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Okawville School Board Talks Budget, Math

By Jill Moon

The West Washington County School Board recently met and discussed the school district’s budget.

While concrete figures are difficult to pin down at this point in the school year, as funds from the state are not all in or in a state of uncertainty as things are still being ironed out and voted on in Springfield, and certain costs are not finalized yet, Superintendent Fuhrhop assured the board that it was “…a solid budget. We will keep monitoring it but as of now as a district we are sound financially.”

One figure not finalized was transportation costs but he said they do not have all the aid in but even though the district had a good balance in that account. Fuhrhop said that he and other superintendents from the area planning to make a trip to Springfield to see if they can help their schools. He said there is over $1–million in capital. The 2015-2016 budget was approved.

Middle School math teacher Jeanine Sheppard put in a request for maternity leave as her family is adopting another member. Then she gave a review of the math department’s new curriculum which she stated that she has been researching for years.

Sheppard explained that over the years with trying to align standard texts with IL Common Core there was some discord and she felt her students were “…not digging deep enough into math concepts. EngageNY pushes students to persevere in problem solving and meets Mathematical Practice Standards.” She told the board that this new curriculum prepares students for P.A.R.C.C. and ACT tests.

At its basic level this new “new” math is giving the students a problem and asking for several different ways to solve it. Apparently it is intended to inspire creativity and problem solving skills as there could be many ways to get to the right answer. Mrs. Sheppard said she didn’t really care how students got there, equation, graphing, etc., as long as they got there. She and co-teacher Mr. Goforth both agreed that since they’ve been using this curriculum they have seen many more “a-ha moments” in their students.

FFA field trips were approved. It was pointed out that they are done every year and the students’ expenses are paid for by the alumni and parents. The board only approves the teacher’s expenses.

Principal Spinka reported increased teacher training, and that local police units had come to the school to give consultation about safety and signage issues. He reported 97.6 daily attendance in the grade school and 95.7 in the high school.

Spinka also reported on discipline events, which in grade school totaled in Aug.-Sept. 2013-2014 at 50 and this year in the same time period totaled 39. In the high school in 20013-20014 there were 90 such events, this year, 49.

All board members were in agreement that it was the increased visibility and cooperation among staff and administrators that greatly contributed to this statistic.

Principal Senior remarked that he has been enjoying this school year, getting around and meeting students and teachers and going to as many school events as he can.

“My goal is to make each teacher better,” said Senior. He plans to send some to workshops then have them teach other teachers what they learned.

Senior also stated that he is committed to visiting each classroom regularly, being a presence in the halls, improving staff technology skills, and keeping up the communication he enjoys with his staff.

In his report Superintendent Fuhrhop said the district was not going to court now over the flooring issues. It has been resolved that some will be replaced on each school vacation, with the hallways being replaced next summer, which should conclude the repairs, with no cost to the district.

Regarding state funding, Fuhrhop said “It is a fight to get any money.” The state has said it will not require any more mandates it does not fund. Meaning the state will not require schools to do or provide things the state isn’t paying for.

Speaking of the new school year, Fuhrhop said “This has been one of the smoothest Aug./Sept. I have seen in 9 years.” He attributed this to the visibility of all the administration, including new Principal Senior, being a presence in the halls and the communication flow.