Grove board hears from teachers during meeting

Staff writer

The Valley Grove Education Association once again came out in force Tuesday to petition the Valley Grove School Board to find common ground during the next negotiating session, which is scheduled for Monday night.

Teachers in the school district have been working without a contract since June 30, 2016, a total of 600 days, but negotiations have been ongoing since January 2016.

“Although our job description involves teaching, we are also responsible for making sure students can work with their peers to succeed, and our support will help them do so,” Education Association member Melissa Wolfgong told the board.

In the same vein, Wolfgong said, the board has a responsibility to work with teachers to reach an agreement.

At least five board members haven’t been willing to accept proposed solutions, and teachers have had problems accepting the board’s solutions, Wolfgong said.

The main sticking point for the negotiations thus far has been health care cost sharing, according to an earlier report from school board president Melanie Anderson.

The board thanked Wolfgong for her remarks but did not further address the issue at the meeting.

Gifted program

The board listened to a presentation from special education supervisor Amber Nolan-Johnston, English teacher Beth Proper and French teacher Jaclyn Keller regarding proposed changes to the Rocky Grove High School gifted program.

The new program would be called RiGor Harvests Success (RGHS) and would focus on three Cs: community, communication and cooperation, Noland-Johnston said.

The portion of curriculum that focuses on community would encompass the entire school year, and communication and cooperation would be taught during the first and second semesters, respectively, Nolan-Johnston said.

Keller said the community curriculum involves working with Oil Region Library Association Executive Director Dan Flaherty to identify problems in the community and work with the students to create solutions.

The hope is to see students creating brochures, working with the Venango Area Chamber of Commerce, writing and producing radio commercials and advertising local events using several types of media, Keller said.

“We want students to know that it’s OK to live here,” Keller said.

The communication portion of the curriculum would have students complete two oral presentations: one individually to a class within the district and the other as a group to a community organization, according to Proper.

“The individual presentation will have them choose the topic and the audience, and will be solely individual,” Proper said.

The responsibility of contacting the class to set up the date would also fall to the students, Proper said.

“(For the group project) students will find a community organization that they would like to present to and ask them what they would want to learn from them,” Proper said.

The groups would be made up of three or four students each, and the students will learn how to present as a group and how to get out of their comfort zone, Proper said.

The cooperation portion of the curriculum would allow students from Rocky Grove High School to work with Valley Grove Elementary School students throughout the semester.

“We’ll be pulling in social and emotional learning for enrichment activities,” Nolan-Johnston said. “The basis is to (enrich) students in every aspect.We would like to give them (students) a designated time period.”

The ultimate goal of the cooperation curriculum is to bridge the gap for students graduating from grade school and entering high school, Nolan-Johnston said.

Technology purchases

The board approved several technology purchases for the district.

The unanimous vote approved the purchase of 15 Cisco access points for Rocky Grove High School and 20 for Valley Grove Elementary School for $33,373, 64 HP Chromebook 11 G5 EE’s and four Chromebook carts for Valley Grove Elementary School for $21,914, and 16 HP 455 G4 laptops and a laptop cart for Valley Grove Elementary School for $10,609.

In an earlier report, Superintendent Kevin Briggs said a total of $100,000 has been earmarked for technology purchases within the district. The total initial purchase of the laptops is $65,896.

It has not been decided how the remaining $34,104 will be used, Briggs said after last week’s meeting.

To supplement the purchase of the technology, mid-level Principal Kelly Hart and elementary Principal Jacob Saullo intend to add general technology education courses for kindergarten through sixth grades that are designed to teach students how to use computers and technology in real-world situations.

Next meeting

The next board meeting has been scheduled for March 12 in the Valley Grove Elementary School gathering room.