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March 16, 2009

It was a night of technology business for the Hamilton School Board. A demonstration of the district’s new teacher Web page template, approval of a three-year technology plan and a report about a new technology training partnership with a neighboring school district were on the agenda.

Teacher Web pages demonstrated
Katherine Little, the district’s instructional technology and assessment coordinator, and Kim Leannais, Hamilton science teacher, demonstrated the district’s classroom Web page template available to all teachers this semester. A Web page template, customized for Hamilton School District teachers, was created using a free and open-source software platform known as Moodle.

Leannais showed School Board members how she used Web pages for management of her regular and Advanced Placement biology classes. On the Web page developed for regular classes, she pointed out the announcements, links to Web sites that relate to class activities and PowerPoint presentations that were posted. Her page for Advanced Placement students used additional features that allowed for greater interactivity including discussion groups and students’ ability to post homework assignments.

School Board member Lynn Kristensen said the technology was a “prime example of 21st Century skills” that were discussed as part of the district’s Strategic Plan. Other School Board members expressed support for the technology.

Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., recognized Leannais for being among a handful of high school teachers who teach advanced-level courses who began pilotting Moodle technology last year. A group of teachers from across the district tested the Web page template during first semester this year before it was opened up to all interested teachers second semester.

Technology plan approved
The development of teacher Web pages was among key initiatives included in the Information and Technology Literacy Plan that School Board members approved. Little presented the plan which the district updates every three years to fulfill state and federal requirements.

Other recommendations of the plan include offering professional development on integration of technology skills, creating a document that outlines how skills and understandings will be integrated into curricula, increasing bandwidth to elementary schools, and reviewing with staff the legal and ethical use of technology. Cooke noted that the speed in which the plan will be implemented will depend of availability of funds in the district budget.

The plan includes four areas that are supported with specific goals and action plans. The areas are:

  • educator proficiency,
  • effective teaching and learning,
  • access to information resources and learning tools, and
  • support systems and leadership.

Joint training project launched with Menomonee Falls
A Technology and Learning Academy will be launched this summer as a result of the partnership between the Hamilton and Menomonee Falls school districts. Credit courses and workshops are offered June 18-30 in the two districts. Classroom applications are included in the technology experience. District staff members are among course instructors.

Board approves participation in CESA programs
The district’s participation in alternative school services offered through the Cooperative Education Services Agency (CESA) #1 will continue. The School Board gave authorization for administrators to continue contracting services for:

  • Empower Academy – a program for high school students at risk school failure;
  • Turning Point – an alternative school that serves elementary-age children with emotional behavioral disabilities;
  • Passages Charter Middle School – serving middle school students who are at risk;
  • SOAR – an alternative program designed for severely emotionally disturbed children in grades 4-8; and
  • Project Success – an alternative program for high school students with emotional or behavioral disabilities.

A dozen students from the district are served this year through these CESA #1 programs and schools. Eight are at Empower, one is at Turning Point, two are at SOAR and one is at Project Success. No district student attended Passages this year.

School fees remain at current level
Despite the fact that the Hamilton School District has lower-than-average student fees, School Board members did not change the fee schedule because of the economic conditions that many district families face. School Board members were provided report that compared Hamilton’s user and participation feels to 26 area school districts.

Secondary schools given OK to continue accreditation
The School Board authorized participation in the North Central Accreditation (NCA) process for Templeton Middle School and Hamilton High School, but other options for accreditation may be considered in the future. At a cost of $650 for the middle school and $775 for the high school, the accreditation process helps schools focus on school improvements related to student outcomes. It aligns with the district’s site planning process and responds to the public’s demand for greater accountability. Hamilton has been a part of the NCA accreditation process since 1966 and Templeton since 1997. Two years ago, NCA changed the name of the evaluation component of its services to AdvancED.

Educational Service and Human Resources John Roubik noted in his report that the district is investigating alternative sources for accreditation in the future including the Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence.

Students get approval for Youth Options Program
The applications of five Hamilton students were approved for enrollment in the Youth Options Program for the first semester of 2009-10. The students qualify by completing their sophomore year, having good academic standing and no record of disciplinary problems. The students are able to take technical college or university courses at district expense if they have exhausted the curriculum offered in the district. Associate Principal Pete Ferge reported that some students who apply to take Youth Option Program courses are not able to follow through on their intentions because of scheduling conflicts or full classes at the colleges they wish to attend. Students often list several courses on their application in case classes are full.

Board recognizes Haas Automation for equipment donation
Hamilton students in pre-engineering and manufacturing classes will have use of a state-of-the-art simulator, thanks to the generosity of Haas Automation, Inc. The company donated a simulator that is used in mold-making and tool and die industries to the school’s Applied Engineering and Technology Department, and the School Board recognized its generosity.

Associate Principal Pete Ferge introduced teacher Steve Campeau who described how the simulator would be used in the classroom. Haas Automation representatives Daniel Johnson and Rorry Gintert were on hand to receive certificates of appreciation from School Board President Gabe Kolesari. Gintert said he was happy to partner with Hamilton to provide the equipment for students use. He noted that manufacturing in Wisconsin is active and strong, and manufactured parts is the state’s top export.