The Duneland School Board on Thursday met in the new 38,000-square foot wing
on the west side of the Liberty Elementary in commemoration of its
LES Principal Christy Jarka opened the meeting by noting that ground broke
on the development just a smidge over a year ago, last Nov. 2.
The addition holds ten new classrooms for both kindergarten and first-grade
classes, two teacher workrooms, a new art room, one more computer lab
(bringing the number of computer labs to two), two rooms for storage, a
larger common room in the west corner where classes can gather, and more
space for custodians.
In an open area partition, between the first grade and kindergarten
classrooms, is a stamped concrete gazebo where teachers can teach students
New bathrooms were added closer to the existing cafeteria where the old
foundation used to end. The cafeteria now expands to where the art room
previously was. Builders knocked down the wall that used to separate the two
rooms, marking the first time for the cafeteria to have windows.
“The (students) will now get to look outside while they eat their lunch,”
said local architect Bob Gerometta, who oversaw the design for building
Gerometta estimated the cost for the construction ran about $4.8 million.
The work, he said, was done by Gariup Construction of Gary.
Outside landscaping was handled by James Perkins & Associates. Perkins’ firm
is also responsible for building the schools new playground, which has been
a hit with students and neighborhood children according to Jarka.
“Its the best part,” she said as she gave a tour to the board along with a
few staff members and parents. Also tagging along was retired school teacher
Ralph Ayers who will join the five-member school in January, taking board
member John Marshall’s seat.
LES faculty and staff members treated the board and attendees to
refreshments after the meeting’s business portion. Staff member Cheryl
Alverez made a cake in the likeness of the entire elementary school layered
with frosting replicating the outside look of the building.
Cupcakes made by the students were appreciated by board members.
School Board President Michael Trout also complemented Gerometta for his
direction with the new addition. “It’s due to your talent and we appreciate
that,” said Trout.
Gerometta in return told the Tribune that he enjoyed the work and his
collaboration with staff on project that would benefit the community. “They
are all nice people here,” he said.
A new learning management system practiced by three faculty members at LES
is instilling higher literacy and self-confidence levels in their students.
First-grade teacher Gayle Sandquist, second-grade teacher Joyce Goodwin, and
third-grade teacher Amy MacLaverty demonstrated in a presentation to the
board the “Daily 5” teaching strategy developed by educators Gail Boushey
and Joan Moser.
Sandquist named the five components of the strategy: Read to Self, Read to
Others, Listen to Reading, Work on Writing and Word Work. All are to provide
students with substantial reading and writing time.
The students are allowed to choose which activities they wish to participate
in and their favorite reading materials. They then work with the teachers to
set their own goals. The system also focuses on small group interaction with
Children work with a partner and basically coach each other while reading.
The reading-aloud exercises help the student expand their vocabulary and,
more important, reading comprehension by having the listener repeat in his
or her own words what the other student reads.
If the listener’s response is inaccurate, the students reread the sentences
again to check for understanding.
MacLaverty explained the systems acronym CAFE stands for Comprehension,
Accuaracy, Fluency, and Expanding vocabulary. It’s designed to get children
to think about what they are reading as they read it, she said.
The teachers keep what is called a “pensieve” for each student, a conferring
notebook or record for data collection to keep track of which student goals
are being met. The information makes it easier for students to set their own
goals and monitor progress with their teacher.
On the Web site, www.thedailycafe.com, there is a section where parents can
download newsletter and articles to learn about the different components
about the CAFE system called the Parent Pipeline. Some of the information on
the site does require membership in order to access the articles or videos.
Two student pairs from Goodwin’s second-grade class gave a demonstration on
coaching each other, which met applause from the board and those in
School board member Nick Jurasevich inquired if the system has helped
develop healthy relationships amongst the students. Goodwin and MacLaverty
said the system has boosted the students’ confidence in themselves and their
“Their confidence has spurred from it,” said MacLaverty.
Another question came from Marshall who asked if students’ progress is
tracked from school year to school year. Goodwin said each classroom is
different. Due to time constraints and not wanting to overload her pupils,
Goodwin only uses three components in her class while others may have the
ability to utilize more.
Goodwin and MacLaverty said they would be eager to see the CAFE program be
used at all elementary grade levels, from kindergarten all the way to the
sixth grade. They said they have been practicing the methods for nearly a
year after learning about the system at a conference at the Northwest
Indiana Educational Service Center.
The group plans discussing the management system further during a teacher
in-service day in January.
Superintendent Dirk Baer briefly discussed two matters with the board on
Baer said the state is permitting school districts to use a certain
percentage of their Capital Projects Fund to be transferred to the school’s
General Fund. He asked the board to approve a 5 percent transfer of the CPF
money, or $368,610, to the General Fund. With the board’s approval, the
transfer will come from the school districts transportation funds.
Baer said he does not have a plan on how to use the money but that the
schools will have more options freed up having the extra money in the
Reconsideration Committee Formed
Also, the board approved another request from Baer to form a new committee
that will consider whether a book or video in a school’s library is suitable
for school-aged children.
The Materials Reconsideration Committee will investigate any complaints a
parent has regarding the suitability of those materials that come into
The committee, equally consisting of parents, students, and Duneland Schools
staff, already has its nine nominated members lined up. Parents selected are
Wendy Scheidt representing the elementary schools, Lori Vincent representing
the middle schools, and Deeann Witek representing the high school.
Students nominated to serve on the committee are tenth-grader Hannah VanDrie,
eleventh-grader Matt Jones, and twelfth-grader Elena Lutze.
Duneland staff members for the committee are Liberty Intermediate School
media specialist Carrie Disney, Chesterton High School teacher Hilda
Demuth-Lutze, and Director of Media Services Karla Wilson.