By CHERIL VERNON
PALESTINE — The Westwood Independent School District's Board of Trustees unanimously approved the purchase of the “Superkids” phonics package for the primary campus and provide matching funds for elementary playground equipment during Monday's regular school board meeting.
The “Superkids Reading Program,” a literacy curriculum that integrates phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary and comprehension in a systematic style that is considered fun for kids, was approved in the amount of $63,792.36, which will be paid for from Title I federal funds earmarked for this type of need.
“The primary campus has significant Title funds remaining, and we have a need to strengthen reading skills in the early grades,” WISD Superintendent Dr. Ed Lyman said. “The 'Super Kids' program has proven its value at many other schools and the company provides quality teacher training along with the curriculum package.”
Speaking on behalf of Westwood Primary School Principal Sonya Brown, who was attending a training session Monday, Westwood Elementary School Principal Breanna Hancock told board members the “Superkids” phonics program would help streamline the students' reading skills so that all teachers were using the same approach.
“It will help strengthen reading where the students need it at all levels. It's very uniform. The skills build, but the basis will be the same,” Hancock said.
The program is a research-based program that teaches students to “hear it, see it, say it, write it,” a multi-modal instructional strategy to meet all learner needs and all levels. The program offers flexibility to reach struggling readers and includes challenging activities for stronger readers. “SuperKids” is organized so that teachers and students can see its linear structure, clearly defined goals, and measures their progress each step of the way.
The “SuperKids” program would target students in Head Start, Pre-K, kindergarten and first grade. WISD also plans to use the second-grade level SuperKids Take Off as an intervention resource for struggling readers.
Components of the “Superkids” reading program include: teacher planner and annual planning charts for classroom; read-aloud books, student books and magazines; games; animated songs and audio activities; assessments; online activities (including instructional games); systematic homework activities; and word lists.
The school board also approved a bid for playground equipment at the elementary campus in the amount of $30,180, which includes the ground cover and safety fall zone. Some additional costs may be added for grading the playground area prior to the installation and the actual installation costs.
The board voted to match 50 percent of the cost of the playground equipment and installation — with the school's PTO funds paying for the remainder, as the board did in the recent past with Westwood Primary School's playground.
“We wanted a piece of equipment where several kids could be entertained at the same time,” Hancock said during the meeting. “I think 15 to 20 kids could be on this piece at the same time.”
The WISD Board of Trustees also approved the Region VII Education Service Center service agreements for 2014-15. Each year, WISD partners with Region VII ESC for numerous services — some state-required partnerships and some optional.
Last year, the selection of services Region VII ESC provided to the district cost $76,242.50. This year, WISD expects to pay $74,363.80 for the package — absent the CSCOPE curriculum.
According to Lyman, CSCOPE curriculum changed its name to TEKS Resource System and the price is currently unknown at this time.
“Last year we paid about $8,000 for the curriculum, rumor is that this year it will go up significantly,” Lyman said.
The TEKS Resource System offers a curriculum framework so that teaching and testing match the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) and guideline for scope and sequence of instruction at all grade levels.
“Ninety-nine percent of the lesson plans are excellent,” Lyman said about the curriculum, which has been under fire in the past year.
Lyman said he would inform the school board when he finds out if Region VII ESC is going to offer the curriculum this year, after meeting with area superintendents this week.
Besides using TEKS Resource System for the 2014-15 school year, WISD could also choose to purchase lesson plans from a larger school district such as Houston ISD, Lyman said.
“There are other options out there that we can discuss,” Lyman said.
WISD Director of Finance Tricia Wardell gave a presentation on fund balance reports, projected revenue and preliminary budget estimates for the June budget workshop for the 2014-15 school year.
The preliminary 2014-15 budget includes a proposed raise of $500 to the above base amount for teachers (which would put WISD at about $4,000 above base pay for teachers); a modest adjustment to the hourly staff pay scales; a 3 percent increase for employees not currently on set pay scales; and adding 11 teaching positions and three special education paraprofessionals based on anticipated growth. Some of these positions will remain vacant until enrollment is at a certain level. The increase to payroll costs would be $1,300,000.
Total proposed expenditures for the 2014-15 budget are $14,107,900. The difference in revenue versus expenditures is $982,900 in the general fund and $126,100 in food services. This leads to a deficit $1,109,000 budget.
Following closed session, the board voted 6-0, denying a Level III appeal of student discipline.
Also after closed session, the board approved contracts for the following teachers at the primary campus: Autumn Brown, first grade; Jeannie Campbell, first grade; Susan Sekula, music. At the high school campus, teacher contracts were approved for Jacy Coston, ag teacher; Virginia Voorheese, health science; and Ann Ives, math.
In other action, the board:
• ELECTED board officers. Dr. Don Rice will serve as president; Dr. Carolyn Booker will be the vice president; and Theresa Bambeck will be the board secretary.
• APPROVED pay amount for unused faculty local leave days for the 2013-14 school year. It has been WISD's practice the past few years to pay $50 per day to each teacher who did not use all of their local leave days. The practice is meant to encourage teachers to remain in the classroom and provide quality instruction. According to the records as of Monday, 75 teachers did not use their local leave days. The district will pay for un-used leave days for a total cost of the district of about $8,450. This will be paid in the teacher's July paycheck.
• APPROVED supply bids, student insurance bids for 2014-15 and will continue using Region VII Education Service Center purchasing cooperative for food service bids during the 2014-15 school year. The 2014-15 student contract with Texas Student Resources was approved. Pricing will go up slightly with last year's cost of $9,441 and this year's cost of $10,441.
• REVIEWED yearly fund-raising/accounting reports from student groups.
• AUTHORIZED Superintendent Dr. Ed Lyman to “fast track” hiring authority from June 10 to Aug. 31.
• REVIEWED the Response to Intervention plans for the district and campuses.
• REVIEWED writing and reading initiatives for each campus.
• APPROVED the consent agenda which included the minutes of the May 12 school board meeting; May tax report; and fund-raisers for next school year.
• CERTIFIED Superintendent Dr. Ed Lyman to the ESC 7 Regional Advisory Committee.
• TABLED committee assignments for board members.