Back to the drawing board for Berryville after millage failure
BERRYVILLE ---- After a "disappointing loss" for the Berryville School District's requested millage increase, Superintendent Mike Cox said he wants to consult with the school board and its three new members before deciding whether to bring in more portable buildings for the overcrowded schools, or seek a new millage raise in a special election in the spring, possibly March.
New members include Julie McCall, who defeated Ray Plummer for the Zone 1 seat left vacant by the resignation of Kelly Swofford, who took the job as Middle School principal; Sam Eaves, who defeated Betty Cain for the Zone 4 unexpired term of Tom Sharp, who did not refile; and Jack Newberry, who defeated incumbent Randy Colvin.
The request for the 2.95 millage increase lost by 120 votes, with 589 voting no, and 469 voting yes.
Cox said last week that with a better education campaign, raising money for advertising, and nothing else on the ballot, he believes he may be able to get enough positive votes. "We are simply out of classroom space and band and sports space," he said. He emphasized that the schools have few options but an increase, and said some teachers have to carry their materials from one class to another to find teaching space.
Before the election at last Monday's school board meeting, principals, program coordinators and other leaders gave progress reports to the board, with a lot of positive results reported, but many of them said space was the biggest problem as enrollment keeps burgeoning every year.
"Our enrollment changes almost every day," Cox said in last week's story.
Due to newspaper space limitations in the Star-Tribune last week, there was room for only about half the reports from department heads.
Following are summaries of the rest of the reports.
Principals Teresa Wright and Shelly Holman gave a combined report on grades K-5. Wright said they had to add a 9th kindergarten section to the growing section, which now numbers 171 students, which is the largest class in the school. Fifth grade is about to max out with 135 students. Five more enrollees will fill the class. Kindergarten through grade 5 enrollment is at 858 students.
Wright said K-5 is out of space now.
She also said elementary staff services are improving, with "85 dedicated staff members working on basic skills such as reading and math. All children in first through fifth grades are now receiving computer classes."
She said parent communication and involvement is rapidly increasing, and parents can view students' progress through the online Web page. Biweekly newsletters are sent to parents, and there is a new parent center at the library, among other improvements available to parents. Two parent facilitators have been added, and the school "had a huge turnout for grandparents day," she said.
There are now more award ceremonies and parent open houses, orientations and parent-teacher conferences.
Holman said that with 107 days left before benchmark testing and the Iowa Test of Basic Skills, students are being prepared for testing now.
She said the staff is working toward curriculum alignment using a better method, and her staff is also working on paraprofessional training and parent involvement. Holman said all K-5 certified and paraprofessional staff meet or exceed the "highly qualified requirements of the 'No Child Left Behind' law."
She added that staff evaluations are under way, and also thanked the Berryville Rotary Club for the $4,300 the club donated to purchase a fence to enclose the K-3 playground.
She said Rotary members volunteer to assist in the K-5 after-school program three days a week, focusing on mathematics remediation and literacy concepts for chosen children.
New Middle School Principal, Kelly Swofford said he has been welcomed by the staff, and reported an enrollment increase of 40 students over last year, with 420 in Middle School. He said the school is still using team planning, which sometimes includes students and parents.
"We are studying everything from rockets to butterflies," he said. The students are moving above basic math skills, and "looking for good benchmark test results." He also emphasized the need for space, with 30 eighth graders in a room designed for kindergarten students. He said his goal is improved academic achievements and creating "academic stars."
High School Principal Ron Harvell said school is off to a "good start," with a "wonderful staff and the hard work they do."
He said the state requires the high school to offer 38 courses, "and we offer 110." He said high school enrollment has also increased, with 523 this year, compared to an average of 490 last year.
He expects enrollment will be higher next year, with worse over-crowding even if the millage increase had passed.
Technology Coordinator Linda Moore reported that the school currently has approximately 600 computers, new wireless computer labs on the K-3 campus and Middle School. New this year is Bobcat Webmail, an internet-based e-mail service accessible from any network connection, using a Linux server. The second Linux server (a large computer storage unit) hosts student Web pages currently used by the Physics Department and also available to the Business Departments.
All classrooms and offices have a minimum of one internet connection. All K-5 classrooms have computers for teachers and students.
All sixth and eighth grade classes have two computers each for student use.
She outlined numerous educational software upgrades to aid students in dozens of areas from math to reading and typing and more.
"The real biggie," this year is the new intercom system that has been added to all classrooms and offices on the main campus. Moore said the system allows voice communications between classrooms and offices, and "is great for security," she said.
Her Technology Department provides ongoing training for for faculty and staff in the use of current and new technology in the whole school system, and provides parents with assistance on using the school's online computer system to check for announcements and monitor school activities from home.
"I like to check on my kids' grades, and more and more parents are using it too," she said.
Her department also provides additional assistance at the schools for copy machines, fax machines, the telephone system, intercom, laminating, sound systems, video equipment, name badges, the electronic Bobcat Sign across from Exxon and the Distance Education Lab during school hours and evening classes open to the public.