Focus is on literacy for JCSD board

MIFFLINTOWN – The Juniata County School District is focused on improving literacy in its classrooms.

The board of school directors voted unanimously to approve the purchase of professional development services, books, shelves, bins and carts for the implementation of a district-wide guided reading program. Program costs total $219,286.40.

The vote came Tuesday evening during a regular business meeting, a month after 10 members of a newly-formed Literacy Committee presented the idea to the board. District teachers said guided reading differs from traditional instruction because it caters to each student as an individual. Rather than teaching the classroom as a whole, teachers pull individuals or small groups of students from the rest of the class to assess and meet their literacy needs. Teachers said the initiative helps each child feel successful, eliminating “shut down” in students who feel pressured to excel in skills more advanced than their current level of ability.

Superintendent Richard Musselman recommended guided reading programs for the district during a presentation before the board’s vote. It has been one year since Pennsylvania received a waiver to move away from No Child Left Behind regulations and transition into a new system to assess academic achievement. School performance profiles generated based on 2012-2013 PSSA results revealed poor performance in reading and writing at Fermanagh-Mifflintown Elementary School, Lack-Tuscarora Elementary School, Monroe Elementary School, Walker Elementary School, Tuscarora Valley Elementary School and Tuscarora Junior High School.

Musselman said guided reading could more accurately address students’ individual needs and improve the district’s literacy as a whole.

“If you don’t have strong reading skills … you’re just going to struggle to succeed,” he said.

Musselman also presented the results of a voluntary technology survey conducted by the Tuscarora Intermediate Unit and provided to both students and teachers. The survey discovered weaknesses in foundational, online and multimedia skills, as well as digital citizenship. However, survey results showed that both students and teachers agree media enhances learning and daily life.

At the March board meeting, the Literacy Committee encouraged adding librarians and media specialists to elementary schools throughout the district. No action was taken Tuesday evening on these personnel requests.

Also during the meeting, Musselman presented preliminary information about replacing the grandstands at Dietrick Field, a GM truck-purchasing program to increase district revenue, funding more professional development for teachers, and district-wide roof replacement and repair. None of these items were included in the agenda, and were purely informational points at that point in time.

In other business, the board:

Approved a request of the Fayette Elementary Home and School Playground Committee to purchase new playground equipment. Volunteers are responsible for removal of old equipment, site preparation and installation of new equipment. The district will provide mulch.

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

Approved the following school meal prices for the 2014-2015 school year: $1.25, full-paying student breakfast; $2.25, full-paying adult breakfast; $2.20, full-paying elementary student lunch; $2.45, full-paying secondary student lunch; $3.45, adult lunch; $.50, adult lunch.

Approved the renewal of a food services contract with Metz Culinary Management for the 2014-2015 school year, at a guaranteed profit of no less than $10,000.

Approved the employment of Matthew A. Wray as a TVES custodian, at an hourly rate of $16.16, effective April 21. Wray replaces C. David Dysinger, who has resigned.

Approved Kimberly Martinez, Mary M. Meiser and Josie C. Merola as translators/interpreters at an hourly rate of $15. Services are utilized on an as-needed basis.

Approved the retirements of David E. Orris, TJHS reading teacher, and Barbara J. Stroup, East Juniata High School part-time custodian. Retirements are effective at the conclusion of the school year.

Approved Courtney L. Bell, Kali D. Harper, Jennifer L. Hostler, Jenna E. Gibboney and Louis J. Kenawell as substitute teachers; Tami S. Long, Rosa L. Ryan and Joey M.J. Woodward as substitute paraprofessionals; and Franklin D. Nissel and Eugene Wright as substitute custodians.

Approved Bill Treaster, Bryan Hart, Brian Clouser, Dave Erb, Ryan Stuck, Matt Pannebaker and Ronda Sheaffer as volunteer baseball coaches at EJHS for the 2013-2014 school year.

Approved Kevin Kodish as Juniata High School girls’ varsity basketball coach for the 2014-2015 school year.

Approved the resignation of Amy L. Wagner from the TIU 11 Board of Directors, effective June 30.