Chesterton Tribune

Head Start at WIS still going strong after 10 years, School Board told

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Budget cuts proposed in Congress this spring for the national Head Start program didnít materialize, and as a result the local early childhood education program at Westchester Intermediate School is financially solvent through 2012.

In his annual report to the Duneland School Board, local Head Start coordinator Ray Gartner said the Head Start program has enjoyed another successful year at WIS, operating at full capacity with a waiting list and exceeding federal goals for parental involvement.

Head Start primarily serves low-income families in preparing their pre-schoolers for kindergarten and assisting the families on matters such as budget management and nutrition. Head Start began at WIS 10 years ago, moving from a South Haven site. The Duneland children had to be bussed there due to the lack of a more local site.

The local Head Start program is budgeted to serve 20 students, and in its 10-year existence, has served more than 200 families. In keeping with federal requirements, special needs students must make up at least 10 percent of the overall enrollment. At WIS, the percentage has sometimes exceeded 25 percent, Gartner said.

Gartner said the WIS Head Start program has always enjoyed a strong parental connection, with an emphasis on helping parents in their role as their childís primary teacher. He did note that with the high cost of gas, it can be difficult for parents to get their children to and from the WIS site, which is a good five miles or more away for some families.

Gartner also thanked the community for the support shown for the program. In addition to the Duneland Schools, the Duneland Resale Shop, Duneland YMCA and Chesterton Lions Club have all partnered with Head Start. The Lions Club, for example, has conducted vision screenings of the children.

Duneland Superintendent Dirk Baer in turn commended the Head Start site for preparing children for their school years. ďItís valuable work, and we appreciate it,Ē he said.

High Ability

In another presentation Tuesday, members of Dunelandís High Ability program outlined the curriculum and some of the projets done by the elementary students.

Christy Jarka, Liberty Elementary principal who also serves as the elementary High Ability coordinator, said 13 percent overall of the K-4 students were in the high ability program this year. The breakdown is: Kindergarten, 7 percent; first grade, 9 percent; second grade, 15 percent; third grade, 17 percent; and fourth grade, 15 percent.

The students are those who demonstrate exceptional academic and leadership skills. Students can be nominated by parents or by teachers.

While the higher grades have separate classes for the high-ability students, the elementary students are pulled out of their regular classrooms to work with the high-ability instructors.

Several of the high-ability projects were outlined Tuesday. Kelly McBride, the high-ability instructor at Jackson and Liberty, and her student Emily Richardson demonstrated a tile project that challenges the students in math concepts. In one example given, Richardson had to complete a series of math problems, using all the numbered tiles once.

Tammy McEuen, the instructor at Brummitt and Yost, and her student Alexandra Dines, gave a presentation on a research project in which the students selected a state park to research. Dines displayed the brochure she created about Shakamak State Park.

Instructor Cheryl Alvarez and her student, Joshua Sweet, outlined the 100 word project, in which each letter of the alphabet is numbered and the students having to come up with as many words as possible that total 100. Sweet also gave a presentation on a report he prepared on Galileo.

Turf Funding

The school board unanimously approved an additional appropriation of $800,000 out of the Duneland Schoolís Rainy Day Fund toward the artificial turf field at Chesterton High School.

The total cost of the turf has been projected at $800,000, but with part of the costs defrayed by the non-profit group Friends of Duneland Youth. Baer said rather than go through the appropriation process again, he asked the school board to approve the maximum amount, with the anticipation that not all of the funds will be used.

The Friends last month announced that they had $110,000 committed so far, and on Tuesday, Keith Davidson of the Friends presented a check for that amount to the school board. Fundraising for the turf field will continue, Davidson said, and the Friends would like any excess raised to go toward athletic programming.

Textbook Fees

Also Tuesday, the school board set next school yearís textbook rental fees. The total fees, with the increase shown in parentheses, are: Kindergarten, $118 ($18 increase); first grade, $152 ($2); second grade, $142 ($5); third grade, $133 ($10); fourth grade, $131 ($8); fifth grade, $138 ($14); and sixth grade, $141 ($15). Fees for the higher grades vary based on the classes taken.

Duneland Assistant Superintendent Monte Moffett commended the teachers who assisted in selecting books, with new textbook adoptions in math, science and health. Teachers worked diligently to select high-quality books while being mindful of the costs to families, Moffett said.


In personnel matters, the school board approved the hiring of two new teachers.

Ashley Gordeneer will teach science at Chesterton Middle School. She holds a bachelorís from Central Michigan University in science education and has taught one year at Webberville Community Schools in Michigan.

Alicia Charlson will teach Spanish at CMS. A graduate of Indiana University Northwest, she completed her student teaching at Hobart High School and is currently filling in for a child care leave at CHS.

The board also approved a child care leave for the 2011-12 school year for Liberty Elementary first grade teacher Emily Mateer-Bolin.

In addition, the board approved the following summer school staff members: In drivers education, Paul Blosser, Al Eggers, Don Graham, Marty Isaac, Greg Kearney, and Hank Matthys; at CMS, teachers Rob Yong and Anne Stark, secretary Donna Havner, and aide Nikki Stephenson.


Posted 6/8/2011