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Walnut Township third graders lead the county on reading test

MILLERSPORT – Elementary school principal Kim Yenni had some very good news for school board members Monday night.

Yenni reported she had “fabulous news.” The preliminary results from the state’s third grade reading last fall show that 50 percent of the district’s third graders passed it which was the highest passage rate in Fairfield County. The test includes reading informational text, reading literary text and writing, she said.

Thirty six of the district’s 44 third graders were proficient on the Third Grade Guarantee which is a subscore on the third grade reading test. That showing placed the district third in the county.

Third graders will have another chance at the test this spring. All students will retake the test to measure their progress since the earlier test and to help them to become more comfortable with standardized tests.

“If they pass it once, they are good,” Yenni explained. She was responding to concerns from some board members and parents about retaking the test and possibly not doing as well.

The passage rate for the third grade reading test averaged 34 percent statewide, she reported.

In other business Monday night, high school principal Jeff Stought outlined a schedule change for next school year. The current nine periods per day will be cut to eight which will increase each period by six months. He said that will increase instructional time by approximately eight hours per semester.

Three lunch periods will be cut to two. Each student have a lunch and an assist period where they will have access to teachers for individual help. That period can also be spent in the new Laker Learning Center. Other than the assist period, study halls have been eliminated.

“Teachers are excited about having the additional study time,” Sought reported. “I think it’s going to work.”

Superintendent Randy Cotner emphasized again that the district’s levy on the upcoming March ballot is a RENEWAL. “You have been paying this tax since 1995,” he added.

“It is $1,250,000 over five years,” he said, noting that the other emergency levy that raised about the some amount of money was lost when it was combined with the additional levy needed to avoid slipping into ‘fiscal emergency.’

“We’re already behind the eight-ball,” Cotner said. The district is climbing out of its financial problems, but the levy renewal is crucial to continue that path. Earlier in his financial report, District Treasurer Jeff Beane said the district’s cash balance in its general revenue fund dropped to just $6,095 at one point in January. Cotner said that’s scary in a $7 million budget. Beane said the cash balance has now grown to a more stable level. He noted another positive in January. After four years of deficit spending in January, the district did not spend more than it took in.

Cotner said he presented three school calendar options to teachers and other staff for their input. He acknowledged hearing complaints about the early start last year. So for next school year, he tried to address those complaints by pushing back the start date by a week while still finishing the first semester by the Christmas break and wrapping up the school year by Memorial Day.

Dr. Glen Keller suggested taking back the two-vacation days for the Fairfield County Fair in October. “How many kids actually have projects down there? he asked. He knew the band participated at the fair and several board members mentioned that the two-day break has a long tradition in the district and strong community support.

Here are the proposed calendar highlights:

• August 17 is the first day of classes;

• Sweet Corn Festival break is Aug. 31 – Sept. 2;

• Fair Days are Oct. 13 & 14:

• Winter Break is Dec. 22 through Jan.1;

• Spring Break is April 10 – 14;

• Graduation is May 21;

• Early dismissal days are Wednesdays, Oct. 26, Dec. 7, and March 25; and

• Last day for students is May 25.

Board will consider the proposed calendar at their March 8 meeting at 7 p.m. in the Lake Learning Center in Millersport High School.

A presentation by Larry Weeks CPA on the most recent district audit was pushed back to next month’s meeting. Board members also approved the resignaton of Alyssa Arnold as physical education teacher at the high school effective Jan. 27.

Supplemental contracts were approved for Kevin Keener as highs school track coach and Adam Evans as assistant track coach.

Board members were split 2-2 on approving a supplemental contract for Mike Washburn as junior high school track coach. Board member Holly Armstrong abstained since Washburn is a family member.

Board President Vince Popo believes that her abstention goes with the positive votes, breaking the tie. His belief is being reviewed. Popo and Tom Cumbow supported the approval with Karen Keller and Carol King opposing it.

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