Garrett-Keyser-Butler Community School District

GARRETT — Principal Matt Smith was congratulated at Monday’s meeting of the school board for Garrett High School’s 95% graduation rate, based on a recent report by the Indiana Department of Education.

Garrett led all DeKalb County public high schools, followed by DeKalb at 91%, Eastside 88% and Hamilton 85%. The state average is 87.69%.

“I am very proud of the work that’s being done to support kids. You know that is our mission,” said Superintendent Tonya Weaver.

“I know you put a lot of effort — you should be quite proud of that,” school board President added Tami Best about the graduation rate.

“Well, my goal is 100% every year,” Smith said. “It is quite an effort by the entire team.”

Weaver told board members that COVID quarantine numbers are down significantly for staff and students, with much fewer positive cases.

Weaver shared that because of the county’s COVID-19 orange status, plans are to move forward with the school play, “I Hate Shakespeare,” that was postponed in November. Plans are to stage the play in early February, based on approval by the DeKalb County Department of Health.

“We are excited those kids will be able to perform that,” Weaver said.

Weaver attended Monday’s meeting virtually while quarantining at home due to contact tracing. She is following the school’s protocol and will return later this week.

Smith commented that having the second semester begin seven days after the Christmas break made for a much smoother transition with the extra days added, but he suggested a work day be inserted between the ending date of the first semester and the beginning date for the second semester, going forward.

Plans are in full swing for Garrett’s Encore Show Choir to host the Railroader Rush invitational on Saturday, March 13, with a limited audience. All contests were canceled last year by the Indiana State School Music Association due to the coronavirus, Smith added.

Smith also praised the school’s wrestling and girls basketball teams heading into their upcoming tournaments.

Middle school Principal Lucas Fielden summarized the school’s winter sports schedule and gave a shout-out to Audrey Mullins, who will represent Garrett in Wednesday’s DeKalb County spelling bee hosted at Garrett.

Garrett-Keyser-Butler Head Start Director Jonell Malcolm reported efforts have been made to keep classes in session, but they have been closed a couple times due to low staffing.

Personnel actions

The board approved the resignations of Michelle Janisse as high school academy math instructor and Head Start assistants Carson Mapes and Kayla Clark. New hires include Ellyn Johnson moving from middle school to high school academy math instructor; Erin Howard as middle school math instructor, Alex Roberts as high school physical education instructor and weight room coordinator; Kyler Deverna-Perez as temporary high school science instructor, Dayton Banks as GKB Head Start custodian and Alexis Kline as GKB Head Start teacher aide. The board also approved Joshua Buuck as a volunteer high school assistant wrestling coach.

The board also approved the second reading of the NEOLA bylaws and policies; cancellation of outstanding checks more than two years old amounting to $262; the purchase of a 2016 Ford F-150 pickup truck for $20,000 for the GKB Head Start program from Best Deal Auto Sales; and a Leukemia & Lymphoma Society Student of the Year fundraiser.

The board rejected all bids to renovate the Garrett-Keyser-Butler Head Start building, as they far exceeded the scope of estimates developed by the architect. A revised bid package will be sent out. A proposal from Martin Riley Roofing for $245,000 to reroof portions of the middle school building was approved.

Child development

J.E. Ober Elementary School instructors Mica Hirchak, Carrie Klenke and Kelly VanGessel reported on the school’s child development program through the Dekko Foundation for kindergarten and first-grade students. The teachers are mentored by Risha McLellan from the foundation on the “Seven Simple Principals to Make Your Classroom Bloom!” that include classroom order, relationships, autonomy, learning in context, meaningful movement, learning conceptually and learning from concrete to abstract.

McLellen also visits individual classes on a regular basis to offer additional insight to teachers.

Through the program, students are put in charge of their own learning by taking over the calendar, serving as class leaders and pursuing the answers to their own questions through class resources.

One example last autumn was looking at pumpkins, which evolved into making pumpkin muffins and implementing math skills, among others, VanGessel shared.

The students work independently, explore questions and show their work in a variety of ways, such as when they viewed a bird in a nest outside their window and began researching different varieties of birds. Feeders were added to attract different kinds of birds. In warmer weather, they also studied grasshoppers, crickets and rabbits.

“It’s unbelievable what first-graders can do when they are empowered,” said Klenke.

While contrary to conventional college teaching for elementary education, the instructors at first found the change to be a challenge their way of thought, but later found the success in the classroom to be remarkable, they said.

School board members expressed approval for the program.

“It takes great courage have someone come in to tell you how to improve,” said Best.

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