Sweet Springs reports good first day of classes

Friday, August 15, 2003

Despite losing its superintendent a few weeks before school started, despite searching for a school principal less than two weeks ago and despite a worm infecting computers three days before the start of school, Sweet Springs school district reported a good first day Thursday at its school board meeting.

"School apparently is off to a good start," said new Superintendent of Schools Boyd Jones.

The first to start school in the area, Sweet Springs has about 425 enrolled in the district from kindergarten through 12th grade. Jones said the trend of dropping enrollment seems to be ceasing.

"Apparently we're up a little bit from the end of last year," said Jones. "That's good news basically."

He warned, however, that an accurate count on the first day is difficult.

The count put 218 students in seventh through 12th grade and 207 students in kindergarten through sixth grade.

Jones said new students were split evenly between the elementary and high school, though a large incoming seventh grade class bumped up the high school population.

Sweet Springs High School Principal Rex Roberts said he was "real happy" with the first day of school. "(It) went real well," he said. "New teachers hit the ground running. (I was) real impressed with their first day."

New Elementary School Principal Donna Wright also reported a positive first day with Sweet Springs students. She said 35 students signed up for preschool, and more may enroll in the next week.

Jones said the district had expected parents to register their children for preschool earlier in the summer but was happy to see enrollment jump in the last two weeks. "We've certainly been gaining them hand over fist," he said.

Part of the reason for the slow preschool registration was the district's uncertainty in funding. The school board voted earlier this summer to hire one preschool teacher, but didn't vote until Thursday night to hire a Amy Williams as a second preschool teacher and Lorie Looney as a preschool aide.

Williams, whose first day was Thursday, was hired after the school district was given a $35,000 preschool continuation grant from the state.

"The grant portion was greater (than last year), which was certainly unexpected," Jones said.

"It worked out better than what we thought it would," agreed Board President John Dohrman. Last year, the district received a $28,000 grant.

Also at the meeting, the board approved:

* hiring Jennifer Boynton as night custodian for the high school;

* maintaining a tax levy at $3.95 per $100 assessed property value;

* hiring Brenda Martin as a health room aide and Gene Winter as a bus driver;

* having the board employee picnic at 6 p.m. Sept. 7 at Dohrman's home and providing the meat;

* giving District Technology Coordinator Alan Bybee a $500 stipend for a technology in-service for teachers Tuesday; and

* the annual secretary of the board report for 2002-03, which was submitted Friday.

Paula Staples, communication arts instructor for grades 10 to 12, represented the Professional Development Committee at the school board meeting. She said the six teachers who serve on the committee would prefer paying Bybee for his in-service rather than having a motivational speaker this year.

Roberts said the decision is in keeping with a district's goal to become more tech-savvy.

Bybee showed teachers how to use computers to take attendance and maintain a lunch book, grade book and grade card.

He also showed teachers how to create a Web page, which each teacher is supposed to make this year.

Bybee also is erasing a worm from the district's computers. Jones said the worm infected computers Monday, and Bybee had the high school computer lab ready for his in-service workshop Tuesday morning. Jones said Bybee is continuing to solve the problem, and most of the computers are worm-free.

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