School Days

School Days
A few new teachers, a new look to the Austin Elementary playground and new carpet in 10 classrooms of Jolley Elementary School are just a few of the positive changes noticed by parents and students as they arrived at Vermillion public schools for the first day of class Wednesday.

Students in elementary grades of the public school district will also benefit from a new math curriculum that is being introduced this year.

The curriculum, called "Math Trailblazers," was reviewed during the 2005-06 school year. Members of the review committee examined district data, studied research, discussed instruction and assessment and reviewed material samples.

"This curriculum was piloted last year," said Dr. Mark Froke, superintendent of the school district. "Teachers found such great success with the program that they implemented in all grade levels in kindergarten through fifth grade in the elementary (schools)."

"Math Trailblazers" was developed and tested over a six year period as a part of the University of Illinois TIMS (Teaching Integrated Mathematics and Science) Project.

The program was developed based on research and is designed to prepare students to know and apply basic math skills, solve problems using different strategies, be independent thinkers, reason skillfully in diverse situations effectively communicate solutions to problems and methods for solving them; and to work alone or in groups to solve problems.

Math Trailblazers is a comprehensive curriculum that reflects a balance between the development of mathematical concepts and basic skills. The content is also aligned with the South Dakota Math Standards.

Froke said Vermillion Middle School and Vermillion High School students also received upgrades to their math textbooks.

"There has been a lot of work done on this," he said. "The school district received a $40,000 grant to initiate what we refer to as ?Pathways to Success.' It will help students identify their career interests at the high school level, and then develop personal learning plans for them to follow throughout their high school years."

Joanne Ustad has been hired as high school career program coordinator to lead that effort.

Not all of the areas of improvement to the school district involve the art of teaching. Administrators and staff have taken steps to make sure school buildings are safe and in excellent physical condition as another school year begins.

"In the health and safety area, a Homeland Security grant has allowed the installation of security cameras at Austin, Jolley and the middle school," Froke said. "Previously we had cameras installed at the high school; now we will have cameras in place at all of the schools.

"We've installed 116 new computers throughout the district, and installed 30 overhead projectors that are connected to computers," he said. "It will expand the effectiveness of technology use in the classrooms."

The addition of flashing and other work has been done to extend the life of the high school roof, and a new overhead door has been added to the high school shop area.

The high school parking lot also has a new asphalt surface designed to extend its usefulness.

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