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Escanaba looks back at school year

ESCANABA — Escanaba Superintendent Coby Fletcher reviewed the 2018-2019 school year at the Escanaba School Board meeting Monday night. New programs and initiatives were highlighted from the school year, including the Community Eligibility Provision, the Webster Kindergarten Center, the Early Middle College and the “Leader in Me” program.

The Community Eligibility Provision provided students in kindergarten through eighth grade, students at the Learning Center and students the Escanaba Student Success Center with a free nutritional breakfast and lunch during school days, regardless of a family’s income. Breakfast was provided the first 15 minutes of each school day and teachers and parents alike have noticed a positive reaction.

“Parents have said the social time during breakfast has really changed the start to kids’ days,” said Fletcher.

According to Fletcher, students are academically ready for the day, there is no “food stress” and there are social and emotional opportunities while sitting together having breakfast.

The Webster Kindergarten Center, which houses kindergartners and beginergartners exclusively, is well on its way from a year ago. Originally, 190 students were expected to be enrolled, but in January 2019 the number rose to 225, and two teachers had to be added to stay within the promised class size.

“Nearly 100 percent of our kindergarten students are mastering age appropriate early academic skills,” said Fletcher. “We now have a place where we can do that intensive work with children at a young age and get them off to a good start.”

The Early Middle College also started in the 2018-2019 school year. The Early Middle College is a program that offers students in high school a diploma while taking classes at Bay de Noc Community College while working toward an associate degree, a technical certification, up to 60 transferable collage credits, or participation in a registered apprenticeship, pre-apprenticeship or apprentice readiness program. The 13th year of schooling at Bay College is free of charge to the student.

There are 51 students in the program from this year and 11 students transferred to Escanaba to participate in the program. Currently there are 50 juniors enrolled and 50 seniors.

The Leader in Me program kicked off this year for students in kindergarten through sixth grade. The program is based off seven habits in a book called “The Leader in Me” by Stephen Covey. In the coming school year, seventh through 12 grades will be phased into the program.

The school staff hopes the seven habits will follow students into their post secondary work and professional lives, putting Escanaba students at an advantage.

“All of our staff and grades (up) through sixth received training,” said Fletcher. “The same training you would receive if you were in a fortune 500 company.”

In addition to the programs Fletcher noted, Escanaba received a security grant of more than $100,000. It will go toward a district-wide, single sign on system.

“The grant has allowed us to divert some money to secure our doors at the high school, Upper Elementary and Lemmer schools,” said Fletcher.

The sale of the Wells school was timely, according to Fletcher, and multi-year contracts were settled with all bargaining units in the 2018-2019 school year.

“We are purposely going about our business,” said Fletcher. “Things are going well here. We don’t have to panic. We don’t have to run around here and plug holes in a dike. We really have good stability and consistency as a district.”

In other business the school board:

— Approved a leave of absence request from a fifth grade teacher. Escanaba School Board Secretary Kathy Jensen strongly asked the board to make what is acceptable clear in the wording of a leave of absence in the future.

— Approved two drafts of Escanaba’s school calendar. The school board will decide on one calendar once the State of Michigan acts on a law regarding the timing of teachers professional development. Currently professional development cannot be counted as instructional time.

— Approved the 2019-2020 budget, including the general and food service funds and the new state required fund, student-school activities.

— Approved a three year commitment that will allow union employees in the district to save money on health insurance through plans available to them.

— Approved an increase of 2.2 percent to non-union contract extensions for a year.

— Approved Superintendent Fletcher’s contract. The board approved a 1 percent increase to his wage, added a flex health care spending account in the amount of $3,000, increased his term life insurance to $250,000, reduced Fletcher’s vacation days from 24 to 20, and kept his retirement annuity at $4,000.

The Escanaba School Board will have their next committee of the whole meeting July 8 at 6 p.m. in the courtyard room in the Escanaba Upper Elementary School.

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