Board meeting

Photo by Carla Waters

School board members Rusty Maulding, Sarah Combes, administrative assistant Connie Breeling, board members Gina Greene, James Bruns, Brittany Cluver, Superintendent Gary Miller, board members Kirk McTaggart and Rebecca Wittenborn, take part in the Unit 9 School Board meeting Tuesday.

School is off and running in the Unit 9 School District.

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, the board heard from the superintendent and administrators about the preparations. School started Wednesday.

Superintendent Gary Miller said he has been getting to know principals and others in the district.

“I’ve had a blast,” he said of the work done so far. He was recently hired to replace former superintendent Guy Gradert.

He said the administrative team has started weekly meetings. He has talked with the human resources vendor, and talked about job descriptions, which he said is an area the district lacks. With job descriptions, he said, comes evaluations. “Your people need to know what the expectations are,” he said. “We are kind of working on expectations to be able to evaluate your staff, the support staff especially.

“I’ve done a lot of evaluating of just walking around and listening,” he said. “I’ve got some ideas.”

The district needs to look at a strategic plan. “What do we want to accomplish in a year,” he said. “In three years….five years.”

He said he will work with the committees to work on a strategic plan.

He said he has also talked with the teachers and staff the first day. “I had seven areas I talked to them about that I think are important,” he said. “Students are first. With our staff, students are our first thing.

“One of the things I ask that we are with our students and with each other is to be positive. That’s a choice for us every day. We can be positive every day. If you’re in a bad mood it can be like swine flu, it just goes right through your classroom, but if you are positive, it’s like a dose of vitamin C.

“Take a daily thank you walk,” he said. “How can you be positive. How can you be thankful. Doing that every day will make us positive.

“Celebrate successes, with colleagues and with students. That’s important that we do that. You need to hear about the successes. You will hear about the successes in the district because in September I will be doing a weekly newsletter, short clips of what is going on in the district. I will email it to the staff.

“Expect to make a difference,” he said. “Why come to work if you don’t expect to make a difference. Where does that take place, it takes place up here first. You think it’s going to happen, it’s going to happen.

“Number five, believe in your students more than they believe in themselves,” he said. Miller said he remembers that a teacher told him in fourth grade he wasn’t smart enough to go to college. He said he realizes he was probably the class clown, “and I was on her last nerve that day,” he said. “But we have to believe in students more than they believe in themselves. I has teachers who believed in me.” He said he went back to school and became a teacher because of those who believed in him.

He said, too, that building positive relationships is important. Those relationships between teachers and students are important. “It doesn’t matter what we say,” he said. “They remember what we do.” He said he some of his teachers and who was most interested in the students.

“Number seven is just to show you care,” he said. “Caring is so important. We can talk all day about raising test scores, but if they don’t know that you care they aren’t going to do their best on tests. My teachers aren’t going to do their best if they don’t know that I care about them.”

Glenn Raymond School Principal James Bunting said everyone has been busy at his school. Enrollment is up about 12 students, and he noted that there are always a few students who show up after registration.

Bunting said he has been working on scheduling and keeping class sizes as small as possible, which hasn’t been easy. He said the scheduling looks pretty good now as the school year begins.

“We’re excited to have kids back,” he said.

Jessica Heldt, director of student services at Wanda Kendall, said the building really took shape. “Teachers worked really, really hard this summer,” she said.

Enrollment was at 188 as of Tuesday, and she, too, said that number may change.

Students will have PE every day, with students grouped by intervention need. The students will get intervention while other students will get PE, with the groups switching periodically. The intervention is not just for students who are at risk, some students who are accelerated will get accelerated support. “Every student will get intervention,” she said.

Principal Heather Gerth said turnout for Meet the Teacher was extremely high, which they appreciated.

She said, teachers in her building, too, have been working hard. “I’m so impressed when I walk through the building,” she said.

Some windows in the building have to be replaced, she said, and will be done soon. The bushes in front of the ramp have been torn out and a fence will be put in place. There are 73 kids in kindergarten this year. First grade has 60 students.

Carolyn Short, principal at Watseka Community High School, said freshman orientation saw an 83 percent participation rate. Besides meeting teachers, freshmen could also meet with clubs and organizations to see if there were those groups they want to join. Getting involved as a freshman, she said, is important.

The kickoff day with the staff and Miller, she said, went very well. “It seems more positive,” she said. “Staff seems very upbeat.” Enrollment will continue to adjust the first few days, she said.