Although not officially on the agenda, three parents were able to question members of the Slater School board, as well as Slater Superintendent John McEachern and elementary principal Ragina Mize during the regularly scheduled meeting held Wednesday, Jan. 20.
The parents wanted to discuss the new mandatory extended day program for K-8 students which extends the school day 20 minutes, from 2:55 to 3:15 p.m. The first day for the program was Jan. 11.
During the elementary principal's report, board member Steve Taylor asked Mize how the new program was being received by parents and students.
"The concept overall they agree with, they don't mind doing it, but they have a problem with it being mandatorily enforced," she said, adding that she also had heard from the student council. One suggestion was that the 20 minute sessions be for more specific topics.
McEachern said an email he had received said that middle school teachers, "feel pretty good about it, the students feel pretty good about it ... to the point that the students are also making suggestions."
One of the teachers even suggested that next year the sessions are done before school to coordinate when parents go to work at General Electric," he said.
"The theory behind it is fine, they want the students to do better and the students want to do better," said Mize.
"I want it to be a positive learning experience," she said, adding the teachers were really working hard on the program.
During the 20 minute sessions, up to three teachers, including high school teachers, are in the classrooms helping the students with basic skills. Mize said the teachers were the ones deciding how the students and teachers were split up for the extended day sessions. Three days a week the focus in on communication arts and two days a week on math skills.
"It is smaller group instruction for kids with like weaknesses or strengths," explained McEachern. He said the purpose was to get those students "up to where they should be or excel them beyond where they are."
Mize told the board the teachers are keeping data, adding that the junior high students are keeping their own data and setting their own goals on areas they need to work on.
"What they do well they can coach other students on and where they need help obviously that's where we are going to do the teaching," she explained.
The parent's questions focused on whether the program should be mandatory. Another parent said her daughter, who does well in school has not been complaining, but has been "extremely bored" during the sessions.
Mize said that is a topic which they will be discussing later this week in order to challenge those students.
McEachern said the idea behind the program was to "give these kids the best opportunity for life outside of school."
"If we can raise their self-esteem, if we can raise and have them meet their own potential and then exceed it, how much better is it going to be for them?" he asked.
Board president Rick Hays said that as a board they want to monitor the program and "tweak" it to make it better. He said they also want to make sure parents and students know it is "not a punishment" and they don't want to label students.
"We want to try to make everybody better and we're trying to do this. It may not work, but at least we tried," he said, adding that he thinks it will work. "You do anything 20 minutes a day, you're going to get better I don't care what level you're on."
In other business, the board discussed options for the temporary pre-school classrooms while the new building is being built. The two kindergarten classes will be placed in the Alexander building, but the pre-school classrooms must meet state licensing requirements. Among the options are using the Slater Youth Center, which will need approximately $7,000 worth of upgrades to meet requirements. McEachern said he was also going to look into costs of moving one of the portable buildings now housing the students. They are currently sitting where the new building will be placed.
They also approved reimbursing students the $32 cost of taking the ACT test if they meet or exceed the national average and approved a 5th and 6th grade book club.
The board also certified the official ballot for the school board election on April 6.
Current board members Larry W. Skinner Jr. and Joey Gochenour are running for the two open seats, along with challengers Darla Arni and Russell Kirby.
During executive session the board renewed McEachern's contract, adding another year, he said.
They also went back into regular session to make a required budget code change in order to receive reimbursement for a pre-school aide.
All board members were present at meeting, including Gochenour, who attended via a Skype connection from Iraq where he is currently deployed with the National Guard.
Contact Marcia Gorrell at firstname.lastname@example.org