The New London Board of Education has appointed Bill Schmidt to fulfill the vacant seat left open by the unexpected passing of long-time board member Jim Auer.
“As President and CEO of ThedaCare Medical Center-New London, Mr. Schmidt has a keen understanding of the strategic planning which will help to maintain focus on the strong plan in place for our district,” Superintendent Kathy Gwidt said during the school board meeting on Monday, May 12.
Board members interviewed four applicants for the vacant position. According to Gwidt, each candidate possessed unique strengths and commitment to the schools and the community.
Schmidt will join the school board for his first meeting on Tuesday, May 27. He will serve until April 2015 to fulfill Auer’s term.
In addition to welcoming Schmidt to the school board, Gwidt thanked and congratulated four district staff members who will retire at the end of this school year. The staff members include Colleen Berry, Sallie Heise, Charlotte “Chuck” Zietlow, and Judy Schuldt.
Berry joined the teaching staff at the high school in 1982 and spent the majority of her career in the social studies area. Berry recently worked to start up and serve as Lead Advisory for the Next Generation Academy charter school.
Heise served as an educational assistant since 1974, working with staff and students at Readfield, Sugar Bush, and Lincoln Elementary schools.
Zietlow served as custodian for the High School, Middle School, Sugar Bush and Lincoln Elementary schools since July of 1974. Schuldt, hired in 1978, worked her entire career as Lincoln Elementary School’s custodian, assisting staff and students.
“On these 148 years of collective service to our kids, our community, our family, all of us sincerely thank you and want to congratulate you,” Gwidt said.
Director of Business Services Joe Marquardt presented board members a list of fees from the 2013-14 school year and the recommended fees for the 2014-15 school year. All student fees remained the same except for lunch prices.
“We will be required to increase prices in the district’s food service program because of regulations from USDA Meal Requirements and National School Lunch program rates,” Marquardt said.
Current lunch prices are $2.15 for elementary students and $2.55 for secondary students. The prices will increase 10 cents to reflect a new price of $2.25 and $2.65.
“In ten years our fees have not changed, other than lunch prices,” Marquardt said.
Last September Marquardt presented a new pick-up/drop-off process for student safety and decreasing traffic congestion on Washington Street in front of the Intermediate/Middle School.
“We reviewed the process several times during the school year and it has greatly improved student safety and traffic flow after school,” Marquardt said. “The police department has done a great job enforcing the crosswalk, speed, drop-off and no parking areas.”
The district feels the next step for student safety is to add a sidewalk from the end of the administration building up to Werner-Allen Blvd.
According to Marquardt, the City of New London used this section in combination with other sidewalk projects this summer to lower project costs. By combining several projects, contractors can maximize economic forces to drive down the bids to the lowest cost per square foot.
Jeff Bodoh, Director of Public Works, informed the district that the bid for that section will cost less than $15,000. Marquardt initially projected the cost being approximately $15,500.
“I would like to thank the City of New London for collaborating with us on this venture,” Marquardt said. “By working together it keeps student safety a priority and the best interests of the taxpayers in mind by spending as little as possible.”
Board members approved the addition of a sidewalk on the north side of Washington Street up to Werner-Allen Blvd. The project is expected to begin this summer.
New London High School students have qualified to compete at the Forensics National level for seven consecutive years and this year five students qualified for the national competition.
Forensics help students develop communication and leadership skills through competitive speech and debate activities. In doing so, they sharpen research, critical thinking, presentation, judgment, and performance skills as well.
Mariah Ervin, High School Special Education teacher and Forensics coach, shared with board members highlights and accomplishments of the Forensics team.
“We had a phenomenal season,” Ervin said. We placed in the top four for every tournament we went to. We have a very successful team.”
Ervin also highlighted accomplishments of two senior members, Emily Sommer and Madison Cooley, who are national qualifiers.
Cooley is currently ranked No. 9 in the nation by the NSDA for her achievements in a public speaking event called “Individual Oral Interpretation.” She is a four-time national qualifier.
Sommer is ranked No. 1 in the nation by the National Speech and Debate Association (NSDA) for her achievements in a public speaking event called “Four Minute.” She is also a three-time national qualifier.
Sommer also presented a speech titled “Get Lost” to board members. The speech challenged the board to leave their GPS at home when traveling and be open to getting lost and exploring new places the uncharted road takes them.
Sommer started working on this speech last summer while she attended a Forensics Institute for two weeks at the Bradley University in Illinois.
“She has been working on this speech all year,” Ervin said. “And her speech as qualified her as one of the top five in the state to represent us at the grand national tournament in Chicago.”
K-12 Math Program
For the past few years, the district has worked diligently to implement a program promoting mathematics as a conceptual tool, and not limiting it to procedural thinking in an effort to ensure success for all students.
Jo Collar, Director of Teaching and Learning Services; Ann Pinch, Intermediate/Middle School Dean of Students and Math Coach; and Mary Richards, District Math Coach, shared with board members an overview of what the K-12 math program looks like in the all the schools.
“Our goal is that all students will build both conceptual understanding and procedural fluency in mathematics so they can successfully apply their knowledge in various contexts,” Collar said.
The district started the implementation of a math program called Math Expressions in 2009-10 for students in Kindergarten through third grade. From there it progressed into other grade levels of the Elementary and Intermediate/Middle schools. The district also introduced another program called Big Ideas in 2012-13.
Through the combined efforts of administrators, teachers, and the district math coach, the restructured math curriculum has helped to shape students into becoming thinkers instead of doers.
“Students can’t sit out anymore,” Pinch said. “They can’t just come to class and just blindly accept whatever the teacher is going to tell them what to do. Instead they need to be active contributors in the classroom.”
Since the implementation of the program, the district has seen positive results in student interaction and an overall continuous growth in the area of mathematics on state wide assessments.