Williston school board reviews district goals for next year

During its April 21 meeting, the Williston school board was given a review of the district's goals and strategies for the upcoming school year, which they approved.

However, before each school principal gave a presentation on what they are doing in their respective schools to improve student achievement, the board reconfigured itself.

Newly elected school board member Alan Mulligan was sworn in and then the board elected its officers.

"I look forward to working with everyone and the whole community," Mulligan said.

Doris Young relinquished her position as the board chairperson to the newly reelected Calvin Melton.

Tommy Boyleston was named the new vice chairman and Ronnie Brown was selected as the board secretary.

The board then began reviewing the district goals.

"This is the final year of the five-year plan but with yearly reviews and revisions. Our No. 1 goal is academic achievement of our students," said Alexia Clamp, the district superintendent.

"With any plan in the district, it should point back to student achievement," said Rachel Wall, the district director of instruction and federal programs. "I'm proud of the things we have done in the past and what we have done so far."

Wall said the district has been careful not to make impulse purchases for trendy educational software or programs.

The district is putting more emphasis on writing and English through its kindergarten through eighth grade "Step Up to Writing" programs and balanced literary initiative, Wall said.

Also the district is starting a kindergarten through fifth grade phonetics program, she said.

"Our teachers need to be strong in presenting phonetics in the classroom," Wall said.

With student achievement as its primary goal, the district's other goals are teacher quality, parental involvement and improving the learning environment in schools.

Willston-Elko High School will have an after-school program to help its students as well as a study hall for seniors who are struggling academically, Wall said.

Another districtwide goal is to have home visits by teachers to all the students in the district during the school year, she said.

Earlier in the year, the board approved the district starting a pilot program for the 2009-10 school year for single-gender classrooms for fourth and seventh grades. The program is voluntarily for any parents who wish their children to attend these gender-segregrated classes.

Kelly Edwards Elementary will have a boys-only fourth grade class as well as a coed fourth grade, said Donna Selvey, the KEES principal.

"Studies have shown that scores tend to drop for boys in the fourth grade," she said.

Williston-Elko Middle School will have girls- and boys-only seventh grade classes as well as coed classes.

At KEES, the students will be required to enter two academic contests each year, such as writing or science, Selvey said.

Also, KEES will no longer have in-school suspension, but misbehaving students will attend after-school suspension, she said.

At the middle school, more emphasis will be placed on reading and writing, said Eavon Hickson, the WEMS principal.

The "Step Up to Writing" program will be implemented schoolwide, she said.

"We will continue to implement Read 180 to increase reading comprehension. If you can't comprehend, you can't really read," Hickson said. "We are lacking when it comes to reading. if we improve on this, it should increase our test scores."

In the high school, remediation programs will emphasized with tutoring in core courses to help struggling students and increase the graduation rate, said Williston-Elko High School principal Skip Lax.

"That is how we are measured," he said of the graduation rate.

WEHS will also have a study hall for its athletes so their performance in class won't lag behind their achievements on the playing field, he said.

Lax said he also wants to see more students involved in academic teams such as speech and debate and the Quiz Bowl.

Lax said he wants to see more freshman make it into their sophomore year without having to repeat courses or that grade because students who reach 10th grade are less likely drop out than those that do not.

Toward the end of the meeting, the board voted to give Clamp a one-year extension on her original three-year contract as superintendent. The extension would have her under contract until 2012. The board evaluated Clamp earlier in this year.