By Kathryn Schiliro, Managing Editor

Students enrolled in Morgan County’s Alternative Education program at CrossRoads now have the opportunity to participate in the ROTC program at Morgan County High School.

The move, which came from a need for more students in ROTC, means students are bused over to the high school for one period a day, accompanied by a paraprofessional, four days a week, Alternative Education program Director Greg Thompson told the Board of Education (BOE) at their meeting Sept. 9.

“They’re not on campus for anything other than this,” Thompson said, as students in the Alternative Education program aren’t allowed to set foot on the high school’s campus.

Should there be disciplinary problems in the ROTC class, that student will be pulled from the ROTC program and won’t be considered for review or early release from the Alternative Education program. In contrast, students demonstrating exemplary behavior in ROTC may be considered for early release.

In moving forward, students choosing to enroll in the Alternative Education program will be required to participate in ROTC, according to Thompson’s report. And once they’re in ROTC, they’re expected to stay in ROTC.

There are eight Alternative Education students in the ROTC at present. They do get to wear their ROTC uniforms on Tuesdays and Thursdays.

“We’ve got some kids who are really excited about it,” Thompson said.

In other news: Morgan County High School Principal Dr. Jim Malanowski told the BOE that school administration is working on their re-application for a federal Striving Readers grant to the tune of a “couple $100,000.” Unsuccessful in their first application, the school has worked to make the grant “digestible” and to submit a “fund-able number,” Malanowski said.

Morgan County Middle School teachers Chip Meyer, Beth Moss and Karen Vanderheyden presented to the BOE how they’re working to revolutionize teaching in their classrooms by encouraging skills, not just teaching content, through what they learned at a National Math and Science Initiative – like the Science, Technology Engineering and Math (STEM) initiative – conference in Miami last summer.

Morgan County Elementary School Principal Ty Snyder shared that the percentage of students meeting or exceeding standards on standardized tests in Reading, English-Language Arts and Math has maintained or increased in all grade levels save for fourth grade English-Language Arts, which fell 3 percent. The challenge is to move more students into the exceeding category; last year growth in the exceeding category came with third grade Reading, up 5 percent; third grade Math, up 4 percent; and fifth grade Math, up 7 percent. “Always a challenge,” 87 percent of fifth grade students passed the writing exam last year, exceeding the school’s goal of 85 percent; this year’s goal is 90 percent.

Morgan County Primary School Assistant Principal Stephanie Nash shared some of the school’s accomplishments with the BOE, including 83 percent of Kindergarteners meeting or exceeds English-Language Arts standards on the GKIDS assessment; 80 percent of first graders and 88 percent of second graders meeting the Developmental Reading Assessment benchmarks; 100 percent of English Learners showing improved performance in the ACCESS assessment; and lowering the school’s utility bills by more than $11,000 annually.

The system is focusing on Lexile levels – a measure of reading and understanding – as part of the initiative to improve literacy systemwide. According to data, Nash reported, at the end of last school year, 52 percent of the primary school’s second grade students were meeting their prescribed Lexile levels. “It’s sobering for all schools to see where Lexiles really are,” Superintendent Dr. Ralph Bennett said.

In a “safe environment” perception survey of second graders at the primary school, 92 percent were confident in their safety in the classroom; 78 percent on the playground; 85 percent in the hallways; 66 percent in the restrooms; 85 percent in the cafeteria; and 67 percent from building to building, a number come to before the school installed a fence. Nash said the school was working to increase “staff visibility” based on these results.

In the article titled “Alternative Ed students now in MCHS ROTC,” found on pages A1 and A7 of the Sept. 19, 2013 edition of the Morgan County Citizen, it was stated later in the story that students in the Alternative Education program would be “required” to participate in the ROTC. This is incorrect; participation in ROTC is not required of the county’s Alternative Education program students. Instead, joining the ROTC program is “expected” and “strongly encouraged” of these students, according to Greg Thompson, program director.

We regret this error.