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Washington High School to look at how newly implemented changes affect students

WASHINGTON — As the first semester of the school year rounds out, Washington High School will be eager to look at how several newly implemented changes has affected its students.

Washington High School principal Erik Buchholz presented at the Dec. 11 Washington Community School District school board meeting, going over new programs the high school has decided to partake in, including using the Comprehensive, Integrated Three-Tiered Model of Intervention (Ci3T). The district’s high school is following the middle school’s use of the model, which focuses on the academic, behavioral and social development of students. The model classifies students into three levels (high risk, moderate risk and low risk) that indicate their need for certain interventions. Buchholz has explained that this is the first semester the school has used to program to collect data on students and only have about three months of information collected under the program.

During his principals report, Buchholz also presented on attendance data across the four grade levels. For the months of August, September, October and November, freshmen attendance at the high school averaged 94.62 percent, sophomore attendance averaged 93.09 percent, junior attendance averaged 93.17 percent and senior attendance averaged 93.95 percent. Buchholz also provided further information on absences, pointing out that a large portion was often due to illness across all grade levels. To address unexcused absences, the principal explained that the school contacts and meets with parents as well as uses the Ci3T model to do behavior interventions. The principal also reported on referral data which showed the senior class had 22 referrals across the first four months of the school year, the junior class had 82, the sophomore class had 81 and the freshman class had 135.

In addition to behavior interventions, the school has rearranged its previously 4 block schedule to include a 5th block in the 2019-20 school year. The final block of the day is explicitly dedicated to make up intervention, where teachers can pull students for extra instruction and reteaching of material if a student is falling behind or having trouble in the classroom. Buchholz explained that about 20 percent of the students get pulled by teachers for specific instruction while other students have options to take other enrichment classes offered by teachers like ACT prep or language courses students would not have an opportunity to take otherwise.

The addition of the new block has been the topic of much discussion. Board member Eric Turner noted during the principal’s presentation that he’s

“By far it’s the most comments I’ve received from parents and students on a topic in a long time and it seems as if there’s nothing in between. Student or the parents feels it’s beneficial or not at all,” Turner said.

Buchholz explained that both students and staff were surveyed on the effectiveness of the addition of the 5th block and noted that a “high majority of students are liking the opportunities.” Buchholz also explained that with more time, the school will have more comprehensive data on how the changes affect students.

Buchholz also invited high school language arts teacher Ben Obermann to present on NoRedInk, an online web-based program the English department is using to track and teach students. The high school bought licenses for the program, which are used with freshmen and sophomores. NoRedInk has students take diagnostics at the beginning of each unit to determine a student’s proficiency in a specific topic and tracks students’ progress. The program allows teachers to easily see which students may need more support and in which areas.

During their Dec. 11 meeting, the school board also held their organizational meeting, during which incumbents Eric Turner and Troy Suchan were sworn in alongside new board member Kelly Smith. Sonia Leyva, who was also reelected into a seat, was absent from the meeting and will be sworn in at a later date. The board chose to re-elect Turner as president with Heidi Vittetoe also reelected into the vice president position. Vittetoe was also not present at the board meeting. Before the organizational meeting, Stephanie Ellingson, who served as a board member for nine years and decided not to run for reelection, was thanked for her years of service before making her exit.

The board reviewed several reports, including financial information on the district’s expenditures. A transportation report given by financial director Jeffery Dieleman showed that the district’s net operating transportation costs dropped from $839,418.14 to $801,191. The board also approved a resolution ordering the Physical Plant and Equipment Levy (PPEL) and Revenue Purpose Statement (RPS) measures be included in the March election of the following year. Both measures are renewed on a ten-year basis. Dieleman explained that PPEL is mostly used to fund technology and brings in about $500,000 each year for the district. The RPS outlines how the district can spend funds collected from the penny sales tax.