By Leigh Morris
For the Star-Gazette
Encouraged by the results generated through an innovative reading program, the Virginia School Board is moving forward with a similar program in math for elementary students.
On Monday evening, the board unanimously approved the hiring of a full-time Response to Intervention (RTI) math teacher. Ryan Cowsert of Warrensburg will begin work on Jan. 3, who joins the district’s full-time RTI reading teacher.
School officials have cited this year’s positive Annual Yearly Progress (AYP) test results as evidence of the success of the RTI reading effort. However, elementary and junior high students came up short on math results, leading Principal Jason Vicich and Superintendent Brent O’Daniell to push for the creation of an RTI math program. Vicich pointed out that a third of Virginia’s elementary and junior high students are below the 25th percentile in math performance.
Through the RTI approach, students who are lagging behind their peers typically receive 30 to 60 minutes of additional instruction each day. RTI is designed to address an academic deficiency before it becomes a serious problem.
Vicich provided the board with an update on plans to switch the high school day from eight to seven periods. This approach would increase class time by five to six minutes. It also would allow the school to make more effective use of the cafeteria by reducing the number of shifts from three to two. Vicich said a survey of teachers found that most support the change while no teachers actually oppose the idea. The proposal may come up for a vote at the board’s Jan. 20th meeting.
Following the Truth in Taxation hearing on Monday, the board approved the $33.5-million tax levy. The tax levy is an estimate of the total assessed value of taxable property within the school district. In reality, the actual levy has no effect on the tax rate for 2013, which will be $4.74 per $1,000 of assessed valuation. This represents a 12-cent decrease from the 2012 rate of $4.86.
In a special public hearing Monday evening, the board unanimously voted to bar David Rochester of Virginia from contacting any staff member or being on school grounds until the beginning of the 2014-2015 school year. Rochester was invited to address the board, but did not attend Monday’s hearing.
The decision to bar Rochester came in the wake of a Dec. 4th telephone conversation between the man and Assistant Principal Aaron Llewellyn. In a Dec. 5th letter from O’Daniell to Rochester, it was alleged Rochester in part said to Llewellyn: “I will make your life at work a living hell. Don’t believe me? Do it again and see what happens when I come up there.” O’Daniell told the board this and other statements made by the man violate School Board policy.