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ECS Prepares for New Year, New Opportunities

Planned Expansion of After-School Programs

By Jann Wiswall

The last Ellicottville Central School Board meeting of 2014 on Dec. 9 gave board members a lot to think about over the holidays.

The first big decision for the new year will be made by school district voters on Jan. 21 when they weigh in on funding a new, $925,000 capital project being proposed by the board.

The new project, which would be completed while the current capital project is underway, includes replacement of two large sections of roof that are leaking and causing interior damage in parts of the elementary wing and above the new construction. It also includes building an enclosed vestibule at the south entrance to the high school that will provide shelter and better security, and an audio/sound system that was planned for the multi-purpose room, stage area and adjacent classrooms. Those two projects were cut from the current capital project for cost reasons.

According to ECS Superintendent Mark Ward, the cost to taxpayers likely would be about $3 per year for 16 years on a home assessed at $100,000.

The vote will take place in the Elementary School lobby on Wednesday, Jan. 21, 1-8 p.m.

Another major project for the board after the holidays will be to plan for staffing and programming for the 2015-16 school year. Ward said that, based on where the budget stands at this point in the year, some grant opportunities, and the likelihood that state funding for schools should be improving, the forecast for next year is looking a bit better.

With that in mind, Ward said he would like the board to think about reviving business education classes, purchasing laptops for 10th grade and possibly ninth grade students and reducing kindergarten and first grade class sizes to allow for more individual teacher/student interaction. If the board agrees with these ideas, two new teachers and a technology person to help the school’s technology coordinator would be needed.

The board discussed the teacher/student ratio issue in some detail and indicated it would likely support the idea of reduced class sizes. Ward and Elementary School Principal Connie Poulin noted that kindergarten and first grade students are expected to be able to do a lot more at the end of those years than ever before. As a result, they need more turns to practice and teachers need more time to assess their progress.

Board Chair Carl Calarco commented, “If we continue to up the ante and expect more from our students, we need to support them with more staff and resources.”

While planning for next year is a top priority, the school also has undertaken the task of revising its 2009 strategic plan and updating it to reflect the needs of the next five years.

Poulin, who is facilitating the process, reported that a kickoff meeting on Nov. 20 was held with teachers, parents, administrators, business leaders, community officials and others from the region. During the meeting, the group worked to identify the districts strengths and weaknesses, as well as the opportunities and threats that impact its success.

Four task forces and facilitators for each were identified to focus more rigorously on specific areas of district operations, including a Facilities and Financials Task Force, an Academic Excellence Task Force, a Communication Systems & Student Programs Task Force, and a Technology Task Force. Each task force will be developing “strategic intents (targets)” that will serve as the core of the strategic plan.

The next meeting of the strategic planning team will be held on March 16. Volunteers and input from the public is encouraged and invited. More information on this subject is included in the December issue of the school’s newsletter, which is viewable on the home page of the school web site at www.ellicottvillecentral.com.

Expanded After-School Program

Also outlined in the school newsletter is the planned expansion of after-school programs. The current program, known as “homework club,” is offered to students in grade 3-6 two days per week. The expansion plan will offer an additional day of help to those grades and will add two evenings of help for selected seventh and eighth graders and two after-school sessions for selected K-2 students. More details are included in the newsletter.

Poulin and Middle/High School Principal Bob Miller said it’s a festive time of year at ECS with many holiday activities. The Senior Citizens’ Dinner on Thursday, Dec. 4 was a huge success, with about 75 elderly community members delighting in the meal and the choruses. This event is funded entirely by the Student Council.

Students will perform their annual holiday concert on Dec. 16 at Salamanca High School, and Project Christmas, which collects gifts and food donations for needy families and seniors, is well underway.

Please note: School will be closed from Dec. 22 through Jan. 2 for Winter Recess.

The next meeting of the ECS board will be held on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 2015, at 7:30 p.m. in the High School Library. All are welcomed.

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