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by Jessica Brophy
In its June 7 regular monthly meeting, the CSD school board weighed the final report of the Math Program Review Committee and discussed the schools’ special education needs with outgoing Special Education Director Warren Berkowitz.
The board also officially reduced the faculty by eliminating the high school business/technology position, and reducing the librarian position from full time to half time.
Macy Lasky shared the math committee’s findings. The committee primarily assessed the current K-5 program, as the middle school’s math program should be closely linked to the high school’s program, which is undergoing substantial changes itself. Lasky did say that one of the major areas that needs improvement in the middle school is math fluency, or students’ proficiency in the language of math.
The K-5 currently uses Everyday Math as its program, and Lasky recommended sticking with it, as it is a language-based math program, meaning that it promotes math fluency and learning the types of problems that would be found on standardized tests. The committee also recommended using the math version of the Dynamic Indicators of Basic Early Literacy Skills, or DIBELS, test, which has recently been developed.
Special Education Director Warren Berkowitz then spoke with the board about the nearly $1 million increase in the special education budget. Berkowitz explained that the elementary school alone has 50 children in the special education program. This means 25 percent of the elementary school children are in the special ed program, which is the highest percentage since Berkowitz began as director. Berkowitz explained that the high school regularly has 25 percent of its students in special ed, often because students from Brooklin, Brooksville and Sedgwick choose to come to DI-S because of its strong special ed program.
There are twelve students in the elementary school special ed program who are high-needs, Berkowitz explained. High needs students have severe intellectual, mental or behavioral problems. These students need more individual attention. Typically, one would expect five percent of the special education population to be high-needs, but in the elementary school’s case six percent of the general population is high-needs.
“So we bumped up the ed tech staff,” explained Berkowitz. “Without staffing there would be a domino effect on other students. You need to have a program, and to make sure students are safe and learning, and to do that you need a lot of staff. That’s just the reality.” Berkowitz then noted the elimination of an ed tech position at the high school, as it was no longer needed.
Berkowitz also confirmed that there are rigid state guidelines on determining which students qualify for special education. The board would like more information on the ed tech job descriptions, and in general about the layout of special education in the schools.
The board and the principals also discussed the need for a summer reading program. A reading list will be sent home this year of suggested books, and next year a summer reading program will be revisited.
The board accepted the nomination of Shannon Campbell as K-8 art teacher. Campbell has worked two years in Vinalhaven, and was active in curriculum development and community outreach. The board approved Sandra Robertson as high school guidance counselor. Principal Todd West described her experience in schools of similar size, social and economic demographics as DI-S.
The board also approved David Pelletier as head of maintenance, and approved the summer special ed program staff, 5-0. The board approved one-year continuing contracts for elementary school principal Mike Benjamin and high school principal Todd West (5-0).
In other business, the board accepted a $1000 donation from Melville Dickinson to help defray the costs of the Odyssey of the Mind team’s trip to the world championships in Maryland. The board also reviewed two summer mowing bids, one for $1,200 per week for all grounds, and the other for a total of $3,600 for the 10 weeks of summer, using equipment belonging to board member Mark Cormier. The board accepted Terry Siebert’s bid of $3600 for the summer, 5-0.
The next regular meeting will be held Tuesday, July 5 at 6 p.m. at the elementary school.