By Rosemary K. Otzman
At its regular meeting April 11, the Keystone Academy Charter School Board of Directors studied the new Think Stretch books that Principal Keturah Godfrey wants to send home with students this summer.
The board approved paying 75% of the $8,316 cost of the books out of its Discretionary Fund to guarantee the books would be given to all Kindergarten through sixth grade students at no cost to them. The students would take home the books to hone the skills taught in the previous school year and avoid a summer gap.
She said seventh and eighth graders will not use the books, but have assigned readings.
Keystone still will have “Wednesdays at Keystone” all summer, where students can come in and work in the library, use the computers, and get the help of tutors.
“Our community believes in a summer vacation in the traditional way,” said Principal Godfrey, noting students aren’t interested in going to the school in the summer for learning, but are willing to do their summer learning with books at home.
Godfrey said Keystone has been designated a Focus School because of the gap between scores of the highest and lowest performing students and they continue to work at closing the gap.
She said the Think Stretch books will be for all the students, not just those in the different titled programs.
She said these books have a “better level of rigor” and are correlated with Common Core State Standards. There also are some project-based lessons.
And, there are incentives. When a student completes the book, the student gets a ticket to an ice cream party where there will be drawings for gift cards.
Godfrey said use of the book will help reduce “summer loss.” Parents will be informed of the importance of doing the workbook with their children.
In the past, students could order Bridge books for use in the summer, but these Think Stretch books are not by order. Everyone will get them, she said.
Also, the Bridge books could be ordered for the grade level ahead and some students learned lessons improperly that had to be untaught in the fall, Godfrey said.
In looking at her budget, she said she asked the board for funding for the books and if the board couldn’t pay for them, she would pay out of her budget because she is sold on their importance.
In other business at the April 11 meeting, the board:
• Learned National Heritage Academies has proposed a school board candidate to possibly take the place of Deborah Whyman when she leaves at the end of June. Attorney Bill Johnson, who has five offices and specializes in bankruptcy, has an interest in getting involved with charter schools. Board president Vesta Losen and secretary Susan Meland will meet with Johnson and he will be invited to attend the May 9 meeting to get acquainted;
• Discussed Godfrey’s Principal’s Report that noted there are 760 students currently enrolled with a waiting list of 333. The board also discussed MEAP and NWEA scores, with a NWEA score of 61.7% for Meeting Typical Growth, which topped the NHA average of 61.5%;
• Discussed the after-school tutoring program for all students that test below the 25th-30th percentile as measured by the fall and winter NWEA. Some families prefer to have their students take part in sports programs after school and have turned down the tutoring, Godfrey said;
• Learned Belleville High School is forging a new relationship with Keystone. Godfrey said a BHS counselor came that afternoon to do a presentation on the high school for eighth grade families. Godfrey said BHS came before when Keystone had several other high schools visiting with impressive displays. But BHS wasn’t as prepared as it could have been, so they came back to redeem themselves, she said;
• Approved the school calendar for 2013-14 with no half days scheduled, as has been the case for several years. The school days when there is no school is coordinated with the Van Buren district;
• Approved the Lease Amendment of $839,360 for the school year in 12 monthly installments. The lease was $822,560 last year and the new figure includes two bathroom renovations last summer and some new carpeting;
• Approved the 2013-14 Parent Student Handbook with minor changes from last year; the 2013 Compliance with Children’s Internet Protection Act (CIPA), and the 2014 Letter of Agency for E-rate Funding; and
• Heard Godfrey report that they have painted over the old, deteriorating murals in the hallways and have posted student work on the walls. She said she has had phone calls from some parents who are unhappy with the Van Buren middle schools and want to come in to discuss how Keystone handles bullying.
The next meeting of the Keystone School Board of Directors will be 6 p.m., Thursday, May 9. This is the annual meeting where there will be a budget hearing, discussion, and approval of budget.
By Rosemary K. Otzman