November 15, 2021
A New Way to Connect and Communicate With Our Families
I hope this letter finds you and your family healthy and well. It is my pleasure to announce the newest communication outreach effort of the Indiana Area School District - The Community Connection! This is an electronic newsletter the District has created to connect with our families about the various events and activities occurring in the District. This newsletter will be sent out on a regular basis with information from the various departments at Central Administration. I will also use this tool to provide families with my monthly Superintendent's Report as well.
Additionally, each school in the District will be sending out a monthly newsletter to our families titled The Principal Chronicles. Our goal is to connect and engage with our families about the various successes, events, and challenges the District is facing in hopes of limiting the spread of misinformation that occurs in our society today, as well as showcase all of the good things happening in our schools and in our community.
Grants Awarded to Several IASD Teachers!
I am pleased to share that the following Indiana Area School District Teachers were recipients of Innovative Teaching Grants from Delta Kappa Gamma.
Project Title: Digital World Language Instruction
Ms. Kate Matko, Teacher of Spanish, Indiana Area Junior High School
Project Title: Cardio Drumming: A cooperative activity of music and movement
Ms. Susan Velesig, Teacher of Music, Ben Franklin Elementary School
Ms. Amy Rebyanski, Teacher of Physical Education, Ben Franklin Elementary School
This academic year, four grants of $250.00 each were awarded to Indiana County women educators or their teaching teams. The funds to support these innovative teaching grants were raised by Apollo-Ridge, Indiana Area, Marion Center Area, Purchase Line, River Valley, and United School District teachers and administrators, both practicing and retired.
Ms. Kate Matko
Teacher of Spanish, Indiana Area Junior High School
Ms. Susan Velesig
Teacher of Music, Ben Franklin Elementary School
Ms. Amy Rebyanski
Teacher of Physical Education, Ben Franklin Elementary School
COVID-19 Challenges Remain
COVID Challenges Remain
IASD continues to be committed to providing a successful and joyous educational experience for our students and families. As I have previously communicated, the District has faced a high number of quarantines as a result of the number of cases, but our schools have been able to remain open for in-person learning. The number of quarantines has lessened over the past several weeks, but challenges still remain. To help limit the number of quarantines and/or bring students back to school earlier, the District has opted to provide free COVID testing to those families who are interested. I previously wrote to you about this on or about October 4th, and several families have already utilized this service.
As a reminder, these tests are shallow swabs and can be completed in a rapid fashion. The tests are free to the District and can be used to help mitigate the spread of the virus; keep staff and students safe; and, hopefully, result in a lower number of quarantines. This process is completely voluntary. The store-bought testing options are in high demand and, as such, might be hard for our families to obtain.
Prior to any individual Rapid Antigen Test being administered, a parent or guardian consent form must be completed. Click here to view the parent consent form. No student will be tested without a parent/guardian’s written consent. If your child(ren) is/are quarantined and you would like to have them tested in hopes of returning to school before the 10 day period, please contact your child(ren)’s school health office to make the necessary arrangements.
The tests will be administered by our school health officials. Click here to review the privacy information related to the testing process. As with any positive case, results will be reported to the Department of Health and will be subject to their protocols for contact tracing, isolation, and/or quarantines.
Changes on the IASD Board of Directors
Please join me in congratulating Ms. Barbara Barker and Ms. Ute Lowery for their years of service on the Indiana Area School District Board of Directors. Their efforts, leadership, and vision over the past four years are greatly appreciated and had a positive impact on the lives of our students and families in the Indiana Area School District.
As Ms. Barker and Ms. Lowery transition off of the Board, let’s welcome our two newest members - Dr. Sue Rieg and Dr. Jim Shaffer! Both individuals bring a great deal of expertise and leadership to the Board, and I look forward to working with them to help build upon the great work happening in the District.
Finally, congrats to Ms. Julia Trimarchi Cuccaro and Mr. Tom Harley for being reappointed to the Board of Directors. The leadership they provide is greatly appreciated and valued in the District.
Family & Community Connections - APTT Nights
While some educational experiences look and may still feel different, our staff continues to listen and learn new ways to do things while keeping our students as the central focus of every decision made. We recently conducted our first Academic Parent-Teacher Teams (APTT) nights! This model of family engagement is grounded in the idea that schools can thrive when families and teachers work together, as genuine partners, to maximize student learning inside and outside of school. The model is research-based and aligns grade-level learning concepts, student performance data, and family-teacher collaboration. The format creates a systematic pathway for teachers to share grade-level information, tools, and strategies that families can apply at home and in the community to accelerate student learning.
I want to thank all of the families who came out for our first parent engagement night that was held on Thursday, November 4 to learn more about our programming and how we can work together to provide your child(ren) with the best education possible. I hope you can join us at our future events!
Emergency Broadband Program for Families
The program will end when the fund runs out of money, or six months after the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services declares an end to the COVID-19 health emergency, whichever is sooner.
National School Psychology Week (NSPW)
During the week of November 8-12, 2021 schools throughout the United States celebrated National School Psychology Week (NSPW) to highlight the important work school psychologists and other educators do to help all students thrive. This year's theme was "Let's Get in Gear." The theme's acronym provides a challenge to grow both personally and professionally. It encourages us to engage in best practices and advocate for children's access to mental health and learning supports.
Further Support, Evidence, and Data Surrounding Our Literacy Program Changes Several Years Ago
According to Ed Reports, two programs rooted in balanced literacy and cueing to teach reading skills, Fountas and Pinnell Classroom and Lucy Calkins' Units of Study curricula for grades Kindergarten through Grade 5, were found to not meet the expectations for text quality and complexity and alignment to the standards. The programs do not include complex texts and texts do not reflect the distribution of text types required by the standards. The majority of questions and tasks do not provide students with opportunities to utilize and apply evidence from the text during speaking and listening activities or writing. There is limited instruction for grammar and vocabulary called for by the standards. Additionally, foundational skills instruction in these programs lacked a research-based, intentional scope and sequence for systematic and explicit instruction in phonological awareness and phonics.
I only bring this to your attention because we removed the Benchmark Literacy program several years ago as we knew then it was not best for students and there has been a great deal of misinformation and miscommunication spread about the program and the change.
These results speak for themselves as Benchmark Literacy is rooted in many of the same premises outlined in those above. Whole language, guided reading with leveled texts, and cueing, are not supported by research.
PBS News Hour Story That SUPPORTS Our Change in Literacy Programming
IRMC Vaccine Clinics for Students Ages 5-11
As a result of the CDC recommendation on November 2, 2021, COVID-19 vaccines are now available for individuals age 5 and older. Indiana Regional Medical Center (IRMC) has several vaccine clinics scheduled in November and December for those families who are interested.
If this is something you wish to pursue, please speak with your child(ren)'s primary care provider to address eligibility, questions, and/or concerns regarding getting your child vaccinated.