During the second year with one elementary building and a new addition to Southwest School, some changes have been made to serve students better, especially in special education. USD 382 Board of Education members took a brief tour prior to their meeting Monday.
Heather Skaggs discussed her work with a non-verbal student to "figure out good ways to learn what he knows, and he knows a lot," she said. He uses an iPad to communicate, make requests and tell jokes. During most of the day, he is integrated into the regular classroom, aided by a para-educator.
A small area is available for speech therapy in a larger classroom used by the gifted and talented program. There's another room for students who need sensory experiences to learn and manage behavioral issues. There are balls, mats, a jump-o-lene, and they're working on getting a swing, Principal Jason May said. Some of the students do a series of exercises that focus on rhythm and balance to use both sides of the brain.
May mentioned a student that had trouble every day during a previous year, until he started Bal-A-Vis-X, then was in trouble only two more times during the year, on days that he did not do the exercises.
Some teachers have also incorporated the Bal-A-Vis-X program into their classrooms, or begin the day with brain exercises, movement and song.
They're research-based strategies, Superintendent Suzan Patton said.
During the meeting, May and Kirsten Blankenship, assistant Southwest principal, discussed the character education program that focuses on trustworthiness, respect, responsibility, fairness, caring and citizenship.
The school also held a "big idea" assembly in September, with courage as the topic. Students learned about standing up to bullying and doing the right thing.
For parents, doing the right thing includes paying required fees. Patton projected that $10,000 to $12,000 would remain unpaid this year, and suggested that the district contract with CCM Enterprises as a collection agency.
The company would be paid only if they were successful in recovering fees, at the rate of 48 percent, according to the proposed contract. Patton said she would try to negotiate a lower percentage.
The district would still work with parents for payment, but if they were not able to get results within a specified time, would refer the bill to CCM.
Pratt High teachers Susan Pixler and Tyler Strong were approved as ESL overload teachers, working during their planning periods. They replace an ESL para who resigned.
Tonya Younie was hired as a GATE (gifted and talented education) para, replacing Rebecca Hostetler, who resigned. Teacher Derek Liggett resigned as PHS SADD sponsor and was hired as a boys' basketball coach for Liberty Middle School. An early retirement request was approved for fifth grade teacher Roxanne Vicars. She will retire at the end of the current school year.