EVANSTON — The Uinta County School District No. 1 Board of Trustees held its regular monthly meeting on Tuesday, May 3, when trustees and others in attendance had a little more fun than a typical board meeting, thanks to a brief report from district physical education teachers about a recent conference they attended.
Teacher Pat Fackrell addressed the board to share thanks from all district gym teachers for providing the professional development opportunity of attending the SHAPE Conference in New Orleans in late April. Fackrell said the sessions and information presented had the PE teachers excited and rejuvenated, full of ideas to share with students.
As an example of one such game, Fackrell had everyone in attendance stand and play a game of “bear, fish, mosquito” — a variation of the classic “rock, paper, scissors,” in which bear eats fish, fish eats mosquito and mosquito bites bear. The board room was filled with laughter as people made motions of either a bear, a fish or a mosquito, which Fackrell said was exactly what occurred at the conference itself — laughter and excitement. In addition to the sessions themselves, Fackrell said the opportunity for local gym teachers from different schools and levels to spend time together, discuss and collaborate was invaluable.
Staff professional development was also a key component of the K-5 and 6-12 curriculum annual presentation from assistant superintendents Joe Ingalls and Doug Rigby. Ingalls and Rigby discussed the significant training opportunities offered to district educational staff. That training includes an extensive period of induction for new teachers that Rigby described as the “gold standard” of what’s offered in Wyoming, ensuring new staff members adapt to the professional learning communities and high-reliability schools (HRS) goals of the district.
The HRS program includes five levels of certification that participating districts work toward. All Evanston schools have already achieved HRS level one — that of safe, supportive and collaborative culture. Schools have submitted evidence in hopes of being certified as level two, which is effective teaching in every classroom, and have been working for years already on level three, that of a guaranteed and viable curriculum.
Rigby said part of the impetus behind pursuing the HRS certification was to avoid the “teacher lottery” for students in terms of what they would be taught in a given class and to ensure curriculum viability, meaning determining what students can realistically and consistently achieve and retain from classes.
The district is utilizing a comprehensive teacher evaluation system based on 23 instructional elements, with every teacher evaluated on several elements each year so that all 23 are evaluated in a five-year period. Additionally, each staff member self-selects one element a year as a focus area.
The board also heard an update on the ongoing field renovations at Evanston High School. Facilities director Jaraun Dennis said work has continued on the project, which has really been a community project thanks to the donation of labor and equipment from local businesses Searle Bros. and Cardwell and permission to utilize adjacent land courtesy of Mike Pexton.
Dennis said the district got some good news when a bid to extend the bleachers came in for well less than anticipated. Although the initial plan was to wait until the next fiscal year to move on the bleacher expansion project, the board opted to approve the purchase now given the favorable bid of approximately $175,000.
Dennis said the district had also moved ahead and purchased the three domes discussed at the April board meeting for a total cost of approximately $210,000 for all three domes plus storage until the district is ready to move forward with putting them up.
The board also opted to move forward with spending $3,000 for attorney services to trademark the district logo of the “E” symbol with a trident as one of the legs of the E. Dennis, superintendent Ryan Thomas and district legal counsel Geoff Phillips all recommended moving forward with the trademark to help prevent unauthorized usage and to help ensure the district is not prevented from using the symbol should another school elsewhere develop or use something similar.
In addition, trustees heard a proposal from EHS Principal Merle Lester to offer the ACT to high school students in October of their junior year. Currently, all Wyoming juniors are required to take the ACT in the spring; however, Lester said it has been documented that most students’ scores go up an average of 1 full point simply due to taking the test more than once, with gains of 3-5 points with interventions and preparatory programs. Lester said staff at the high school were overwhelmingly supportive of offering the test, at no cost to students, more than once during the junior year, saying there was an “audible cheer” when administration proposed the change. Offering the test the first time during the fall of the junior year should help the district’s overall ACT average when the state-required test is taken the following spring.
Board members also heard a proposal from secondary school counselors to adopt the Positive Action social and emotional learning curriculum. Rigby explained to trustees that he had been instructed by the board several years ago to find such a program for use by students in grades 6-12 to help with emotional support and dealing with problem behaviors, similar to the Second Step program that is already utilized in the elementary grades. While some trustees expressed concern about adding one more thing to the plates of teachers, district intervention specialist Wendy Tucker said that what they particularly liked about the Positive Action program is that the lessons are pre-packaged and could be given by teachers of any subject during advocacy or home room time, and therefore not take away from instructional time. Rigby further explained the hope that perhaps including a social and emotional learning curriculum would cut down on problem behaviors and therefore decrease disruptions to instructional time.
Tucker said they had also had discussions about ensuring counselors were available during Positive Action time in case any of the lessons brought up difficult issues for students. Some of the lessons in the program include self-management, peer pressure, attitude, emotional intelligence, relationships with others, self-honesty, self-improvement and more.
Trustees also got an update on the annual budget process from Thomas, who said the process was moving forward as usual, although how exactly an increase in staff health insurance costs would be dealt with had not yet been determined.
Finally, trustees said goodbye to Uinta Meadows Elementary Principal Jerrod Dastrup, who resigned after seven years at that position. Jenny Welling said, “Words can’t express our gratitude,” while board chair Cassie Torres said Dastrup had been “an integral part of the big moves we’ve made” in the district in recent years. Joel Wiedrich said Dastrup was “not just a great principal, but a great man.” Dastrup’s position will be filled by Brad Francis, who has taught English at Davis Middle School and then EHS over the past several years.