Triton school board looks at transportation dept. changes

BOURBON — The Triton School Board and patrons alike were gratified to see four STARS students present the book they had written for publication. First- and second-graders Angelica Sarabia, Dena Slabaugh, Jordan Kaufman, and Serena Schwartz, representing STARS students, showed their book, “Three Mice and a Cat,” and read prepared explanations during the regular board meeting last Monday.
STARS (Students and Teachers Achieving Reading Success) is a reading intervention program at Triton Elementary School headed by Title I Coordinator Susie Mullin. Its impact is evident as the Indiana Department of Education recently reported that Triton Elementary achieved a county-high (with Webster Elementary in Plymouth) score of 97 percent of third-grade students passing the I-Read 3 test, which is required by the state for promotion to fourth grade.
Mullin and Principal Jeremy Riffle also honored Judy Lemler and Francis Burkey for their tireless work as volunteer reading tutors in the STARS program. A copy of the students’ book is available in the elementary school library.
With a full personnel agenda and four of five members present, the board unanimously approved the following hires for next year:
The previously-announced resignation of Chris Berger as transportation director brought a discussion of the future of the transportation department. One possibility is to hire a director and run the department as in the past. Another option is to have current administrative personnel handle the routing, scheduling, delays, and parent concerns, while contracting out the maintenance function. To that end, Jeff Meaux of Wiers, Inc. in Plymouth made a formal presentation to the board. The Wiers bid covers routine maintenance and record-keeping as well as major repairs. The district currently uses Wiers for repairs which cannot be completed in-house. The matter was taken under advisement.
State Representatives Tim Harman (R-District 17) and Tom Dermody (R-District 20 – LaPorte, Starke Counties) were present to report on actions the state legislature has taken this session regarding education. Harman indicated that $390 million has been approved for education, which is a 2 percent increase next year and a 1 percent increase the following year. He reported that SB 1 appropriated $10 million in matching funds for school safety officers and equipment. Harman was pleased to finally see a check-off box on the Indiana state tax return which allows taxpayers to donate to education.
Superintendent Donna Burroughs thanked the legislators for their work, but contradicted Harman’s report, saying that the 2 percent and 1 percent budget increase for education was the lowest in several years. She also has the feeling from the legislature that Indiana’s public schools are not doing well.
In other business, board policy revisions were approved on a second and final reading. Approval was given to purchase two new activity buses. The approval for the student handbook, textbook rental, and elementary reading textbook adoption were tabled until the June meeting.
Michiana Contracting was awarded the bid for the high school sidewalk lighting at $47,000. Adult lunch prices for next year were raised by $.05. Approval was given for HPS for third party purchasing for the food service. A discussion of athletic program changes from athletic director Mason McIntyre was tabled for a vote at the June meeting.
A resolution to approve the following retirements was passed: Bobbie Glingle, Janet Beam, Larry Wattenbarger, Hugh Rettinger, Larry Layman, Rosalee Overmyer, Jo Stackhouse, and Sam Davis.
Burroughs gave her report, listing a current example of each core value: continuous improvement — the writing scores at the jr./sr./ high school; high expectations — the STARS students publishing a book at the elementary school, the 97 percent passing rate for the I-Read 3 test; shared leadership — the bus meeting to reorganize the transportation system and surveys to parents, students, and staff; social responsibility — nurse Geri Newman identifying and handling a student with appendicitis and elementary students helping a small child to PE by pulling her wagon; evidence-based decision making — the new system for hiring new teachers; and accountability — the Bronze Award for the high school’s achieving the highest percentage in scores for the English and Algebra I ECA tests.
She also noted the upcoming board self-evaluations and the superintendent evaluation, the current book study for professional development, and upcoming board retreats on June 14 and Aug. 8.
Patrons’ comments included a question on the future of D.I., since the location was being moved to the old gym. Burroughs responded that the move was to enhance safety (using power tools, for example), since all D.I. activities will now be housed in one location. Another patron questioned whether bus maintenance would be onsite or at the Plymouth facility should Wiers receive the contract for maintenance. Either is possible depending upon the nature of the service needed.
In building reports, Riffle said the Camp Invention will be the first week of June. He said that patrons should go to Kiwanis on, find the campaign “Kiwanis Cares for Kids,” and vote for Triton Elementary School. At issue is a $25,000 award to refurbish the Kiwanis playground at the school. Friday will be a fun day based upon the book “Push Cart Wars,” in which students can create their own stall at school and sell items to students, staff, and parents. Sixth-grade graduation is scheduled for May 21. Triton Elementary is participating in the “Hope USA” program in which local churches provide adults to mentor students. Pastor Dave Gould at the Country Church will be spearheading the program.
In the Jr./Sr. High School report, assistant principal Bob Ross said that the eighth-grade field trip to Indiana Beach has been changed to Strikes and Spares in Mishawaka due to Indiana Beach canceling the day.
ECA testing is finishing, the annual Trojan Wars and prom have been held, and the school is gearing up for finals. Spring sports, he indicated, have been crazy due to weather-related cancellations.
Principal Mike Chobanov reported that the school is still working on scheduling classes, complicated by the dual credit/early college effort in which participating students may receive 12-16 hours of college credit before they leave Triton and at no expense to them except for textbook purchases.
He is very pleased that the school received a Bronze Award from U.S. News and World Report. In nearby districts, Plymouth received a silver award, while Culver also received bronze.