Fifth grade language teacher Justin Stygles on Feb. 11 presented to the school committee the results of one of the standardized tests Wiscasset Elementary School does. Stygles said the results were problematic, but that with school stability, he could see students’ scores improving in the next three to five years. By stability, he meant keeping teachers and administrators longer, he said.
Stygles said it takes at least three years for a teacher to reach a point he or she is able to provide a stable learning environment. That can be even longer if the teacher is inexperienced, he said. The eMPowerME test is taken at the end of March and feedback comes in time to make some corrective action before the end of the school year. Stygles said there should be more corrective teaching in the last couple of months of the year, rather than winding down as he said the school does, going on field trips and having more relaxed curricula.
Stygles said that in his teaching area, reading is key. “Students who want to progress need to read at least 40 books per year,” he said. He said the tests also give teachers feedback on what they need to be presenting. For instance, he said, his fifth grade students needed more in nonfiction reading and composition than they were getting to succeed on the test. He then changed his curriculum to provide more nonfiction reading and composition, teaching students to write essays with thesis statements, supporting sentences and paragraphs, as opposed to creative writing. He said he is also in favor of working with students after school to give them a place to read and write rather than asking parents to take responsibility for making sure students do the required reading.
A brief pre-budget meeting was held before the committee meeting, with discussion by several departments, including food service, special education, maintenance and athletics. The special education department suggested the schools seek grants available for more special education dollars for wards of the state; this could help fund a bridge program for middle school. Wiscasset had the program, Junior Aspirations, but it was discontinued, according to the presentation.
Food service reported $10,000 owed for student lunches. A letter has been sent home to parents informing them to make a payment arrangement. Aside from that, the department’s budget may drop $60,000, mostly because the department did not replace staff who had resigned. Maintenance said the roof over the administration suite at Wiscasset Middle High School will need to be replaced, and a lift at WES will probably have to be replaced with an elevator on the south end.
A bus driver resigned on Feb. 7 for health reasons. A new hire, Megan Culp, will serve as an educational technician III in WMHS special education in the morning, and in the PreK in the afternoon.
WMHS Principal Charles Lomonte announced the cheering team won the Class D Sportsmanship award, and several music students participated in Maine Music Education Association’s District 3 High School Music Festival in January at Cony High School in Augusta. Participants were, in the Honors Treble Choir, Olivia Peaslee, Kaitlyn Main, Meagan Syrjala, Naomi Wood and Maria West; in the Honors Mixed Choir: Madison Westrich, Dillon Leeman and Harlan Young; and in the Honors Band: Eliza Paradis and Elizabeth Souza. Students were selected by audition last fall.