School gets big check

Stephanie Vallez · Tuesday, December 12, 2017
The School Board met at six o’clock on the evening of Monday, Dec. 4, as usual. Unlike usual, this time the meeting was held in their new location on N. Elm Street.

The agenda included an update on the Backpack Program, the “On Track” status report from Brenda Arthur-Miller and Missy Johnson’s GOLD Achievement results, to name a few.

The big news, however, was the presentation of a big check from MidWest One Bank for the “Run for the Schools” event that was held in October.

This year’s “Run for the Schools” raised $5,750 to be given to the schools, comprised of donations from many local businesses. A check was presented to the Board by Market President Cindy Mays and Kayla Smith, of MidWest One Bank.

“Our goal for next year is to raise even more,” Smith said. “In 2015 we raised only about $3,100, so to raise about $5,700 is really exciting and we’re happy to give it to the schools.  In total the race has raised about $40,000 over the years.”

Participation in “Run for the Schools” doubled  this year, with 130 participants. The donations were offered by a number of local businesses, including West Liberty Foods, Feldman Performance, Liberty Communications, Kessler Electric, and Craig Jones Trucking to name just a few.

MidWest One Bank was also a big donor, and handled the account as well as coordinating the race itself.

“We have decided as a committee that it will always be the first Sunday in October,” Mays said. “And we want to make sure that everybody knows it and we can cut out as many conflicts as possible.”

“The money is going towards hydration stations at the Elementary School,” Smith said. “With this amount of money, hopefully, there will be three new ones.”

And while the “Run for the Schools” is keeping the students hydrated, the Backpack Program is making sure they are also nourished. Dan Stevenson and crew gave the School Board an update on the current state of the Backpack Program.

The Backpack Program is a national program that helps get food to children and families in need. Deb Lowman, Director of the West Liberty Public Library, along with Tammy Smith, the former Children’s Librarian, noticed a need in the community.

“We were comparing notes one day and noticed that the afterschool kids were hungry,” Lowman said. “If we served snack the kids were wanting to take extras home and to put some in their pocket and they just seemed unusually in need of food, and so Tammy did some research and reached out.”

“In 2009 we served about 25 kids a week by the time we got to the end of the year, and our goal was to give them 7 pounds of nutritious snacks and small meals per week.”

The program has expanded since then, and now even more students are winning the battle against food insecurity.

“We are up from the 25 and we were running at 50 to 60 kids a year,” Stevenson said. “we’ve seen a huge growth this past year, particularly at the ELC”

The Early Learning Center saw an especially large growth in requests to participate in the Backpack Program. Stevenson thinks this may be the result of other recent changes within the ELC.

“I think it helps having the new nurse there that’s able to get to know the families better,” Stevenson said.

The Backpack Program uses as much discretion as possible so the children can eat without being singled out.

“In the past kids were getting made fun of because they were getting free food,” said Michele Knowles, Special Education Teacher at the Elementary School. Now, they have a discrete system of adding bags in the student’s lockers.

“We put them in their locker number,” Knowles said. “Kids are not being pinpointed out as needing assistance.”

“We don’t identify the kids that get backpacks,” Lowman said, “we moved to plastic bags simply because we didn’t even want the backpack to be identifiable.”

The Backpack Program costs about $370 per kid each year. Fundraising is also done discretely.

“I fundraise kind of on the down low,” Lowman said, “you’ll never see us put out big advertisements or poster children. We’ve got funding from all over the community. The Hundred Women Who Care have given us funding, the Ecumenical groups have given us funding, we’ve written for grants, we reach out to just about anybody and everybody we can to keep it quietly funded in the background.”

In Other News, Missy Johnson of the Early Learning Center presented the GOLD Achievement results.

The tests are purely observational data on the cognitive, social, and physical development of the little ones.

Results are calculated three times per year and include very specific skills we hope the children will acquire throughout the school year.  

“This year’s students are better prepared socially and emotionally,” Johnson said. “we need to give children enough time to develop physically.”

From the High School, Brenda Arthur-Miller reported on the “On Track” status of the students.

This is simply the school’s way of keeping an eye on whether a student has enough credit hours to graduate on time.

The high recently sent letters to the parents of students who may be at risk of a second senior year, of which there were very few.

The next School Board Meeting will be held at 6 p.m. on Monday, Dec. 18. It will be held in the new permanent location at 1103 N. Elm.
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