D-29 celebrates achievements

Celebrating achievement in finances, academics and athletics topped the Nov. 20 meeting of the Williston District 29 School Board.
The district's annual audit revealed District 29 is "doing well financially," said David Enzastiga, a certified public accountant whose firm, Rish & Enzastiga, conducted the audit.
He said the district was able to add $206,925 to their fund balance. This was possible through an additional $2,068 in revenue and having more than $200,000 less in expenses than originally budgeted.
That addition leaves the district with a fund balance of $2,122,677 - exceeding the recommended three months of operating expenses by roughly one month. "That's good for us," said Superintendent Dr. Tom Siler. "We want to be fiscally sound."
After years of losses or breaking even, Enzastiga said the district's food service saw their "best year" by bringing in $53,056. "I commend Mrs. (Stephanie) Chavis," said Enzastiga of the food service coordinator.
Siler said Chavis has done several things to help the food service's finances, including publishing details about what's in the food they serve. This earns them an extra six cents per meal in government reimbursements for a healthy food requirement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - $857 in October alone. "It helps," said Siler.
While the district is sound financially, a recent state report card shows they are also in good standing academically with an excellent absolute and growth rating - the highest a district can earn. They also rated well on a federal report card which gave them an ‘A'.
The scores prove "good instruction is good instruction," said Dr. Rachel Wall, the district's director of instruction and federal programs, in an instructional update.
Many districts have "shifted" over the years, though District 29 has been "consistent" in meeting or exceeding the state average. That's why it's important to "use the data to drive what we're doing" so they can continually improve, said Wall.
A major part of that is a system called Response to Intervention, which involves "intentionally and specifically instructing a student on defined strengths and weaknesses," she said.
She said the one-on-one approach is what special education teachers are trained to do. It includes flexible scheduling, which sets aside time for a combination of teacher-led and computer-based instruction to work on weaknesses. "It's like a schedule within a schedule," said Wall.
The district is also moving towards "lexiled reading," as part of the state mandated Common Core Standards. This is basically a comparison of how well a child reads to the level of the book by "balancing" the amount of literary and informational text a child reads each grade level.
"The rigor of text is very important," said Wall. The district is working to ensure their libraries are properly equipped with the right books.
"I'm very proud," said Calvin Melton, the board chairman and Williston-Elko High School alumnus. He said he'll work to make sure the district has what it needs to keep up the success because "I don't want to lose it."
Though academics are very important, District 29 also recognized the athletic achievements made this year.
"It keeps them focused and moving forward," said Siler of athletics.
He recognized the WEHS football team for their 8-3 overall record, including being undefeated in the region for the fourth straight year. The girls' tennis team was also recognized for finishing the year with a 12-7 record, winning the region for the fifth year in a row.
In other news:
- The board gave their approval to send a resolution to the S.C. School Boards Association opposing a proposed eight-percent across-the-board budget cut from the federal government. The SCSBA will send the resolution to Congress to show their opposition to the cuts, which are part of the Budget Control Act of 2011.
If the cuts were to happen, they would have a negative impact on the district. With local funding already shrinking, "any further cuts in education funding could adversely affect the quality of our education program," said Siler. Cuts to programs, staff and courses could occur, he said.
- The Save the Children staff at Kelly Edwards Elementary School were recognized for their work in enriching reading skills of students. All students in the program have shown improvement through Benchmark, PASS or MAP testing.
"I interact with the teachers on the students' progress to identify their strengths and weaknesses on a regular basis," said program coordinator Luther Owens in a press release.
- The board approved $100 Walmart gift cards for employees, an annual Christmas gift.
-The district recently switched bread providers after the Merita Bread Co., part of the Hostess Co., went bankrupt and closed. They are now using the Captain John Derst Co., though Siler wasn't sure if they cost more than Merita.