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Silver Schools held its board meeting Thursday, December 13, 2012 at the District Office on Swan Street. Wayne Mendonca, principal of La Plata Middle School, gave an in-depth report on student progress and interventions being used to bring up grade levels in major subjects such as math, reading and language arts.

One treatment was a float period, an extra 45 minute class where grade 7 and 8 students get extra time for a subject on a rotating basis: first hour classes get the float one day, second hour the next day, and so on. The float may be either intervention or enrichment, depending on the class needs. “This plan allows for improvement of both low and high performing students,” said Mendonca. “We work on both ends; they all get something.”

The lowest 25 percentile students may be asked to give up their elective class to focus on areas they are failing. Teacher teams, tutoring before school, discovery test evaluations, review of strategy plans, these and more are used to help raise the proficiency levels.

Another idea was to have teachers, who are not offering core subjects, teach critical skills in their non-core art, P.E., etc. classes. For instance, build essay questions into required assignments rather than multiple choice or short answer questions, which would reinforce writing for history or science teachers. Others required journals or creative writings.

Mendonca said another thrust was parental support. Much effort was put into parental communications. He estimated 750 teacher-parent interactions had already taken place and more would follow. Open house meetings had been held earlier and new ideas were constantly being tried. The D grade the state had placed on La Plata would be changed, and all teachers were loyally investing in the effort.

The report Mendonca gave each board member offered the program overview and group test scores showing changes from Test 1 to Test 2 by grades. The visuals clearly showed advanced and proficient student scores from those below proficiency. Superintendent Lon Streib voiced high approval for the work being done at La Plata, saying the improvement plan showed a number of important ideas and directions used, and the board members were equally supportive.

The school board election in February was considered. Assistant superintendent Candy Milam explained that some mistakes had been made at the county clerk’s office, which failed to clearly report that there would be more than one polling place. These corrections were being made immediately and the board president and secretary must sign the amendment papers approving the changes naming the 5 other convenience centers after the meeting to insure that they would be recorded on Friday.

These changes will make the Monday papers, but any people who want to run for school board positions have to do so the next day, Tuesday, December 18. Milam was concerned there was so little time between the notices. Barry Remmel has declined to run again in area 2, and Pete Holguin sent a note at the meeting saying he wouldn’t run again in area 4, northeast Silver City, and McGaughey’s downtown district 1 is also up for election.

Another part of the February election is the 2-mill levy, which supports operations for the district, and which Milam says would seriously affect classrooms if it failed. Milam and Sandra Estrada, the superintendent’s secretary, produced a very professional looking tri-fold brochure informing the community why the levy was needed. The brochure was presented at the board meeting and is ready for distribution.

In the superintendent’s report, Lon Str eib reported on contacts with the Prospectors, the lobbyists who will present information at the next legislative session in Santa Fe, and told of information and strategic planning from the state school board association, as well as training programs for new board members after the election. School Reach, a plan for the district’s cell and landline phones, is also being worked on.

Regarding the tech department, Streib said he thought the district needed a thorough inventory and reorganization with the techs in charge of their department, rather than an assistant administrator, with a committee to write a plan, which will fit it into the strategic plan. It would contain department goals and a unified plan for the district, to include all schools; there should be economy in the materials ordered and used. Now, each school creates its own tech ideas, and they may not meet future needs.

Dyslexia was another topic Streib brought up. He said teachers wanted training in interventions that might help students. His meetings with principals suggest it is time to start curriculum mapping to make sure there are no gaps. He admitted there would be hard work invested, and it would take time, but this would be the difference between low- and high-grade markings for the district.

Streib said Cliff FFA should be written up for its accomplishments, as it was under- reported. Candy Milam said this was equally true of the donations offered by Freeport McMoRan, which was matching the funds contributed by Chino employees. She told of contributions to various schools and how McMoRan doubled amounts up to a point, then matched equally beyond that. The benefits for students were much appreciated.

On the consent items, Milam presented check expenses of $1,647,523.38. Of this, $1,355,700 went for contracted salaries. Streib recommended the expenses be approved, and the board did so. Milam also presented the concrete bids for Cliff parking lot improvements. Runyan Construction bid $103,000 and Southwest Concrete bid $75,000. Southwest was approved as the lower bid.

Petty asked about recent work on the Vo Tech issue. Assistant Principal Gus Benakis said nothing had happened since the feasibility study and Senate Memorial work. Petty asked about progress on the land trades between Cliff and the county. Streib said both parcels were small, less than an acre, and no money would be involved. It should conveniently clean up the small parcels. A few months should do it.

There was no closed session at this meeting. The board voted to meet at 5:00 for workshop and at 6:00 for executive meeting in the future. They adjourned at 7:20. 

Live from Silver City

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