All three South Putnam elementary schools -- Central, Fillmore and Reelsville -- were awarded Wireless Generation grants from the Indiana Department of Education for the 2009-2010 school year.
The idea behind Wireless Generation is to determine which students in kindergarten to second grade need more help, such as special education or Title I, or more advanced instruction like high ability. The desired outcome of the program is for all students to be performing at grade level by the time they enter third grade, where the major change from "learning to read" to "reading to learn" takes place.
In addition, children do not take ISTEP until third grade, and this program is a forerunner to finding deficiencies or advanced skills in each student.
Fillmore Elementary principal Brad Hayes told South Putnam School Board members Monday the program will also provide useful data to help teachers better show parents where their child stands in reading and math skills.
As part of the program, each student in kindergarten to second grade will be given benchmark tests three times per year -- at the beginning, middle and end. These tests will determine where students stand in reading and math.
School board members think the Wireless Generation will be a good thing for the three elementary schools in its district. Board member Darwin Nelson asked how many dollars the grant provided.
"There is no specific amount of dollars," Hayes explained.
The grant will provide training for kindergarten through second grade teachers and kits they will need to administer the assessments, as well as decisive diagnostic reports for each kindergarten through second-grade student.
Additional components provided by the grant include Home Connect, which provides customized reports on students' progress for parents and an Item-level Advisor or instructional activities for each student's particular needs.
Each building will also receive three handheld palm computers from the grant. The palms will aid teachers in uploading students' information and provide individual progress reports on the kids. Teachers are currently using clipboards, stopwatches and handbooks to do what the palms will provide.
In other business:
* Superintendent Bruce Bernhardt told the school board South Putnam High School is in need of a new phone system.
He said, "It is literally one breakdown away from not having any phones."
The current system is outdated and parts are no longer available. Bernhardt presented three quotes from Joink in Terre Haute, ESI and HOP in Greencastle. Joink was the most expensive with a bid at approximately $84,000. ESI submitted a $55,000 bid with HOP quoted at $38,000.
All three bids were for similar phone systems, Bernhardt noted.
The board voted to accept HOP's bid, pending a background check on the system it will install.
* The board approved a treasurer's bond of $10,000 for the three elementary secretaries, high school treasurer and director of food service.
* The board voted to reject both petroleum bids submitted by Petroleum Traders and Co Alliance. Both were non-firm bids, which means the school corporation would have to pay the price of petroleum at the time of purchase.
The corporation will instead go with the open market, as recommended by Bernhardt.
* Board members agreed to pick up the $600 stipend for the eight South Putnam teachers who mentor younger teachers. The state had initially agreed to pay the stipend but denied the money.
Members agreed the mentoring program is an "invaluable service" and those teachers deserve the stipend.
Under the personnel report:
Resignations included Jim Helsley, language arts at the high school and junior high cross country coach, assistant varsity girls' track and assistant boys' swim coach; Ronda Heckel, food service at the high school; and Todd Crosby, high school varsity wrestling coach.
Terminations included Max Hetzel as custodian at Fillmore and Karen Dorris in food service at Central Elementary.
Karen Christy, a bus driver for Fillmore Elementary, was the only retirement.
There were several new hires including certified employees Zach Love (high school US history, psychology), Brandon Welti (jr. high social studies), Andrew Lade (high school geography, world history, sociology), Renatta Hacker (high school art) and Jacqueline Pyrz (Central special ed.-MI).