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Windstorm possible factor in test scores

With changes coming in state testing for students, principals of the North Harrison Community School Corp. updated the school board this month on the results of ISTEP and GQE by their students.
North Harrison High School principal Kelly Simpson said at the Dec. 11 meeting that testing conditions may have been a factor in lower test scores than in previous years.
‘The (Sept. 14) windstorm had more impact on schools that are rural than those where there was a town or city,’ he said. ‘Basic needs of electricity and water were affected even after we had returned to school. The damage to the roads, houses and yards was extensive, and kids worked to help in clean-up and maintain living conditions.’
He said a comparison with schools that experienced a similar impact from the remnants of Hurricane Ike also reported significant drops in test scores.
At NHHS, students were tested in a large group setting, rather than in smaller units as in past years, Simpson said, in an attempt to keep the students not being tested on a more normal schedule.
‘This year, we felt it was better for the majority of our students to have school rather than disrupt them for another three days,’ he said.
Morgan Elementary School principal Lance Richards said, ‘We’re very pleased this year with our scores.’
Fourth graders at Morgan tested in the top 5 percent, while third and fifth graders placed in the top 17 percent.
‘We have a long tradition of doing very well on standardized testing,’ Richards said.
Lisa Jones, principal at North Harrison Elementary, was also pleased with her students’ score results, especially under not-so-desirable learning conditions.
‘The fifth graders spent a lot of time last year in the cafeteria’ while the school was in the middle of a construction project, she said.
She told the five-member board that her students are gaining in language arts and math.
North Harrison Middle School students were introduced to Study Island, an ISTEP preparation program.
‘We’re pretty much staying the same across the board,’ said principal Karen Lambertus.
All four principals seemed pleased that exams will now be done in the spring over current-year material, rather than students being tested in the fall over the previous school year’s material.
Also at the meeting, Don Hanen gave an updated energy report.
‘We’re very pleased with how we’re cutting energy expenses,’ he said.
The school corporation has seen reduced expenditures since implementing Energy Education Inc.’s management program during the 2001-02 school year. The plan’s primary goals are to maintain comfort in occupied areas of school buildings, minimize energy waste and save dollars. This is accomplished by tracking the cost and consumption of several things, including electricity, propane, water and fuel oil.
Hanen said there were two big challenges recently: a large water leak and an increase in the demand charge for electricity.
Despite higher prices, the school corporation has saved $479,762 since implementing the energy-savings program.
Hanen said school personnel are reminded of the five T’s: Turn it up, Turn it down, Turn it off, Tune it up and Turn it around.
In other matters Dec. 11, the school board:
‘ Approved the appointments of Cheri Stephenson as co-Renaissance sponsor at NHHS for this school year and Greg Oppel as a volunteer coach for seventh- and eighth-grade basketball for this school year.
The board failed to approve the appointment for a central office position due to a misunderstanding on whether the position was to be full-time or part-time.
After discussing the position, the board voted 4-1 (Bobby Chinn was the nay vote) to re-advertise the position as part-time with no benefits with the possibility that it could become a full-time job once a new payroll system is implemented.
‘ Rescinded by a 3-2 vote (Chinn and Fred Naegele opposed) the administration contracts.
‘There is a roll-over statement in the contracts,’ said Partenheimer, ‘the board had been rubber stamping.’
However, it turns out the school board ‘actually has to approve the contracts every year,’ he said.
‘ Accepted Karen Rothrock’s resignation as varsity girls’ track coach, effective Dec. 4.
‘ Recognized the following students for being selected to the Indiana All-State Band: Allison Blessett, T.J. Tekulve, Jerry Boyd, Audrey Hensley and Taylor Ransdell.
‘ Approved spending $85,500 to update the telephone system ($37,000 for Phase I at North Harrison Elementary and $48,500 for Phase 2 at the main Ramsey campus).
‘ Approved by a 4-1 vote (Chinn opposed) purchasing a 25-year warranty for $12,000 for the baseball lights at NHHS. The funds will come from a Harrison County Community Foundation grant and the school corporation’s riverboat funds.
‘ Accepted a bid of $250 from Brian Harper, an assistant professor of art at Indiana University Southeast, for surplus art clay at the high school.
‘ Approved Regions Bank as the entity for a temporary loan, if necessary, at an interest rate of 2.85 percent. Partenheimer said $4.3 million could be borrowed.
‘ Authorized the corporation treasurer to reconcile major budget categories and to pay outstanding bills that should be charged to the 2008 budget.
‘ Approved board members’ salary of $2,000 for 2009. It was noted that board members do not receive health insurance.
‘ Approved Great American Financial Services as the third-party administrator of school employees’ 403b as per the Internal Revenue Service’s regulation effective Jan. 1.
Prior to the meeting, a reception was held to bid farewell to Dr. Phil Partenheimer, who resigned to accept the position of director at the Wilson Center and to welcome Dr. Tom Fihe as the school corporation’s interim superintendent.

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