District says it’s already helping students | RecordCourier.com
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District says it’s already helping students

by Merrie Leininger

Helping students meet the new graduation requirements and pass the proficiency tests has been the focus of the community lately, but the school district wants to insure everyone it is already working hard to help those students who have trouble.

Linda Nalder, is a teacher at Gardnerville Elementary School, took it upon herself to have a math camp – a three-day session while class was off-track.

The district is working on finding room in the over-filled multi-track elementary schools to have more of them.

“It was for kids who had math problems and kids who were math whizzes. I sent home the sign ups and within two days, 70 kids signed up,” Nalder said at Tuesday’s school board meeting at Kingsbury Middle School. “A larger percentage were at-risk kids, and at the end, they had decided that math could be fun.”

Jacks Valley Elementary School Principal Pam Gilmartin and teacher Sue Worthen talked about the after-school homework club in which 1st through 6th grade students can stay after school and get help with their homework.

“They bring their homework and if they are finished before the 45 minutes is up, we have other activities. We have talked to the teachers to find out what things they need practice on,” Worthen said.

The majority of the 15 to 30 kids who come have been referred to the club by their teachers and are children who need extra help.

She said the teachers have had to volunteer their time since stipend money ran out.

Scarselli Elementary School Principal Betsy Palmer and counselor Edna Doornink said they have a variety of interventions for students, including a homework club.

“I see a great deal of promise in these interventions and would like to have more and more resources. I would like to see a district pool of teachers willing to come back on their vacations and do inter-sessions. If we free up stipends, we would have more teachers willing to do that,” Palmer said.

Superintendent Pendery Clark said the district has put intervention programs at a high priority.

“It does seem to be all of a sudden we are asked are we doing interventions, and we always tried to identify students and provide interventions whether care teams or study teams,” Clark said.

n Proficiency tests. Douglas High School staff is focusing on helping students pass the proficiency tests now, said Principal Bev Jeans and teachers Gaye Tyndall and Earlene Issel.

When the proficiency test passing score was raised, the school began requiring the integrated math one class that has he same material as the math portion of the test. The math department also came up with a zero-period class to help those who failed the math test.

Fourteen students retook the math test May 11, the only seniors left out of the 140 who did not pass the test the first time.

Eight students still need to pass the reading portion of the test. Issel said the English curriculum was revamped in 1996-97 after it was determined 73 percent of the sophomore class was reading at the beginning freshman level.

A new reading program has been put into effect and science and history teachers are also providing reading instruction in their classes.

This year, two developmental reading sections are being provided. The teachers received training on reading strategies from two UNR reading specialists and special education teachers.

“Because we don’t teach reading or have the materials at the high school level, we got training. That’s been very successful working closely with those who didn’t pass the literature proficiency test,” Issel said.

n Back-up plan. Clark said that Douglas County does not have as much to be concerned about as other districts because preliminary numbers have ranked Douglas fourth in the state.

“We look pretty good state-wide,” Clark said.

She updated the board on legislation that was proposed by the Legislative Counsel Bureau to help students who didn’t pass the math test before graduation.

A student who has met all other graduation and course requirements and passed the reading and writing parts of the test can go through graduation and receive a certificate of attendance. They will be able to take the math test again in June and get their diploma if they pass.

If not, they will have to take a intensive summer class, and if they fail again, will take night classes to get an adult diploma. The legislation has $300,000 attached to pay for the summer classes and the additional testing, but the districts are required to provide matching funds.

n School safety. Clark also gave the board an update on school safety issues.

“Since I reported to you in April, we’ve had no major incidents. We did have a break-in one night at the high school that prompted us to go to a more restricted key system,” Clark said.

The sheriff’s office now has a floor plan of all the schools and has a master key to each school.

At the sheriff’s office suggestion, all the schools have a uniform bell system that lets teachers know when they should evacuate for a bomb threat, when they should stay in classrooms and when they should lock themselves in their classes.

A hotline should be up in a week that will be only for school safety concerns. It is being funded by the school safety grant and will be staffed 24-hours a day.

Sheriff’s deputies also met with school personnel to discuss problem students.

“They made available all their research about profiles of districts that (shootings) have occurred in and profiles of troubled students,” she said. “We have emphasized the importance of students and staff taking responsibility for student safety. We are trying to break down the reluctance to narc or tell on others.”

Clark said Carson Valley Middle School students are working on starting a school-wide tolerance program and the school counselors have updated the crisis plan.