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May 4, 2010

Hamilton students required to take economics

A new half-credit requirement in economics will be required of all Hamilton High School students designed to strengthen financial literacy and employability skills.

Students currently must take a one-credit citizenship or two-credit Advanced Placement government class. These courses will be restructured beginning in the fall of 2010. The new economics content will be embedded in the AP government course so that students will earn one-half credit of economics and 1.5 credits of civics. The citizenship class will be reduced from one credit to one-half, and the new economics course will provide a half-credit of economics.

The new requirement emerged from the district’s Strategic Plan which included development of 21st century skills as a priority. A Financial Literacy and Employability Skills (FLES) committee studied how the district could integrate and assess these skills. In addition, the district’s Business Advisory Council recommended development of these skills.

Educational Services and Human Resources Director John Roubik assured School Board members that the civics components of the courses would remain rigorous.

“There will be some adjustments to the civics piece, but it will not be watered down,” he said. “There will be a stronger emphasis on economics.”

Spectrum programming moves to team-delivery approach

Changes will be made beginning next year in the way elementary Spectrum gifted and talented services are delivered to students. After studying the best way to deliver high-quality gifted and talented services, elementary administrators and staff recommended that an integrated team approach at the building level would be in the best interest of students.

The district will no longer have a single Spectrum teacher assigned to serve students in four elementary schools. Resources will be reallocated to provide additional gifted and talented support in each school.

Under the new delivery system, a team at each school will oversee all Spectrum referrals and determine the most appropriate programming for identified students. Programming may include in-class differentiation, small pull-outs, and in some cases, a differentiated education plan. The classroom teacher will work with resource specialists in reading, mathematics, library and writing to regularly monitor progress and modify services as appropriate.

School Board members applauded district staff for creating the plan that includes establishing comprehensive and consistent programming at each school, creating a team approach to determine programming, identifying a school staff member as a case manager for each student who is identified through the referral process, and providing the majority of services in the student’s regular classroom.

“We are fixing so many different issues with this,” said School Board members Lynn Kristensen. “This was just very well thought out.”

As part of the plan, School Board members approved a new position description for mathematics support teachers that expands their roles to provide enrichment to students along with their existing early mathematics intervention responsibilities. Mathematics support teachers at each elementary school will be full time, and EME paraprofessional support will be added at Maple Avenue, Marcy and Woodside.

Superintendent Kathleen Cooke, Ph.D., pointed out that the restructuring was not proposed as a budget reduction. She said the change will be “budget neutral” because resources were reallocated, not reduced.

New EAP program chosen

School Board members chose to begin new employee assistance program (EAP) services with another company beginning July 1. The district has purchased EAP services from the National Employees Assistance Service (NEAS) since 2004. The service, called “LifeMatters,” costs $7,722 per year. This year, only three employees used the services.

The district’s carrier for long-term disability, National Insurance Services, offers a similar program at no cost to the district. Services include 24-hour, toll-free telephone access to EAP, telephone assessment and counseling, referral to counseling or treatment, liaison with treatment facilities and agencies, dependent care information and specialized consultation for legal and financial concerns.

DECA students recognized

Members of the high school DECA Chapter who competed successfully at state and in some cases the international DECA conference were recognized. The students who were honored at the meeting were Sarah Bregant, Andrew Perego, Supriya Talwar, Daniel Waddell, Robert Wiedenfeld. Brooke Ihlefeld, VyNguyen and Lauren Wirsbinski were unable to attend the meeting. Their advisor Skip Hay described the students’ accomplishments to the School Board. Hamilton business education student-teacher Chris DelPonte attended to commemorate the students’ success.