School checks progress

Stephanie Vallez · Wednesday, November 29, 2017
The School Board met on Monday, Nov. 20. Items on the agenda included counselors, test results and recognizing honor choir students.

To begin, the Board heard a presentation from the Mississippi Bend Area Education Association.

The MBAEA is one of nine AEA’s in Iowa and covers most of the east/central portion of our state.

Their goals are to support school systems with professional development and planning.

They discussed strategies to use the data that schools collect, such as test scores and attendance records, in meaningful ways.

And it was a timely conversation to have, since the first trimester test scores are in and students are meeting the benchmark across the West Liberty School District.

Brenda Arthur-Miller walked the Board through a breakdown of the recent SRI (Scholastic Reading Inventory) testing.

“With Iowa Assessments, we take those once a year,” Arthur-Miller said, “and so to set a goal to be proficient on Iowa Assessments can be difficult to measure, whereas when we set a goal to raise our SRI score, we can take the SRI multiple times throughout the year, so we can see how we’re growing there.”

SRI testing is done in the fall and the spring. Staff will discuss fall test performance with each student so that students can plan goals and prepare for the next round of exams in the spring.

The School Counselors came to give the Board a brief overview of their duties and standards, as well as an update on their recent activities.

Russ Hughes, Kristina Murphy and Stephanie Paulsen were grateful that the three counselors from last year have now become four with the addition of Caroline Halverson at the Early Learning Center.

“I was split between ELC and Elementary,” Murphy said, “and it wasn’t an equitable split.”

“So now all the buildings are covered, all the time,” said Hughes.

Murphy, Hughes, Paulsen and Halverson were all present to share the details of their year so far in our local schools.

“We have three domains that we want to cover,” Murphy said, “career, academic and personal/social issues.”

“On an average day, between the four of us, we meet with between 30 and 35 students, and that would be on an individual basis,” Murphy said.

“We’ve been in school for about 62 days so that’s pretty close to 2,000 individual interactions,” he added.

This does not include the work they do in the classroom or in small groups.

The counselors have seen a rise in mental health concerns over the last few years, and have been carefully responding to the students’ increasing needs. Outside counselors have been coming in to help as well.

“We have a few counselors that come to the high school and their numbers have close to doubled, so we’re seeing a lot more referrals,” Murphy said, “Maybe that means the stigma is down and we’re actually getting more sensitive.”

Hughes agreed with her.

“I’ve seen more kids standing up for their peers, or showing concern,” he said, “That has increased, I think, tenfold in the last 15 years.”

The Board also took the time to recognize the two West Liberty Middle School Students who were chosen for OPUS honor choir.

Amerie Alvarado and Mary Tharp, sixth graders, were chosen from among thousands of Iowa students to sing with the honor choir.

Brenda Miller, the Middle School Vocal Music Teacher, had an opportunity to tell the Board a bit about OPUS and our participation in it.   

”You would have been amazed at the attention and focus of these young performers,” Miller said with a proud smile, “I think that you guys would all be impressed with the caliber of music that these students performed.”

This is the third consecutive year that West Liberty students have been selected to participate in the OPUS Honor Choirs.

The next School Board Meeting will be held at 1103 N. Elm on Monday, Dec. 4, at 6 p.m.
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