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School Board entertaining, but not on television

Citing technical difficulties, the school district's board meetings will no longer be televised, however that didn't keep Monday's meeting from being entertaining
Usually Crook County school district's board meetings are anything but entertaining. The Monday evening meeting might not have been exciting enough to earn any television rating wars had the meeting been televised, but it likely would have been one of the more entertaining episodes of its long existence.
   Which takes us to one important point made by board members: The live telecast version of the monthly board meetings will no longer be available to viewers. District superintendent Gary Peterson earlier cited long-standing technical difficulties for the change. Although the meetings may eventually be recorded for a delayed airing, there are no immediate plans to resume telecasting at this point.
   Although the meeting began with the usual routine, approving minutes, discussing employment changes and transfers, the first report on the agenda was enough to get folks out of their chairs.
   Susan McCullough, a third grade teacher from Ochoco Elementary School, reported on an arts education workshop put on by the Oregon Arts Commission in Monmouth earlier this summer. McCullough's enthusiasm for the training was evident in her presentation.
   "They stressed that the arts should be actively used to help teach reading, writing and arithmetic, science, history and language and social sciences," she said. "Art can be used to help supplement those main areas that kids really need to cover. The arts are important all by themselves too. It's very important, they feel, that general classroom teachers receive ongoing professional development to learn how to integrate art into their teaching."
   McCullough added that she felt the information received through the workshops encouraged her, as well as the 100-plus other teachers in attendance, to see how valuable all of the arts including music and visual arts, can be in helping to teach children.
   She handed out information provided by the Oregon Department of Education indicating that the long-term objectives are to have students capable of communicating at least at the basic level in four of the art disciplines; dance, music, theater and visual arts.
   McCullough concluded her presentation with an example of using music to teach in the classroom. The exercise was called a months of the year rhythmic spelling activity, and she requested that members of the board as well as the audience participate in the exercise. Looking somewhat askance the board dutifully stood to offer their support in the effort. What followed, although completely unrehearsed, demonstrated the relevance and importance of teaching art disciplines in the classroom, and proved that most school district board members have rhythm.
   Lead by McCullough, everyone participated in an exercise of rhythmic clapping, finger snapping and toe tapping, followed by peals of laughter. All-in-all a vision of musical cooperation that would have been made better only if it were televised.
   Following McCullough, the subjects of the agenda quickly resumed its less dramatic presentations with Deen Hylton speaking about district maintenance projects which occurred over the summer.
   Issuing a long list of projects completed including; stripping and waxing floors, painting walls, shampooing carpetings, septic tank maintenance, fire system inspections, replacing boiler parts, and building various walls, Hylton and his maintenance team received copious appreciations from the board for the efforts.
   Peterson gave an overview of enrollment stating that the initial figures were down from last years starting enrollment at 3,073 students, down 125 from a year ago and down about 50 from number ending last school year. He added that they expect the number to rise over the next several months and will report on it again at the October meeting. He touched on the fact that if enrollment continues to decline the board may have to look at implementing some budget reductions.
   Kindergarten updates followed with an overview of the parent meeting held last week which introduced the full-day kindergarten option made possible through funds recently provided by the Oregon Legislature. Given the option of half-day versus full day, apparently most parents chose to enroll their children in the full-day option. Parents were reluctant to have their children attend schools out of their neighborhoods on the half-day option, so the school district has decided to allow those children signed up for half-day to continue to attend the same classes as the full-day students, with the qualification that they will be leaving at some point during the day.
   Moving onto the topic of the School Improvement Grant, Peterson gave an overview of the grant which allocates $168 per student to efforts to support student achievement in reading and math with the goal of 90 percent of 3rd and 5th grade students achieving the state benchmarks by 2004-05. The full-day kindergarten and the new benchmark coordinators will use part of those funds. Peterson said that any anticipated budget cuts due to enrollment may be helped by the transfer of some items from the general budget to apply to the school improvement budget. Particular items included the education assistant for a behavior intervention program and an additional ESL teacher. "Some the costs are ones that were in the general fund budget that I put into the school improvement budget as a way to balance the budget since we are looking at doing some reductions," he explained. "Because of that, there may not be any actual reductions in the general fund budget." He added that the move may have been enough to transfer those items that would have been threatened by the reduction. "I think that probably we are going to be able to balance the budget," he said. "Which, I will admit may not be exactly what the legislature had in mind, but the bulk of other districts statewide are doing it the same way we are."
   A couple of other notable subjects covered at Monday's meeting included a look at services for private school students and the possible purchase of a used modular to be used for the behavioral intervention program.
   Concerning the services to students attending private schools, the principal from the Crook County Christian School, Sue Uptain had made a request to the district to consider subcontracting teachers for some basic instructional classes.
   Peterson indicated that the district has done some research on the subject which indicated that under the present circumstances, there aren't currently enough students or certified teachers working at the CCCS to make the option viable for the district at this time.
   Deen Hylton was asked to comment on the possible acquisition of a used modular which is for sale by Sun River Prep. which is anticipated will be used for the forthcoming behavior intervention program.
   Hylton said that there are two modulars available. He indicated that the purchase would be advantageous to the district, helping to provide needed space for the new program. It was also discussed as to the cost effectiveness of purchasing a used structure versus a new one whereupon the board voted to allow Hylton to pursue the purchase of one of the modulars at $20,101.
   The next school board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 8 at 7 p.m. at the middle school. Anyone wishing to be included on the agenda are asked to call the district office at 447-5664.