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December 06th, 2019

9 9 19 school board recapCottonwood Elementary School Principal Traci Mettlen talks about Breakfast in the Classroom at the elementary schools during the most recent meeting of the USD 480 school board Monday evening. The program started just this year and has already been very successful, according to Mettlen. L&T photo/Elly GrimmELLY GRIMM • Leader & Times


EDITOR’S NOTE: This is part one of the story recapping the most recent meeting of the USD 480 school board Monday evening and will focus on the administrator reports at the beginning of the meeting. Part two will focus on the action items on the board’s agenda. 

Administrator reports had much to say on a wide variety of topics to the USD 480 school board during its most recent meeting Monday night. 

USD 480 Director of Elementary Education Lana Evans’ report was among those, and had a handful of items relating to student safety and health. 

“This year we’re trying some new initiatives,” Evans said. “As you know, there are several mandated professional learning opportunities our teachers have to take each year, and that does take quite a bit of their time to go through all the different videos. So this year we’ve tried to come up with something to help expedite our professional development days and allow schools to have lots of time for this new initiative, but also make it so they’re not spending a solid seven hours watching the required materials. So we’ve worked it out to where if they do watch some of these materials during the work day, we’ll give that time back. Right now, out of the 4,900 different ... when you do all the videos everyone has to who’s certified ... we already have 3,200 of those completed, which I’m very pleased about. And we’re hearing great things about all this since the staff members can do this on their own time, and there are also quizzes at the end, so there’s that accountability, which I can monitor. There have been reminders sent out to those who still need to go through those materials and start those conversations. It’s looking very successful so far.”

Evans also talked briefly about the school’s ALICE program. 

“During the last couple board meetings I know it’s been talked about as far as some of the things going on throughout the country right now, unfortunately,” Evans said. “So we have had every building do a simulation where they practice drills and then afterward talk about what did work and what didn’t so we can rework and revise some things so those situations work out well. Then through ALICE we also purchased e-learning, which is a video that’s a simulation where you correspond with the video and answer questions and ultimately decide what course of action to take, so it’s very interactive, and a lot of our staff have completed that as well, which I’m very pleased with.”

Another new feature that’s been part of the USD 480 elementary schools has been serving breakfast in classrooms, and the elementary school principals were on hand to talk about how that program has been going to the board. 

“This is our first year to do breakfast in the classroom and this is something that had been brought before you at previous meetings,” Cottonwood Elementary School Principal Traci Mettlen said. “There’s a lot of research we looked at before officially deciding to do this that showed how many benefits there are to making sure our students have a meal at the beginning of the day. Studies have shown having breakfast at the beginning of the day helps the students be more engaged in school since they’re not hungry, and we’ve also seen how much our students enjoy eating with their peers.”

The board heard a few video testimonies from students before continuing discussion about the benefits already seen from offering the breakfast in the classroom. 

“During breakfast, staff and students are using this time to practice our Capturing Kids’ Hearts and are sharing their own good things while continuing to grow their relationships with their peers and their teacher,” Mettlen said. “And in some buildings, during breakfast is when teachers are conducting Morning Meetings, which include teaching social skills. Currently, they’re teaching the Zones of Regulation.”

After some more information about the program itself, board member Alan Brown shared some concerns he had heard from parents. 

“There have been a couple first-grade parents on free and reduced lunches who had breakfast at home and then when their children got to school they got a breakfast there too, so their money was out by the middle of the week,” Brown said. “I think this is something we need to keep an eye on. I know there are some great benefits to this, but I have a hard time seeing students walk in and ultimately have two meals in one morning and running out of money for lunch.”

Mettlen said there are forms for parents to fill out if they want their child to opt out of the program, and parents are also free to talk to the teachers about their student(s). Mettlen added the students also have the option to bring something from home to eat in the classroom. After some more questions, the discussion was concluded. 

After Evans’ report, USD 480 Director of Operations Chad Mease gave updates on some of the projects going on throughout the district, followed by USD 480 Director of Technology Rusty Tuman. 

“One of the things we’ve noticed in our really nice auditorium with its new nice paint job and curtains and riggings and new sound system, is we need a new projector system,” Tuman said. “Our current setup is an old projector on a cart that sits on the stage the presenter must walk around, and they also have to be careful of moving between the projector and the screen. I would like to know if the board would like me to look into a solution for video projects and display in there, for which I already have a couple ideas, I just need that direction from you all to start on that. We should also look into a new lighting board, our current lighting board for the auditorium was installed in 2003 and the backup programming for the board is stored on a floppy disk, which in this day and age is not the best option – we had some things that went wonky with the board at our welcome back assembly and we weren’t able to get to that disk in time so that also needs severely upgraded. And the new board would be great for students who want to be on that side of everything in the future, it would be great for them to learn on. Then with the wireless mics, there actually is a deadline to that, the FCC is requiring we be off the 600mHz frequency by next July, so that’s something else that should be on your minds here in the coming months.”

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