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Math initiative adds students

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To clarify what administrators fear might be villagers’ misperceptions regarding math performance at Yellow Springs High School and McKinney School, Principal John Gudgel and Interim Superintendent Tony Armocida presented information on the district’s five-year-old math initiative at the Nov. 12 school board meeting. “The perception that things aren’t going so well at 314 East Enon Road isn’t accurate,” Gudgel said. The math plan, implemented by Armocida during his last full term as superintendent before his retirement, has focused on increasing the number of secondary students taking higher-level math classes. The program is an example of the district’s forward thinking, Armocida said, as it was implemented just prior to a new state mandate that by 2014 all students graduating from high school must complete algebra II. According to data presented by Gudgel, the initiative is proving successful. In the 2004–2005 school year, 32 percent of YSHS students took algebra II. In the 2008–2009 school year, 52 percent of YSHS students took algebra II. This year, 43 students are currently enrolled in algebra II. The standard progression through math classes at the secondary level, effective next year, is pre-algebra, algebra I, geometry, intermediate algebra for those who need it, then algebra II. Advanced math is next, including functions, statistics, and trigonometry, followed by pre-calculus. Gudgel presented evidence that suggests advanced placement classes are also on the rise. In the 2005–2006 school year, five students took pre-calculus. In 2008–2009, nine students made it to pre-calculus. This year, 25 are taking advanced math, and eight are in pre-calculus. A full 35 percent of students in the high school building are taking algebra II or higher, The math enrichment program was offered to eighth graders last year, designed to cover math concepts on the Ohio Achievement Test, or OAT. According to Gudgel, this enrichment program is now integrated into the seventh, eighth and ninth-grade math curriculums. Further projects underway at the high school include the utilization of two online math programs that prepare for the OAT, a math initiative board including community members who plan for professional guest speakers and residencies in the schools, and a current exploration of the STEM curriculum and its possible implementation within the district’s math program. Administrators also wanted the community to understand that the YSHS/McKinney state report card score has been “excellent” for seven of the last eight years. In other school board business: • Parent Sylvia Ellison requested that agendas be made available on the district’s Web site prior to the school board meetings, in order for parents and community members to best plan for participation. While the agenda has been available online since 2006, the timing of its availability has varied. It was decided that agendas would likely be available for download on the Monday evening prior to a meeting. Board members stated that there are often changes made to the agenda prior to the meeting, but the draft document would be made available more consistently. • In finance, Treasurer Joy Kitzmiller reported that the third quarter income tax payment to the district came in 25 percent lower than last year, amounting to a loss of district revenue of approximately $70,000. The second quarter payment, received in October at a 35 percent decline, amounted to a loss of nearly $220,000. Income tax payments to Ohio schools are expected to flatline where they are for a full year, and then start a slow crawl towards pre-recession figures over the next three years, according to state tax analysts. The last payment is due at the end of January. • The district approved spending $16,500 from the contingency fund to enable Waibel, Inc. to proceed with planning and implementation of capitol improvements to the McKinney/High School building. Originally intended to be a House Bill 264 project financed with interest-free government backed loans, the project will now be financed on the open market because of changes at the state level. In order to compensate for the increased loan costs of the project, the project scope has been modified, reflecting an $87,000 decrease. While Waibel will still air-condition the entire McKinney/YSHS, including the first floor, and no other project details have changed, the energy education component originally line-itemed in the project has been dropped. Armocida and Waibel Inc. remain committed to building a student energy education component into the program in an alternative way, they said, which might include working with the nonprofit Ohio Energy Project. • Dr. Combs, interim building administrator at Mills Lawn Elementary, announced that absences due to sickness have returned to normal levels at the elementary school. In addition, 100 Mills Lawn students are utilizing the free and reduced price lunch program this year, a significant increase from years past, Combs said. A new program, which serves free and reduced-price breakfast, is now serving at 7:50 a.m. to better accommodate students before school starts. • Special education supervisor Terry Graves-Strieter reported that quarterly parent meetings have been re-convened for special education students and those who are performing at a D or F level in a subject area. • A meeting on special education action steps is being held Thursday, Dec. 3, with further details to be published in the News. • The next regularly scheduled board meeting will be held at an unusual hour — 6 p.m. — on Thursday, Dec. 10, in the Mills Lawn board room.

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