Sisters School Board snapshot — SES enrollment jumps


Last updated 3/9/2022 at Noon

Finances are in order, learning gaps caused by the pandemic are closing, and the elementary school grew by 18 students. Those were some of the takeaways from the Sisters School Board’s monthly meeting on Wednesday, March 2.

Board members Edie Jones, Jeff Smith, David Thorsett, and Don Hedrick were present in person, with Jenica Cogdill taking part via Zoom. The audience also participated via Zoom.

•Steve Swisher, who heads the budget committee for the Sisters School District, was the lone speaker for community comments. He encouraged the board to consider members of the budget committee to be included in the conversations regarding the open position on the High Desert Education Service District board being vacated by Carol Moorehead. Board member Edie Jones has voiced interest in the appointment.

•Sherry Joseph, business manager, reported that regarding the budget, everything is in order and the District is awaiting the final allocation of the CARES act of $400,000. Joseph also acknowledged the addition of 18 students in the District, all at the elementary school.

•Sisters High School Principal Steve Stancliff reported progress on the goals related to “Belong, Prepare, and Inspire,” which include improving the sense of each student having at least one adult in the high school they feel connected to.

Staff has continued to do outreach with students and families to improve connection, and grade-level team members do follow-up with students who are identified as needing extra support. Survey results from early in the year indicated that just under 80 percent of the student body could identify a connection with at least one staff member and the goal is to continue to increase that number.

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A related effort in the category of “Belong” is to increase the participation rates for co-curricular offerings including athletics, clubs, and other activities, which have taken a hit through the pandemic.

Surprisingly 70 percent of the student body did report being involved in at least one sport.

Stancliff also touched on the efforts to bolster the Career/Technical Education (CTE) programs, some of which have experienced a loss of offerings during the pandemic, including the health occupations program, which lost onsite internships, for example.

•Sisters Middle School Principal Tim Roth focused mainly on the goals related to “Inspire.” The goal set two years ago was to increase individual course options in elective areas. Choices decreased in the 2020-21 school year during the pandemic to help pare down the number of classes kids were asked to manage during distance learning. But this year, the number of choices increased dramatically thanks to a change in the daily schedule that basically doubled opportunities by having electives rotate on an A/B schedule.

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Additions to the offerings include art at all grade levels, Spanish, home economics, team sports, strength and conditioning, photography, and podcasting, among others. The A/B schedule made the increase possible without taking away from the academic requirements and in fact has allowed more time for academic intervention as well. Alignment with the CTE programs at the high school and career-related activities being woven into the school day are being investigated.

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•The school also established the goal of creating a “house” system in the school, which gives further opportunity for connection across grade levels for students.

•Sisters Elementary School Principal Joan Warburg delivered a presentation on how the school is using the Leader in Me program to meet the “Belong, Prepare, and Inspire” goals and also shared comprehensive mid-year data on student academic performance at the elementary school.

Under the category of “Belong,” the school will provide opportunities for students to share a voice in planning activities and assemblies. As part of the push to “Inspire,” a club week and career week are planned for spring.

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The elementary students K-4 are progressing very well in their growth in math and reading according to the assessment results from the I-Ready program, and learning gaps from the first year of the pandemic are clearly closing.

•Lorna Van Geem, special programs director, focused on the K-12 counseling program and introduced the concept of multitiered, multi-domain systems of support. The counseling team is working to complete the Comprehensive Guidance and Counseling Plan for the district to ensure the District is complying with the American School Counseling Association (ASCA) standards and requirements.

This includes items such as counseling lessons being delivered systematically, and defining counselors’ role in closing the achievement and opportunity gaps for students.

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Van Geem explained how counselors support both the academic and behavioral education for all students.

Counselors focus on the domains of academic, college and career, and social/emotional development for all students and work to determine what interventions are needed and appropriate for individual students.

•Superintendent Curt Scholl addressed the surge in enrollment at the elementary school of 18 students in the past few weeks, and the impacts and adjustments of that growth. Plans for the new elementary school are progressing, but there are some concerns that a move-in by the start of school in 2023 may be tough to meet.

The Wildhaven property is now part of the Sisters School District, and will eventually be used for environmental education for all ages.

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Scholl will be communicating with parents and staff about the changes coming with the mask mandate prior to March 12. (See related story, page 3.)

Summer school money is budgeted, though only half of what the state provided last year. But important programs will be maintained.

•The board unanimously adopted the school calendar for 2022-23, which is available for viewing on the District website, School starts September 6 for grades 1-5 and 9, and on September 7 for grades 10-12. Kindergarten and pre-K will begin on September 12. The middle and high schools will be moving to a trimester schedule.

•The board approved 12 policies that have been updated, and approved second readings following some minor adjustments.

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•The next board meeting is scheduled for Wednesday, April 6 at 6 p.m. at the District office and will likely be open for normal public attendance since the mask mandate is being lifted.

Note: Prior to the board meeting about a dozen citizens led by Rodney Cooper lined the steps to the District office in order to share papers with School Board Chair Don Hedrick as he entered the building. The papers included demands for changes in procedures related to mask wearing, testing, and vaccinations, as well as demands regarding instruction related to race. The demands stated that if changes were not made within 72 hours, lawsuits would commence. The document the citizens presented is available for viewing here.


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