Improvements continue at SISD

Sweetwater Intermediate School (SIS) brought its campus report to the SISD (Sweetwater Independent School District) Board of Trustees during their regular meeting on Monday evening, March 26 at the Administration Building.Heather Moore, the principal at SIS, presented an overview of the school, noting that more departmentalization has been utilized this year. Tripods--clusters of three teachers--in both the fourth and fifth grades have been established to help prepare students for the new standardized test, STAAR (State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness).The curriculum used at the school, C-Scope, has been praised by teachers for its depth, elevated vocabulary and higher-level thinking which develops a deeper comprehension in students. Changes in instruction have resulted as well in that textbooks are no longer used.Several student programs were discussed, including the RtI (response to intervention) class Pitt Stop. The program focuses on reading and math for students while reviewing skills for students to master. The class has proven to motivate students while building self esteem and filling educational gaps.The SOI program, attended 90 minutes a week by students, centralizes on areas of focus with sensory integration and visual proceedings. Individual exercises and small group study is implemented.In addition, the Spire program is a supplemental and intervention program for students with dyslexia or other reading hindrances. The small-group study meets for 30 minutes on a daily basis and helps with phonics and vocabulary comprehension.Preparation for the STAAR test has been widely implemented at SIS through built in tutorials set during and after school. Academies, benchmark testing and tests administered every six weeks are also being used, along with Flex Days. Color-coded progress charts track students' work, all serving to motivate student growth.Extra activities at SIS consist of library incentives like the point club awards, where every student in the class attains the same goal. Classes compete to become part of the 25 Point Club; audio books are awarded for joining the 50 Point Club and the class will be recognized on the school's marquee when reaching the 100 Point Club.The school-wide behavioral program, TBSI (Texas Behavior Support Initiative), addresses how to act while in common areas like bathrooms, hallways and the cafeteria and while at recess and upon dismissal. Community rules are also discussed.The gifted and talented program known as SEEK has seen success this year through their participation in Destination ImageNation. The class teaches students to develop quick critical thinking skills and problem solving through teamwork.In addition, the SIS Jump Rope Team has served as a positive highlight to the community through the group's performances at area colleges and even the San Antonio Spurs basketball games.Other programs include a school-wide music performance and Watch Dogs, which encourages all around involvement from fathers of students. Overall, the school strives to attain all around involvement from its staff and faculty members.Another presentation was heard from David White with McKinstry, the company who recently replaced 108 pieces of equipment during this past Spring Break as part of the Cool Schools grant.All but two of the district's air conditioning units were replaced, but the entire project is expected to be completed by the first part of April. The final inspection from the state is projected to take place near the middle of the month.Pictures were shown of the Spring Break project of the old units that were replaced and the newly installed units. With this upgrade, better circulation will be felt, notably at the new high school gym. Mr. White stated that the district is already saving energy and in the long-term service and maintenance will be simpler.McKinstry also discussed the Energy Service Performance Contract in that a thorough study has already been completed which found ways for the district to become energy-efficient. Some A/C units that didn't qualify in the Cool Schools grant can be added to this project, and a unit would be installed in the old high school gym.The work would include retrofitting all lights which will include an in-depth system and training for maintenance. Toilets and faucets would also be updated, and hand dryers would be placed in all bathrooms to reduce paper towel costs. A computer power management program would be added in classrooms, while the district's bus barn would have a new fuel barn installed which would allow for bulk savings in gas purchases. The overall project would have a summer 2012 start date with the expectation of being completed before the 2012-2013 school year began.A third party review and financing would still need to be considered pending approval before any work could begin. The board, however, tabled the Engery Savings Performance Contract agreement with McKinstry in order to learn more about the project, but they did approve a resolution to reimburse project expenditures should the district move forward with the McKinstry project.Another resolution approved by the board was one concerning high stakes and standardized testing of Texas public school students. The document raises concerns with the "over-reliance" on the state-mandated testing while urging for more local input.The state's commissioner of education, Robert Scott, called the testing "a perversion of its original intent" as learning has now been shifted to prepare for the tests, rather than considering how students learn. Test preparation has taken "the love of learning" away from students, with the resolution stating that "the system of the past will not prepare our students in the future".With SISD approving the resolution, the district is now--as of last Friday--one of 238 districts hoping to alleviate the testing situation.Furthermore, the OFYP (Optional Flexible Year Program) waiver was approved, which addresses the local Flex Days used throughout the school year. SISD Assistant Superintendent Kathy Smartt noted that the days have proven beneficial for younger students while serving as an incentive for older students; Sweetwater High School was praised for their use of Flex Days within the year.Ms. Smartt also discussed the textbook and instructional materials certification, which the board approved. She stated that the allotment for the materials run every two years and that the district has used their share wisely. The certification allows for more local control, and remaining funds can be used for other supplemental materials and technology.The board also approved the Business Procedures Manual for the district, which is necessary to meet federal regulations. The local manual is a variation of the Region 14 handbook.More approval was given on the certification of unopposed candidates and the order of cancellation. Both unopposed candidates, Leah Andrews and Neal Hoover, filed for the at-large seats and will be sworn into office during the May meeting. Following a ninety-minute closed session meeting, approval was given toward the Superintendent's recommendations for teacher contracts for the 2012-2012 school year, along with some professional personnel changes.Also approved was the consent agenda, which consisted of the minutes from the February 27, 2012 meeting, the investment statement and the February 2012 financial statements and bills. One delinquent tax lot bid was accepted and approved as well.An item requiring no action was a report on the School Health Advisory Council, or SHAC, from Ms. Smartt. The group is made up of various members of the community and even includes some high school students. A number of programs have incepted as a result of SHAC, and the council hopes to form a 5K challenge along with a Challenge Day which bring awareness to diversity and bullying. Ms. Smartt praised the group for their passion and commitment to the program.In his Superintendent's Report, Terry Pittman acknowledged four students from the local DECA chapter, a competitive business and marketing group, who have advanced to the national round to be held in April.Bryson Wallace, Spencer Young, Adrian Lopez and Gabriel Medellin will be representing SISD at the event to be held in Salt Lake City, Utah, which will also include a leadership conference.Tax collections were reported at $5,265,467.65, or 92.58% collected. Enrollment was noted currently totaling 2239 students--a loss of 13 students from the prior month but an overall increase of 49 students from the first day of classes. Also, results from the exit level retests are expected to arrive at the end of the week.The monthly report from Wallace Accelerated High School was given with a total of 43 students enrolled at the campus, as seventeen anticipated graduates were noted with seven completers. The principal of the campus, Melinda Alexander, was praised by the board of her continually displayed commitment to the students and school.