State gives preschool program high praise
Fairfield Community School District’s preschool program received a 92 percent rating from its state verification site visit Dec. 8-10, Washington Elementary Principal Jeff Eeling told the school board Monday.
“I was glad to score that high,” he said.
Eeling shared the results of the site visit, which are given to the administration in an exit interview, outlining the program’s strengths and areas for growth.
The state uses the Iowa Quality Preschool Program Standards to measure and verify components of the preschool program.
The school district’s preschool, housed at Washington Elementary School, serves 69 students, ages 3 and 4, this year.
Strengths in the program noted by site visit team included:
• The interaction between preschool staff and students.
• Relationships and communication between the school and students’ families.
• The program and classroom options available.
“There’s a growing emphasis on collaborative efforts and they saw us doing this well,” said Eeling.
• High quality indoor environments/classrooms.
• Transportation provided door-to-door.
“We pick up preschool students at each house and deliver them home again,” said Eeling.
• Beginning efforts in inquiry-based creative curriculum; having themed units of discovery.
• Effective transitioning practices from programs to classrooms.
“I have to say the two most important standards are the ones having to do with teaching/instruction and curriculum,” said Eeling. “And we were graded as being strong in these areas. That’s a good thing, because without strong instruction and a sound curriculum, we wouldn’t be accomplishing much.”
Eeling said Superintendent Art Sathoff has let him take leadership, and supported his efforts to get things in place for the preschool program.
The areas of growth, or standards that could use improvement, for the district’s preschool program included:
From Standard 4, child assessment —
• Systemic data based decision-making.
• Connection between data, planning and instruction.
The preschool collects data but the site visit team wanted to see more use of the data guiding decisions, planning and instruction, said Eeling.
From Standard 5, health and safety —
• Student health documentation.
Preschool students should have physicals on file.
• Inconsistent policy, procedures and practice.
“We need to have written parental permission or denial on file for such things as use of sunscreen or bug repellant on a child,” said Eeling.
Standard 9, physical environment —
“We have an elementary playground, not a preschool playground,” said Eeling. “Some of the outdoor equipment is not the right height for preschool children.”
• Review and update handbook.
• Professional development for teacher associates.
“Preschool is the only level in Iowa schools requiring an Individual Professional Development Plan,” said Eeling.
In the rest of the district, only certified staff (teachers) and administrators need this form, which outlines annual goals for professional development.
Eeling said he would submit his written report to the district, and send information to the Iowa Department of Education as changes are made in the noted areas of growth. In two years, another site visit will be conducted to check on progress.
Young House report
Young House Family Services Fairfield program director Jamie Siegrist reported Monday about the program in the school district for behavior-challenged students grades 5-12, housed at the Lincoln Center.
Young House is in its second year in Fairfield; previously students were bused to the Christamore program in Mount Pleasant.
The program is contracted to serve 10 students at a time, and Fairfield accepts students from surrounding districts into the program.
To date, Young House has served a total of 19 students; 18 males and one female; 11 were from Fairfield; three from Washington; two from Sigourney; two from Albia; and one from Chariton.
Among those 19 students, five were in 11th grade; two were in 10th grade; three were in ninth grade; six were eighth graders; one was a seventh grader; and two were in sixth grade.
Students are instructed in academic classes appropriate for their grade level, attend a skill development group, and must earn a daily score of 70 or higher on a behavior point sheet.
Currently, the program has three Fairfield High School students and one eighth grader from FMS; two Albia High School students; one high school and one middle student from Sigourney; and one high school and one middle school student from Washington.
“We have interest in our program from additional school districts, including Ottumwa, Pekin, Van Buren and Eddyville-Blakseburg-Fremont,” said. “We have a waiting list for the program and plan to accept an 11th student from Fairfield this week on a part-time basis, at no charge [to the Fairfield district. Students do not pay for the program].”
Of the nine students discharged from the program since it began in Fairfield: two were discharged successfully after completing the program levels and/or goals set by the Individualized Education Plan team for graduation from the program; one was discharged neutrally at the end of the 2012-13 school year by the IEP team decision so the student could begin high school with the rest of the student’s regular class; two were discharged unsuccessfully due to the clients’ extreme negative behaviors that did not respond to treatment and interfered with staff’s ability to provide quality treatment services to other students; one student was discharged unsuccessfully after behaviors on transportation made it unsafe for the referring district to continue transporting the student with other students from the same district; three students were no longer mandatory attendance age and chose to drop out of school despite the efforts of Young House staff, referring school district staff, Area Education Agency staff, and their parents to prevent them from dropping out of school.
“We’ve continued with the ‘Right-On-Raffle,’” said Siegrist. “Students earn raffle tickets for appropriate and positive behaviors and they can enter a weekly drawing for prizes. This year the school program has provided the majority of prizes and staff members have donated items. Donations from the community would also be greatly appreciated.”
Siegrist said Young House works with the families of students and the school districts to ensure students receive the necessary outside services, including Behavior Health Intervention Services, which includes individual and family skill building; counseling and medication management; extracurricular involvement; and working with the Juvenile Court offices to ensure mutual clients are complying with probation requirements.
Young House will have an onsite accreditation visit in February.