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Retention, reading among hot topics at SCS forum

Alissa Widman Neese • Sep 24, 2013 at 7:20 AM

The hour-long gathering at Hancock Elementary was the first of eight planned meetings — one at each school building and a final gathering at a local coffee shop — aiming to inform parents about district initiatives.

Sandusky Schools superintendent Eugene Sanders spoke for about 45 minutes, then offered parents about 15 minutes to ask questions and offer comments. Of the more than 100 people who attended, five offered comments.

Among the topics discussed:

• The district’s academic transformation plan.

• The third-grade reading guarantee, a state law requiring all third-graders to pass the state reading test before entering fourth grade.

• Recruitment and retention.

• Possible building projects in 2014 with the Ohio School Facilities Commission.

• A tax levy up for its five-year renewal in 2014.

Jennifer Chapman, an involved parent who leads the Parent Congress at Hancock Elementary, said Monday’s well-attended event kicked off the district’s meeting series perfectly.

“This room was filled tonight because so many parents want to know what’s going on in their schools, and they should,” Chapman said. “We couldn’t have asked for a better turnout.”

Among the questions people asked:

Q: What are your plans to try to bring students back to Sandusky Schools?

A: Sandusky Schools is focusing on improving its student achievement, employee customer service practices and educational options to become a more competitive district, Sanders said. Examples include the district creating an academic transformation plan and the Regional Center for Advanced Academic Studies, a full-time gifted school.

In offering opportunities for dialogue, such as Monday’s forum, district officials hope to be more accessible and receive suggestions on how to improve further, he said.

“Enrollment is up this year for the first time in 13 years, which means we’re doing something right,” Sanders said. “But we need your opinions on how we can do things even better. We’re committed to being focused, meeting your expectations and exceeding them.”

Q: How many of our students are prepared to pass the third-grade reading test?

A: About three-fourths of the district’s third-graders will likely pass the third-grade reading test mandated by a new state law, while one-fourth of them will need additional instruction and extra help to do so, Sanders said.

“Kids come to school with several different backgrounds,” he said. “Sometimes that includes a lot of reading experience at home and sometimes it doesn’t. For those students who are behind, we need to first help them catch up.”

Q: Do you have a specific academic transformation plan for students with disabilities?

A: Sandusky Schools officials plan to spend a significant amount of time on improving special education during its transformation plan, which is “very important,” said David Danhoff, the district’s chief of staff and transformation officer.


Upcoming Sandusky Schools community forums

• Sept. 24 — Mills Elementary School, 1918 Mills St.

• Sept. 26 — Ontario Elementary School, 924 Ontario St.

• Sept. 30 — Venice Elementary School, 4501 Venice Heights Blvd.

• Oct. 1 — Sandusky Middle School, 2130 Hayes Ave.

• Oct. 2 — Sandusky High School, 2130 Hayes Ave.

• Oct. 8 — Osborne Elementary School, 920 W. Osborne St.

• Oct. 12 — Mr. Smith’s Coffee House, 140 Columbus Ave.

All forums are 6-7 p.m. except Mr. Smith’s Coffee House, which is 10-11 a.m. Discussion is geared toward specific school communities, but anyone can attend.

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