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La Plata Junior High Reports Improved Attendance and Reduction in Student Incidents


by Margaret Hopper

The Silver District school board met at the administrative offices on December 19. The first part, a general information session, began at 5:00 p.m. All board members were present: Deborah Eggleston, Arnold Torres, Tony Egan, Chris Arvidson and Trent Petty, the board president.

Wayne Mendonca, La Plata principal, gave an update on the junior high scene, telling about a number of programs working for students. The honors project was mentioned,
recent parent participation, the goal of 95 percent student attendance, and the reduction of student incidents for the year to date.



Mendonca spoke of the honors math offerings, which include algebra from high school books, geometry for 8th graders and the requirement that all students in the honors section keep a C or higher grade average to stay there.

Some perks for increasing student attendance included a gathering for all 211 students who had perfect attendance. Random drawings gave T-shirts to 25 students. The principal said at the next gathering they would have 50 T-shirts for drawing and possibly 2 iPods, one for a male, one for a female. Last year had a 93.8 attendance average; in this second 9 weeks the average had been raised to 96.2 percent, and aside from those who had perfect attendance, another 170 had only missed one day, some of those, only a half day.

Regarding the reduction of student ‘incidents’, Mendonca said part of the reduction was due to changing the rules on electronic equipment. By allowing some use of cell phones during lunch periods when students were outside, there were far fewer citations. Bullying appeared to be down, but when a case had gone physical, some of those were reclassified differently, so the numbers weren’t firm, but it appeared to be improving overall.

Beth Lougee, high school principal, introduced sophomores Mike Chu and Luis Terrazas, who had created a PowerPoint presentation for their honors chemistry class. The game had challenges and choices, which required some knowledge of chemical element properties for decision making and thwarting interferences from trolls, ogres and others.
Lougee pointed out that all the honors students in Wayne Sherwood’s class created a project to replace the final exam. This was an example.

Superintendent Lon Streib gave the board members information on a proposed policy on alternate demonstration of competency. The various forms included standards for assessment, parent notifications and other record keeping. In the event of a student concussion, the policy proposals would cover more variables, require medical review, be more specific on when a student could return to activities. Streib asked board members to review all the materials and be prepared to initiate the policy in the January meeting. The process involves public readings and a vote after the second reading. Board members said they would like the advice of Mike McMillan at that next meeting, as well.

Drug dogs were at the high school and junior high recently. Streib said there were no ‘hits’ and the student parking area had also been checked. There would be another drug check later on in the year.

The Memorandum of Understanding with WNMU regarding dual credits came up again.
Streib said one issue was that students attending classes at WNMU must hold similar or higher academic standards than would be expected of students doing work at the high school. No college credit class should do less than that; no “dumbing down”.

Petty asked board members to complete the board self-evaluations and superintendent’s evaluation soon. To get this information on the next agenda, he said they should all be turned in to Sandra Estrada, board secretary, at least a week before the next meeting. Gus Benakis said teacher evaluations under the new Common Core guidelines seemed to be going well. In a few years, he thought some of the changes would improve student work considerably. He said that school grades should show increases even next year.

At 6:00 the board took a five-minute break and opened the second session in which votes could be taken.

Candy Milam and Beth Lougee told of recent efforts to make sure all 153 seniors were ready for graduation by May. Many had already completed mandatory testing; some would have a last opportunity in May. When everything possible has been done for seniors, Lougee said they would start the same process on juniors. Egan asked about the alternative paths to graduation; he was informed that quite a few seniors had taken these options, but the kids were getting serious about it and improvements were coming.

Under finances, Milam asked the board to approve the November check amount of $2,439.113.41; a BAR adjustment of $733 from the state to cover the summer K-3Plus attendance, a movement (no increase or reduction) of $111, 965 for equipment purchases for K-3 Plus, and a carry-over of $650,982 from the initial budget. In a bid process, Runyan Construction was awarded the Fox Field parking lot work at $51,807.

Milam informed the board that some donations had been received, but those less than $500 did not have to be made public. In the case of Freeport McMoRan, where the donation amounts were doubled, many of these would be reported in the future, as Freeport sent in the match amounts. The board passed all these requests.

The board also approved a return to 35 cents per mile for feeder routes (where families living far-out drive their children to the bus stops), a contract renewal with Montoya Transportation, and a one-year medical leave-of-absence request for a teacher. Each of these were voted on separately.

Under citizen’s inquiries, Justin Wecks, union representative, announced that the Southwest Region Education Associations of Cobre and Silver Districts had jointly donated $300 to El Refugio for children’s programs in honor of National Education Week.

The board adjourned at 6:55 p.m. as there was no closed session. The next meeting date is Thursday, January 16. The public is welcome to attend.


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