New Buffalo Area School Board of Education members learned more about what’s happening with the students in the “middle” of the district when they heard a presentation from Middle School Principal Wayne Butler at their Board meeting Monday, Dec. 12.
At the last Board meeting, Superintendent Dr. Jeffrey Leslie explained that he was asking each school’s principal to present at a Board meeting. Dave Kelly, the elementary school principal, had presented at the last one.
Butler explained that he had split up his presentation into three “talking points:” climate/culture, academics and communication. When discussing the middle school’s climate and culture, Butler emphasized their Project Pride program, which he said “gives measurable that kids can do day in and day out,” such as by making good grades, getting to school and not getting sent to the principal’s office. He explained that they have criteria for each semester for students to qualify for a Project Pride prize. In addition, he said teachers work hard to think up a theme for Project Pride for students and staff can “rally around,” and that this year has a Star Wars theme.
Other activities the school engages in to encourage a good culture includes Problem Solving Day, which takes place before Christmas break and involves students being split up into groups where they have 10-15 minutes to work together to complete an activity, as well as displaying pictures of students on bulletin boards in the hallways with their biographical information in a “Student of the Week” fashion.
Butler also gave credit to the teachers for the “messages” they sent to students to come to school and achieve what they can to the best of their abilities.
“I feel we’re in a good place with our teaching staff,” he said.
Regarding academics, Butler discussed the different training that teachers had undergone to help improve their students’ academic performances, including Kagen training, which he said focuses on ways to get students engaged during class, and Smeckens training, which he said gives teachers advice on reading strategies that could help students perform better on standardized tests such as the SAT. Regarding classroom size, he said that this year, sixth grade transitioned to three section offering, and that next year, seventh and eighth grade would be moved to a three section school. Current class sizes, he said, are up to 26 students; however, with a three-section offering, they will be in the 15-19 range.
Butler reported that they offer several extracurricular that students participate in, such as band, which most of the sixth grade signed up for this year, as well as an afterschool Homework Club, which also draws a lot of participants.
Also within the academic realm, Butler said they’re encouraging students to discover their interests and think of their futures. He said the school’s guidance counselor an interest inventory, which gave them insights on their talents and aptitudes in a certain area, which they’ll use for a career fair in the spring. Also in the spring, he said they plan on having arts recognition days, where a group from the Southwestern Michigan College band and orchestra will be workshopping with middle and high school students during band class.
Regarding communication, Butler said they were always striving to keep parents and relatives updated, such as through the school’s Facebook page or with the School Messenger Program through PowerSchool.
At the end of the presentation, Treasurer Lee Artz commented that he was pleased to see the emphasis being placed on arts and humanities within the school, as he felt that that was an important for the workplace. He was also pleased that Butler had emphasized the success of the teachers as well as the students in making the school a success.
Also at the meeting, Board members approved a recommendation from the Superintendent and the Bison After School Enrichment Director for Roger Lijewski to be a volunteer basketball coach for the fifth grade boys’ program and to employ the following people as basketball coaches, pending background approval: Girls: Sara Mead, third grade; Joseph Corkran, fourth grade; Paul Ciccarelli, fifth grade; James Mullen, sixth grade. Boys: Rex Gotcher, third grade; Darrick Fairchild, sixth grade.
Board members voted that there be no School of Choice openings at this time. Leslie pointed out that, even if there was School of Choice for high school students, they would be arriving in the middle of the trimester, which could be a difficult transition.