Despite the continuing COVID19 Pandemic, school year is still off to a great start
By ARIANA R. CHERRY
At the start of the most recent ALAH School Board meeting, new teachers and the new health aid introduced themselves to members of the board. Some of those who were introduced included Katy Agney, new art teacher for Atwood Hammond and Lovington; Ron White, new custodian; Eilis Martinez, new Administrative Assistant to the Athletic Director; Saylor Bower, the new high school math teacher and Kylie Russell, the new school counselor. The common phrase used amongst the new district staff was “it has been a good year so far, and they’ve all hit the ground running.”
Superintendent Shannon Creek informed the board that the high school received some damage during one of the recent storms. There were some door strikes, various computers were damaged, and some switch controls to their cameras. He noted that most of it was technology-related. The Arthur Grade School also had some server damage. The district will be filing an insurance claim soon. Shannon also reported that the boiler work is almost completed and that the work to the roof has been finished.
An estimate of $7,700 was received in donations to the district. “Three Guys Concrete,” donated microscopes estimated in the amount of $1,400 to the high school. Teri Malin donated some benches in the amount of $1,500 and Mr. and Mrs. Wyhart donated a picnic table that they won to the high school. The Athletic Boosters donated warm ups and uniforms and Master Brand donated $4,000 worth of school supplies to all of the school buildings in the district.
After a bit of discussion, information and presentation, the board approved BLDD Architect Services for Facilities Planning. During Shannon Cheek’s first year as Superintendent, the district partnered with BLDD to assist them in developing a long term strategic plan for their facilities. During that first year, the district worked with the BOD and the administrative team to complete a QLEO Study (a functional analysis of all the buildings in the district that helps put a scoring number to each building in the district. That scoring number represents where the buildings score out in various areas related to functionality, safety, overall experience for students and if the buildings are providing a 21st learning environment for the students. That process also included several tours of the facilities and meetings that involved a summary of those tours and allowed them to put a scoring number (educational adequacy) to each building. Afterwards, that information was shared with the board at a board meeting.
After the first phase was completed, the district entered a second phase of the process which included an attempt to get community input on the current state of the facilities. Doing this involved the district creating a task force that included various members of each community that the district serves and hosting several virtual meetings with those members. During those meetings, questions were created that would eventually be used in what was called a “Thought Exchange.” The Thought Exchange was opened to all members of the community, teachers and students, etc. Input was gathered and then reported out.
Last summer, the district then entered into the phase of the study that included teachers, two BOE members, and the administrative team that met over the summer and discussed programming and opportunities for students. That specific meeting was run by Mr. Scott Kuffel. In that meeting, the district was able to determine what programming is essential for the students moving forward. All of that information gathered will be utilized this year in guiding the district’s process through the final stages with BLDD.
For this year, BLDD will be leading various community engagement sessions in an attempt to bring the study to a final recommendation to the BOE. These sessions will help guide the district and allow the committee to recommend what the final solution will be. The ultimate goal for all of this will be to bring together the past two years of work, inform the community of that work, form the committee, and host the community engagement sessions. From all of this, the district hopes to come to the table with a recommendation to the BOE in March.
Overall, the district wants to provide students the opportunity to be educated in a 21st century learning environment.
After the BLDD discussion, the principals brought forth their “School Improvement Plans.” Most of their improvement plans included increasing the proficiency levels of math and reading and to develop the culture and climate within the buildings. The principals touched on the topic that COVID could have had some impact on students’ scores the last couple of school years – especially with the abrupt ending of school in March during the 2019-2020 school year. Many of the teachers did not get to finish their teaching plans and material. One of the bigger goals for high school students is that for the class of 2022, they are hoping to have 50% of their students meet the college and career readiness indicators. At the Atwood-Hammond School, not only are they wanting to increase math and reading, but they would like to develop a culture in which teachers collaborate and observe each other throughout the year. This can enable them to develop relationships amongst each other, so that perhaps they can learn new ideas from one another and perhaps help each other out through their own individual strengths. In the Arthur Grade School, for their culture and climate, it is a goal to have monthly or bimonthly meetings among the staff, so they can check in and see where everyone is at and how they each are doing.
After some discussion and presentations of school improvement plans, Shannon went on to present his report. During his report, there was some general discussion of how there had been trouble finding food nearby in the area for concessions at games. Some of these foods that had been hard to find in bulk included hot dogs and hot chocolate. At one particular time, a trip was made to Springfield in order to secure these items. Athletics spoke about having trouble ordering paint for the fields. They ended up having to place their orders for paint from a company in Ohio.
High School students have been getting to experiment with broadcasting equipment and have been distributing shows that are similar to podcasts. On one of their shows, they interviewed a veteran from the Afghanistan war and got their outlook about the current events with the Talaban and everything that has been happening.
Shannon commented that the district has had a great start to their school year and there has been a lot going on. He admitted that many of them came into the year with a different mindset, but despite all things going on with COVID, he says things have still been great.
“Our admin staff, teachers, parents and community – they’ve all been great. Everyone that has been in our building has been excited to see each other. I continue to ask for patience and grace as we continue to navigate everything,” he said. All classes in the district continue to be “in-person,” which is always their goal.
Shannon continued. “We are doing a great job with the rapid testing that we have in place. It assists in keeping the students in school. The numbers have been posted every Friday on social media-go check. I think personally that our numbers are really good. 22 were in quarantine and there had been 10 positive cases. The numbers are better than they were last year. All things considered, we are doing very very well,” he concluded.
September 15, 2021
Recommend for hire Amy Nichols for JH Special Education Aide
Recommend for hire Sandra Fitzgerald for Kindergarten Aide
Recommend for hire Sabrina Bettinger for classroom Special Education Aide – replacing Krystal Lester
Recommend Brittany Bartley as a volunteer Assistant Cheer Coach
Accept Mike Nall letter of resignation as the 8th Grade Basketball Coach
Accept Kelsey Betz letter of resignation as JH Softball Head Coach