Friday, January 30, 2015

Board hears food service udate, make up days planned

J-E Editor
Webster County Food Services Director Valerie Knight made her first official report to the school board on Monday since taking over the position vacated by former director Shane Bosaw during summer break.
“We’ve had an exciting first six months,” Knight said. “I don’t think I realized how involved school nutrition really is. It’s worse than healthcare, but it’s been enjoyable because of our kids.”
Knight broke down the annual food services report card. The elementary schools scored 100%, while the middle and high school program scored 98.2%. The slight loss of points was in the category of ‘promote community physical activities.’

According to Knight, usage of the school breakfast program has gone from 700 students in the 2013-2014 school year to over a 1000 students across the district in the first half of 2014-2015. She said this was likely due in part to campus wide free breakfast and lunch in Providence and Sebree.
This is a comforting fact to the district, because the USDA’s free breakfast and lunch program only reimburses the district for meals when students purchase them (for free).
Knight also reported that the district has gotten more involved in the Kentucky Farm to School Program by partnering with Reid’s Orchard in Owensboro.
“October was Farm to School Month and we celebrated with apples from Reid’s Orchard and talked about how we should support local farmers,” she said.
Knight is also currently working with several local farms to help them get their ‘Kentucky Proud’ certification, a requirement to be a part of the Kentucky Farm to School Program. This would allow the district to purchase vegetables that are grown within the county to serve in cafeterias around the district.
In other business, Kim Saalwaechter, Director of Special Education and Early Childhood Education, reported to the board that she had received data from the Kindergarten Readiness program. This data judges the preparedness of students prior to beginning kindergarten.
The results showed that only 42.2% of 2014-2015 kindergartners were fully prepared before the beginning of the school year. Although that number appears alarming, the state average is only 50%.
Providence Elementary scores showed the biggest increase, going from 36.4 for incoming students in 2013-2014 to 48.9% this year, while Sebree saw the biggest drop, going from 48.3% one year ago to 26.1% this year. Clay dropped from 66.7% to 53.3% and Dixon was down only slightly from 45.7% to 44.2%.
“We’re trying to find out how to shore up Early Childhood to help with out incoming kindergartners,” said Saalwaechter. “We’re fortunate that Dr. Yarbrough serves on the Governor’s early childhood council.”
The biggest concern for the district is that these scores are due to what happens to students prior to enrolling in Webster County Schools. The data encompasses students who attended one of the three preschools in the district, private preschools and headstarts and those who were only educated at home prior to starting school. Much of that is out of the hands of educators.
To try combating this, the district is applying for three Born Learning Academy Grants. Only 26 grants will be awarded state-wide, but school officials are hopeful. Each grant would provide funding for the district to work with and contact new and expectant parents to help educate them on how to best teach their children from a young age.
“Even if we have all of the money in the world, how do you get new parents to participate?” asked board member Leland Steeley.
“There are children now that we can’t serve because of federal guidelines,” said Superintendent Dr. Rachel Yarbrough. “It’s the hardest thing in the world to turn away a child because their family income is too high or there is no disability.”
Board members agreed to reschedule snow days from November 17 and January 15 to February 13 and February 15, 2015. Those days were previously scheduled as professional development days for district personnel. This change will allow the district to keep the last day of classes scheduled for May 18, 2015, as long as there are no more snow days. The calendar still has one remaining make-up day built in (March 20).
Following a closed session at the end of the meeting, board members voted to employ RBS Design Group as the district’s architect. RBS Design will be utilized as the LPC Facilitator and Engineering Firm for Webster County Schools.

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