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September 15, 2008

Hamilton meeting goals of more rigor
If increasing the rigor of coursework that students take is the goal of recent initiatives, Hamilton High School appears to be hitting the mark. Hamilton Principal Candis Mongan described results of efforts designed to support increased student achievement.

Advanced Placement (AP) and ACT results released this summer show that Hamilton students performed at one of the highest levels in the school’s history.

Some 74.2 percent of Hamilton students received a score of 3 or higher on AP exams, which earn them credits that are recognized by many colleges and universities. It was the second highest pass rate in school history. Hamilton students earned college credits in biology, calculus, chemistry, English, statistics, studio art drawing, European history and U.S. government and politics.

Another indicator of the school’s performance came with results of the ACT, a test that indicates the extent of preparation for college-level work. With a composite score of 23.2, Hamilton students scored well above the statewide composite average of 22.3. The national ACT composite score was 21.1.

Mongan presented data to School Board members that indicate a significant increase in the number of students participating in both exams. The number of students enrolled in AP courses increased from 80 students in 2005-06 to 228 enrolled in the current school year. In addition, the number of AP exams taken more than doubled in the last two years going from 80 to 225 exams taken.

Similarly, the number of students who took the ACT exam went from 179 in 2005-06 to a school high of 216 students in 2008, which is the equivalent of 68 percent of the graduating senior class, according to Mongan.

“We are excited about the increase in the numbers and we anticipate them to grow,” Mongan said. She said she looks forward to sharing more data with the School Board later this year when the high school site plan is reviewed.

School Board member Gerald Schmitz complimented school staff.

“It has taken a while to get there, but it sure makes you feel good,” Schmitz said about the school’s progress.

CESA #1 requests operation of alternative school without charter status
After getting approval from the Hamilton School Board to charter an alternative middle school for at-risk students and operating it successfully for eight years, CESA #1 Executive Director Tim Gavigan recommended ending the school’s charter status.

CESA #1 first came to the district in 2000 requesting that it approve a charter for Passages Middle School because regulations would not allow a CESA to do so. While Hamilton School Board members approved and renewed the charter, CESA #1 staff members operated it, and the CESA Board of Control provided its governance. The school served students from 13 school districts and offered flexible learning opportunities for students.

Gavigan said CESA #1 plans to continue operating the school, but it no longer wanted to operate it as a charter school. Initially the charter status provided the agency with federal planning and implementation funds.

“Unfortunately, there has been a drastic decrease in federal funding and a drastic increase in federal regulations,” Gavigan said.

New regulations would require that the school have its own board of directors and supply additional paperwork.

“So we want to continue the program and continue the success, but no longer continue the charter status,” Gavigan said.

School Board members approved Gavigan’s request to operate the alternative middle school through CESA #1 without renewing the charter school contract.

Summer Opportunities has successful year
Enrollment in the Summer Opportunities Program grew by 31 to 1,723 students. Summer Opportunities Coordinator Dick Ladd reported that the program remains highly popular among students and parents.

The majority of students who participated were elementary and middle school students in enrichment classes. Other components of summer school include the invitational program for struggling students who need additional practice in math or reading, and the promotional program for middle and high school students who need to earn credits.

Ladd recommended that next year’s program be scheduled from June 22 to July 17 with Friday, July 3 off in celebration of the Independence Day holiday weekend. Changes recommended were to implement an online registration process and incorporate a $100 registration fee for non-district students.

Board members accepted these and other recommendations suggested by Ladd. They complimented him and Summer Opportunities staff members for conducting a highly successful program.

New strategic planning process to begin
A new strategic planning process will begin this fall. Educational Services and Human Resources Director John Roubik updated School Board members on the timeline and participants involved in developing new strategies that will guide the district for the next five years.

The new plan will focus on preparing students for the rigor necessary to be competitive in the 21st Century. A Business Forum is planned for Oct. 21 to get input from businesses regarding skills needed in the workforce. A Board Study Session is slated Oct. 22 for School Board members, administrators and strategic planning team members. More than three dozen community members, staff, students, parents and business representatives will convene Dec. 3 and 4 to create new strategies.

Applied engineering & technology curriculum approved
School Board members approved the applied engineering and technology curriculum. Formerly known as technology education, the name reflects changes made in recent years.

The middle school program begins in seventh grade with a required 9-week exploratory course, “Introduction to Engineering Design.” Then “Technology and Engineering” is a yearlong eighth grade elective. Both middle school classes are part of Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a national education program that involves secondary-level students in rigorous education needed to develop science and engineering careers.

High school applied engineering and technology course are in autos, construction, graphics, manufacturing and PLTW.

Personnel business
In personnel business, the School Board appointed Karen Ludin as a Willow Springs paraprofessional, Phyllis Frittitta as a Lannon paraprofessional, Mike Strobl as a Hamilton student supervisor, William Hahn as a Maple custodian, Jeff Polansky as a Marcy part-time cleaner, Daniel Diedrick as a Hamilton cleaner, Steve Pelzman as a Templeton cleaner, Amanda Pinnow as a Hamilton special services paraprofessional, and Traci Ellis as a Lannon special education replacement teacher.