Greencastle Community Schools to focus on writing

Thursday, October 15, 2009

GREENCASTLE -- The Greencastle Community School Board reviewed the results of the spring's ISTEP+ testing at Wednesday night's regular meeting.

After several years of fall testing, the tests moved back to spring this year. There has also been a major retooling of the tests, so the results are difficult to compare to previous years.

"Basically, it was a new test, so the state cautions us against making comparisons to previous tests," said Assistant Superintendent Dawn Puckett said.

The results showed some strong performances in terms of language arts and mathematics. An area of concern for the corporation, however, is its writing. Over several years, the scores have been erratic.

"That's a big marker to us. That is something we really feel like we need to focus on," Puckett said. "We do not have a specific program in place for writing."

With this in mind, the faculty is trying to put a greater emphasis on the writing skills of GCSC students. In order to do so, they are working to standardize the writing instruction throughout the school system.

The various grade levels will have designated instructors who serve as writing coaches. These coaches will serve as a committee that tries to better establishes a framework for what is expected of GCSC students as writers.

One important step in the process is to establish a common vocabulary for writing terms. Puckett said it will simplify the process for students if different teachers are using the same nomenclature.

Puckett also reported on plans to continue to strengthen the math skills of the corporation's students.

The board also made a number of financial decisions on the evening, including final approval of the 2010 budget. While the budget is now approved, Superintendent Dr. Bob Green said it's hard to know at this time what the exact tax rate will be.

"I won't know for sure until I know what the assessed valuation is," Green said.

The board also approved the capital projects fund plan and the bus replacement plan for 2010.

While reviewing the financial report, Green noted there are still balances on the corporation's loans for the debt service fund, capital projects fund and transportation fund. There had been talk of paying these down with the latest tax draw, but the possibility of a late December tax draw has the corporation waiting to see what happens.

Board member Kelly Lewis asked if there would be a problem with the loans if the tax draws don't come by Dec. 31.

"If we get our draw in December, we'll be fine. If not, we'll have to extend those," Green said.

One mechanism for school funding took a small hit this year, with GCSC enrollment down by four students. Green said this was not a great thing, but he was not too worried considering that some neighboring districts were down 30 to 40 students.

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