County schools set to reopen next week as students and staff return

458

The sadness on the faces of children and the smiles on the faces of parents says that schools are set to reopen next week in Switzerland County.

Teachers and staff will have an in-service day on Tuesday, August 14th; with students coming for their first day of school on Wednesday, August 15th.

Both elementary schools will hold open houses for parents and students on Tuesday night, August 14th, from 4-6 p.m.

Switzerland County Middle School is holding is sixth grade orientation tonight (Thursday) at 6 p.m.

“We’re always excited about the beginning of a school year,” superintendent Tracy Caddell said. “We think it’s going to be a good year and a positive year; and we’re looking forward to having the kids back in the buildings.”

Tracy Caddell said that there continues to be many improvements in all of the buildings, with many of those coming from the generosity of the Switzerland County School Endowment Corporation along with the Switzerland County School Board. Again this year parents do not have to pay textbook rental fees – again thanks to the endowment and the school board.

Even as school is set to begin, the superintendent and all four of the building principals are working on establishing and achieving goals for the coming year.

“Our first goal is to establish baseline data with the goal of all of our buildings being Indiana Four-Star Schools,” Superintendent Caddell said. “Another goal is our attendance rate. It’s so important for parents to help us get the students here, because we can’t do anything in terms of educating kids if they are not here.”

The superintendent said that last year the high school fell a little below the state average in terms of attendance, and one of the points of emphasis will be to bring up the high school’s attendance percentage. Attendance at the other three buildings was above the state average – but can always get better.

Superintendent Caddell also said that a couple of the schools did not make the “Adequate Yearly Progress” marks set by the government. In both cases it was because of the need to improve the testing scores for special education children in the school system, so staff will also be focusing on those scores.

Another new venture this year will be the reconfiguring of the teacher in-service training days. Mandated by the state, in the past students have been released for a half day so that the teachers could attend training in the afternoon.

This year, the school corporation is trying an experiment where it will focus on grade levels and subject areas in its training. That could mean that all of the first grade teachers could be pulled out for a day to attend a workshop held at the central office or at some other location. The same would then happen for all science teachers at the high school, for example.

“We think that this will allow our teachers to get better training in areas that are more specific to what they are doing in the classroom,” the superintendent said. “It also keeps students in the classroom for instruction time; and it helps the parents because they don’t have to worry about what to do with their child when they have a half day off of school.”

Another change will be in the corporation newsletters that have been mailed to home over the past three years. This year the school corporation will be working with Vevay Newspapers to produce its newsletter, which will be included in the paper and also sent home with every student.

“It’s a positive because we’re working with someone local and we’re keeping our dollars local, and that’s all positive,” Superintendent Caddell said.

At Switzerland County Elementary School, new principal Mike Jones is settling into his new position and getting some intensive training from his staff.

“Other than me, it’s old hat,” Mike Jones said about the upcoming school year. “Right now I’m doing an internship under (school secretary) Marilyn Devers. She’s been at this school since the first day it opened and she knows everything that goes on, so she’s been valuable in teaching me the ropes about the school.”

Mike Jones said that most of the information that parents need to know will be handed out at the open house on Tuesday, and he urged parents and students to take advantage of the opportunity to come in and meet him and the staff.

“Everybody’s been working hard to get their rooms ready,” he said. “We’ll be there on open house night to welcome our students and parents.”

Shelly Fowler is a new face at Switzerland County Elementary School, having moved from teaching at the middle school to a fourth grade position this year. Jennifer Sturgeon will be taking Cindy Stewart’s place in the special needs classroom; as Cindy Stewart moves on to assume Jeff McConnell’s old responsibilities.

‘We’re very excited about the beginning of the school year, and we think it’s going to be an outstanding year at Switzerland County Elementary,” Mike Jones said.

Dr. Elizabeth Jones is the new principal at Jefferson-Craig Elementary School after serving for the past three years as the principal at Switzerland County Elementary. It’s her third stop in the corporation, as she also served for six years as the principal at Switzerland County Middle School.

Along with her duties at Jefferson-Craig, she will also be working at Switzerland County Elementary one day a week mentoring new principal Mike Jones and also working on elementary curriculum.

She is also thinking about the upcoming ISTEP tests, which will be administered between September 17th-28th. She said that staff is already focusing on those testing dates, and she expects the tradition of outstanding test scores to continue.

There has been a change in the teaching staff at Jeff-Craig, as Sharon Earls will now serve as the reading teacher for both elementary schools. She will be at Switzerland County Elementary three days a week and at Jefferson-Craig two days a week.

“That’s really her forte,” Dr. Jones said. “She’s an excellent reading teacher and she will be working with the Title I teachers to help identify students who need help with their reading. It will really be a positive for our students and staff.”

With Sharon Earls assuming her new duties, Ann Findley will be moving into the fourth grade classroom. Dr. Jones said that Ann Findley was originally set to teach third grade, but the student enrollment numbers did not justify three sections of third grade, so she will be moving up to fourth grade.

Dr. Jones also invited all parents and students to attend the school’s open house on Tuesday, noting that this will be the first year of the newly adopted reading series, which will be a time of adjustment for students, parents, and staff.

Nancy Stearns begins her second year as principal at Switzerland County Middle School with many new programs in place.

She said that parents should be aware that the after school remediation programs on Tuesdays and Thursdays will continue until the ISTEP testing begins, with students who were a part of the program last year still involved. She also said that two people have been hired to come in and work with students on math and language arts remediation in preparation for the ISTEP tests; and remediation will also be done during the school day two days a week during the students’ advocacy time.

Students at the middle school will see some new character development signs up around the building; and will also be able to take advantage of a new volleyball net that has been placed on the back lot for use before and after school and during lunch periods. New trophy and display cases are also in place; and all of the classrooms have been upgraded with some type of new technology – including five teachers who will have smart boards in their rooms.

Nancy Stearns said that the school also has a new website, and will be working very hard to keep the site updated with athletic schedules and lunch schedules. She will also be putting some “tips” on the site for parents to read and use.

“The beginning of the school year is a nice time to sit down and set new routines for children,” Nancy Stearns said.

At Switzerland County High School, principal Candis Haskell has two new teachers in the math department and a new instructor in the science area.

Stacey Walke will teach algebra I and basic skills; Mike Crussel will teach algebra II and geometry; and Valerie Smith will be teaching integrated chemistry and physics. David Todd has moved from the classroom and is the high school’s new assistant principal and athletic director.

Candis Haskell will be meeting with each class during the first day of school to talk about expectations, goals, and events for the year.

She is also focused on remediation heading toward the ISTEP and GQE exams.

“Basic skills will be continuing with remediation programs until ISTEP,” Candis Haskell said. “There will also be additional help for students available where needed. We’re looking forward to an outstanding year at the high school.”