By Jann Wiswall
First Day of School is Sept. 4
Ellicottville Central School’s performance on grade 3-8 Common Core tests “reflects extremely well on our staff,” said Superintendent Mark Ward during the school board meeting on Tuesday, Aug. 26, during which he shared some comparison data.
“We’re buying into the Common Core — not protesting them,” he said, and those efforts are paying off when looking at the two-year, mean scale scores of ECS compared to other schools in the county and the region.
In Cattaraugus County, ECS results were the best of the bunch. Ellicottville’s students not only did the best on both English language arts and math tests at all grade levels compared to most other schools, but also showed improvement from 2012-13 (the first year of Common Core testing) to 2013-14 on most of the 12 exams. Randolph Central Schools ranked second in the county results.
Comparisons to a random selection of comparable schools in Allegany, Erie and Chautauqua County schools showed that Ellicottville is ahead of the pack. Clarence and Orchard Park — the two schools many consider to be the best suburban school districts in the region — had overall better scores than Ellicottville and the other schools in the comparison set, but Ellicottville ranked fourth (Sherman School District was third) and ECS performance on most tests were only a few points off the best schools’ results.
According to Corestandards.org, the Common Core State Standards Initiative is designed to “establish clear, consistent guidelines for what every student should know and be able to do in math and English language arts from kindergarten through 12th grade…. The Common Core focuses on developing the critical-thinking, problem-solving and analytical skills students will need to be successful.”
Ward reported that abatement work for the school renovation project is nearly complete and demolition will begin soon. Two new emergency exits, one in the cafeteria and one in the former band room, are installed. Carpeting in two fourth grade rooms has been replaced with linoleum, and the rest of the carpeting in other areas of the elementary school will be removed soon.
New York State is giving ECS the opportunity to refinance its loan for the past renovations of the middle and high school. The school and state have six more years on that loan. By refinancing the loan, the school can save some $67,000–$90,000 and the state can save twice that. Over the next few weeks, the board will review the pros and cons of the offer and make a decision at its next meeting. Ward said that, if the board decides it makes sense, it might allow the school to afford some building maintenance projects sooner than anticipated.
Health and Safety
Ward reported the school has been working with area emergency personnel and others to review the school’s safety plan and has prepared a quick reference guide for teachers to use in various emergency situations. The group is also preparing for an emergency drill that will take place in September to test the school’s emergency system and processes.
“Our staff needs to be prepared and able to keep things in control in an emergency,” Ward explained.
The drill will enable the school to identify any weaknesses and improve processes.
Following a closed executive session, board chair Carl Calarco moved to recommend that Ward’s contract as superintendent be extended through the 2015-16 school year. The board approved a 3 percent retroactive salary increase for 2013-14, a 3 percent increase for 2014-15 and a 1.8 percent increase for 2015-16. In addition, the school district will increase its contribution to Ward’s health insurance from 15 percent to 20 percent and will allow him to roll over eight vacation days.
Enrollment of out-of-district students has picked up over the past two weeks, indicating that total school enrollment likely will increase over last year. The board approved a motion to increase the non-resident tuition fee (which this year is $540) by $15 in each of the next four years, beginning with the 2015-16 school year.
Elementary Principal’s Report
Principal Connie Poulin reported that the past weeks have been busy for the Committee on Special Education but that the staff is well prepared for the coming year. She also reported that the ECS Parent/Teacher Organization has been very generous in helping to supply teachers with the many items they need and that the Ellicottville Rotary Club has provided critical funding to ensure that needy children start the year with everything on their recommended supply lists.
She also reported that all other back-to-school preparations, including a sixth grade orientation/transition night, kindergarten meet-and-greet, pre-K bus run, etc., are going smoothly.
Middle/High School Principal’s Report
Principal Bob Miller also reported smooth sailing as the school year gets underway. Fall sports teams have begun practicing with their Franklinville or Cattaraugus-Little Valley counterparts, and a meeting for juniors and accelerated sophomores about their new computers is scheduled for next week. He also said that seniors and their parents were well represented at a recent ice cream social. Counselors were on hand to discuss the SATs and ACTs, and a St. Bonaventure University representative gave a briefing on the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA).
The next meeting of the ECS school board will be held Tuesday, Sept. 9 at 7:30 p.m. in the high school library.