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February 9, 2011

Board gets closer look at federal, state initiative

Hamilton School Board members got a closer look at the Response to Intervention (RtI) initiative, a federal and state mandate that is designed to standardize high quality instruction, balanced assessments and collaboration.

Hamilton’s approach to meeting the requirements of the mandate is to work within the framework of the district’s Strategic Plan so that it can declare itself RtI-ready by 2013 as required by law. Educational Services and Human Resources Director John Roubik and Instructional Technology and Assessment Coordinator Katie Little described RtI as a program that lies within the classroom and is for all students.

“It’s what we do, it’s not what we buy,” Roubik said.

RtI is a three-tiered process that uses various supports to identify and respond to student needs. It requires staff to implement research-based instructional and behavioral strategies. RtI focuses on intervention rather than remediation, and student progress is frequently and systematically evaluated. Before students can be referred for Special Education services, schools must show evidence that a student did not make progress in the three tiers of intervention that increase in intensity at each level.

While much of the discussion about RtI is about helping struggling students, the initiative is meant to affect the quality of instruction, balanced assessment practices and staff collaboration in all classrooms. The first step in implementing RtI in Hamilton has been to raise awareness among staff members and the School Board. The district is working on offering professional development regarding differentiation and ensuring that collaborative teams across the district that work with struggling students are collecting consistent data to determine interventions for students.

While the district currently uses a balanced assessment system, it will be looking at whether it needs to invest in additional screening systems to monitor student progress and determine if interventions are working.

School Board President Gabe Kolesari asked if by focusing on intervention some remediation costs could be reduced. Roubik estimated that costs may be shifted, rather than reduced. School Board member Dawn VanAacken agreed.

“Kids will still need support, whether it’s remediation or intervention,” she said.

One concern about the initiative is that it will require higher levels of monitoring and intervention for students without any additional funding to make it possible.

While Hamilton will face challenges in implementing the initiative, several School Board members and administrators at the meeting felt the district was in a better situation than many districts because it has been focused on differentiation, balanced assessments and staff collaboration for some time.

Superintendent Kathleen Cooke said that the district will use the Strategic Plan as the umbrella in which to implement the initiative in the same way that it has make progress to address issues in the past.

High school Course Catalog approved

The Hamilton School Board approved revisions to the Hamilton High School course catalog at its Feb. 9 meeting. The changes included updated course descriptions that reflected the inclusion of 21st century skills and science-technology-engineering-math (STEM) concepts, courses that are offered on alternating years and name or course content modifications based on curriculum updates.

Legal counsel moves to new firm

The board approved transferring some of the district’s legal files from its long-time law firm of Quarles & Brady law firm to the new firm of Buelow Vetter, LLC.  Quarles & Brady made a business decision to discontinue offering general school, labor, employment and special education specialties. Gary Ruesch, an attorney who formerly worked at Quarles & Brady, has joined Buelow Vetter and will continue representing the district in these school law specialties. The district will continue working with Quarles & Brady for public finance issues.

Personnel action

In personnel matters, the School Board:

  • accepted the retirement request of Hamilton Spanish teacher Ann Ferguson, Hamilton science teacher Cheryl Galle, Templeton seventh grade teacher Diane Krause, Woodside fourth grade teacher Kathy Theis,  Marcy fourth grade teacher Barbara Gogan, Hamilton physical education teacher Thomas Konkol, Templeton special education teacher Alexa Smith and Hamilton mathematics teacher Fred Eimermann;
  • accepted the resignations of Hamilton German teacher Laurel Schenkoske, Templeton sixth grade teacher John Prendergast, Jr., Willow Springs kindergarten teacher Kathryn Gengler and Templeton Spanish teacher Cynthia Michael, all effective at the end of the 2010-11 school year;
  • appointed  Angela Nolan as Marcy fifth grade replacement teacher, Janice Augustin as Woodside third grade replacement teacher and Corina Lawrence as Marcy special education paraprofessional; and
  • provided preliminary notice of nonrenewal to nine staff members who were hired under  replacement contracts – which stipulate their employment is intended for no more than one year.