Juniata County School Board urged to support guided learning

MIFFLINTOWN – A group of Juniata County School District teachers is working to help every student feel successful.

About 10 teachers were present Thursday evening during a meeting of the district’s Board of Directors to present a report on behalf of the Literacy Committee. The committee was formed after an inservice day in November during which literacy was a topic of discussion.

“It is all of our jobs to make sure we have literate students,” said Sue Lutinski, kindergarten teacher at Walker Elementary School.

Lutinski said she has implemented a guided reading program into her classroom and has been working with the new instruction for four or five weeks.

Jessica Imes, who teaches at Fermanagh-Mifflintown Elementary School, said guided learning differs from traditional instruction because it caters to each student as an individual. In the past, she said, most instruction focused on the classroom as a whole. However, teaching the same lesson to a group of 20 or more students causes frustration in students who have not reached the same level as their peers and boredom in students who have advanced skills.

“Guided reading allows us to sit down with each individual student,” she said.

Instead of teaching the whole group, teachers pull individuals or small groups of students from the rest of the class to assess and meet their literacy goals. The program reaches each child on their level, she said. This helps each child feel successful, which eliminates “shut down” in students who feel pushed to excel in skills more advanced than their current level of ability.

The teachers representing the Literacy Committee asked the board to consider adding librarians and media specialists to elementary schools throughout the district. They also asked the board to consider technology upgrades that would supplement guided reading programs and recommended the consolidation of reading and English classes into one course. Modifying the curriculum would address the rigor of Pennsylvania Common Core standards, they said.

Also during the meeting, Director Larry Rothrock urged attention to school security throughout the district. Since his appointment in December, Rothrock said he has made a point of visiting every school in the county. He cited concern over doors that would not lock, being able to freely enter schools without questioning and students traveling to modular classrooms without supervision.

JCSD superintendent Richard Musselman said many of the reports Rothrock made have been addressed.

In other new business, the board:

Approved amending the 2013-2014 school year calendar to designate June 6, 2014, as an Act 80 day. The last student day would be June 5, 2014. The JCSD exceeds the required hours of instruction for secondary and elementary students.

Approved the purchase of Brigance special education assessment materials at a cost of $5,500, to be reimbursed through Medical Access funds.

Approved an agreement with NHS Pennsylvania to provide extended school year services for a JSCD student at a cost of $2,090.70.

Approved financial reports for February 2014 and a listing of bills for payment.

Approved the transfer of $5 million from the general fund to the capital reserve fund for the purpose of a renovation project at East Juniata High School, installation of monitoring systems at all schools and upgrades at Tuscarora Junior High School and Juniata High School.

Approved the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit General Operating budget for 2014-2015 in the amount of $3.4 million.

Approved a list of taxpayers exonerated from paying 2013 per capita taxes.

Approved Tandi Rowe as a contracted school bus driver.

Accepted the resignations of Juniata High School paraprofessional Angela Baker, effective March 20, and interpreter/translator Gabriella Amato, effective March 31.

Approved the employment of Leanna Speece as a Level 1 paraprofessional at JHS, at an hourly rate of $9.74, effective March 21. She replaces Baker.

Approved Ann M. Bryner as translator/interpreter at an hourly rate of $15.

Approved Stefanie L. Giordano as substitute teacher.

Approved Julie A. Hannon as mentor for teacher Katelyn M. Alderfer.

Approved the resignation of Tuscarora Valley Elementary School custodian C. David Dysinger, effective March 31.

Approved the following extracurricular positions for the 2013-2014 school year: Lori Dressler and Michelle Elsasser, EJHS junior high field hockey co-coaches; and Andy Goodling, EJHS junior high girls soccer coach.

Approved the following volunteer extracurricular positions for the 2013-2014 school year: Lori Goodling and Wes Diehl, EJHS junior high girls soccer coaches; and Ashlee Earnest, JHS softball coach.

Approved the following extracurricular positions for the 2014-2015 school year: Brent Hartman, EJHS varsity football coach; Simon Cameron and Richard Bender, EJHS co-assistant football coaches; and Matthew Patrick, EJHS junior varsity football coach.

Approved the following volunteer extracurricular positions for the 2014-2015 school year: Vince Inzerillo Jr., Donnie Long, Mark Feltman and Charles Zerbe, EJHS assistant football coaches.

Approved Linda L. McClure, of the Mount Union Area School District, and Timothy A. Mellott, of Southern Fulton School District, to serve as board member representatives to fill two new terms on the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit Board of Directors.

Approved Amy L. Wagner, Juniata County School District, to serve as a board member representative to fill a new term on the TIU Board of Directors.