TORRINGTON – Elementary school teachers will receive four days of professional development training from the Institute for Multi-Sensory Education after the Goshen County School District trustees approved a $65,000 contract.
The institute, based in Michigan, uses the Orton-Gillingham technique of understanding the reasoning behind the sounds of letters and words. It is a recommended method for teaching students with dyslexia.
“I learned a lot about the English language. Understanding the rules and why the language is the way it is, that gave more meaning to words for me,” said Trail Elementary Principal Tyler Floerchinger, who attended the four-day training along with four other employees in recent years. “Phonemes and morphemes, and tapping out words, and sounds, and blends. That was pretty powerful.”
Trustee Rod Wagner asked how much it would have cost to send the eligible teachers to the institute, rather than have the training in the district.
Donna Fields, the Director of Curriculum, Instruction, and Data Management, said to send 70 employees at a cost of $3,500 per person would be higher than the contract under consideration.
The district will have the ability to train all kindergarten through fifth grade teachers, some paraprofessionals, all special education teachers, and principals.
“The concepts they’re getting are concepts every child needs,” Trail reading teacher Susan Keller, who also took the training, said. “They’re learning that our language really does follow rules and really does make sense and they’re learning the why of that.”
Passage of the agreement was unanimous.
Wagner expressed frustration with the district policy requiring board approval of field trips.
“The policy says that the school board has to approve any field trips that are out of compliance, like the ones that are too long or out of state,” Wagner said. “In past administrations, the superintendent’s just been approving those field trips and not asking the board.”
District policy mandates the board to approve field trips that fall outside of guidelines for duration and budget.
When it was pointed out the board did, in fact, comply with the requirement during this meeting, Wagner took issue with the items being on the consent agenda, which aggregates non-controversial items into a single vote.
“I guess I’m the only one that’s ever objected to it,” he said, adding he would like to see changes that meet district policy.
Board Chair Katherine Patrick said the board would address the topic at its work session on Sept. 24.
Wagner and Patrick voted against approving a field trip for Southeast Elementary students to visit the Denver Zoo on Oct. 8.
“I just have a hard time swallowing taking second and first graders to Denver on an eight-hour bus ride to see an animal they could drive down to Scottsbluff to see,” Wagner said. “I don’t like seeing our kids exposed to that much traffic and that much time in a bus at this age.”
In other business, trustees voted 7-2 to expel a male student for one semester after closed-door deliberation. Trustees Mark Jespersen and Zachary Miller were the dissenting votes. Superintendent Ryan Kramer explained that a semester expulsion is different from a semester suspension, in that a student could still access school services under suspension.
“An expulsion ends the opportunity to receive credit,” he said.
Kramer updated the board on district enrollment. There are 1,661 enrolled students, compared to 1,663 from last year. He said that kindergarten enrollment was higher, at 133 students, versus an average of 118 over the past two years.
Kramer also briefed the board on last year’s results from WY-TOPP, the state’s standardized test. While there were bright spots, he said the district still has specific areas to work on.
“We know that if we don’t have students reading at grade level by third grade, the likelihood of success for them in life in general goes significantly down,” he said. For special education students, “we need to do better. Our results in that area specifically are not where we want to be at this time next year.”
Trustees voted to accept nine donations from individuals and organizations, totaling nearly $15,500. These included the donation of Pixellot cameras, which will be used for streaming games and events online, to Southeast Schools from the Southeast Booster Club; $1,500 to Lingle-Ft. Laramie schools for t-shirts from Family Dentistry; and six Chromebook computers to Trail Elementary from DonorsChoose.org, a crowd-sourcing website that allows donors to choose projects they donate toward, totaling $1,900.
Miller expressed concern that even though the board was voting on the donations in this meeting, some of the money had already been spent.
Several principals introduced their new staff to the board, with 29 individuals starting work with the district this year. Lincoln Elementary School Principal Nyana Sims said that 50 percent of her kindergarten department is new, as well as two-thirds of her special education department.