-Port:
•Sept. 24: The reading program "Pop Open a Book" begins in the Primary Education Center.
•Sept. 25: The WNY College Consortium will be at the high school with more than 18 college representatives available to talk to students.
•Sept. 27: Parent Night at the Primary Education Center and Open House at the Intermediate Education Center.
•Oct. 3: Open House at the Middle School.
•Oct. 4: Distinguished Alumni ceremony at 10 a.m.
•Oct. 6: Alumni Association gala at Seneca Niagara Casino & Hotel.