Board hears updates on school programs

WOODSTOCK — Shenandoah Count Public Schools supervisors offered School Board members updates on several key school programs at Thursday’s board meeting.

Heather Miller, Central High School disabilities resource teacher, and seven students presented information about Central’s newly minted Post Graduation Program.

The program was recently renamed L.I.F.E., which stands for Learning Independence for Everyday.

According to Miller, the program’s focus is to give adults ages 18-21 with disabilities a chance to learn skills to become “career-ready” through real-life situational learning.

One way Miller and her staff seek to accomplish this is through a student-designed, classroom-based currency called “valley pikes.” Students use the pikes to pay rent, save and spend money.

Contact staff writer Kevin Green at 540-465-5137 ext. 152, or

Miller said the program’s primary goal is to give students a sense of independence.

Evelyn D.K. Linaburg, assistant superintendent of curriculum, instruction and assessment, and David Hinegardner, director of middle and secondary instruction, gave an update on the new performance-based school assessments.

The new assessments, which are based on requirements from a 2013 bill by the Virginia General Assembly, will be tested in schools this school year.

It will be a “data-gathering year,” Hinegardner said.

Since the assessments are not part of the Standards of Learning tests, they will not count toward accreditation. However, Linaburg noted that schools would still be required to report test progress to the state.

“Performance-based assessments don’t assess every single solitary SOL … [the assessments] incorporate many different skills, in many different content areas,” explained Hinegardner.

Linaburg noted, “We are looking for assessment processes that will be more balanced … and look at the skills that students need for all their [lives].”

One of the main points Hinegardner emphasized was that in schools where teachers have incorporated this style, students had more fun learning and did not realize that they were being tested.

Debbie Litten, student services supervisor, offered facts and figures about the county’s school nurses.

Litten noted that there are 4 1/2 nurses for 2,914 students in the elementary schools, three nurses for 1,434 middle school students, and 2 1/2 nurses for the 1,893 students in the county’s high schools.

The half nurses represent a nurse who works part time at both Strasburg High School and Sandy-Hook Elementary School.

School nurses are also starting to deal with more cases of diabetes and mental health issues than in previous years, Litten said. She added that nurses are required to be knowledgeable about such conditions as attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and allergies.

According to Litten, the data shows how crucial having a school nurse is. “I wanted to give you an idea on the kinds of conditions our nurses see,” Litten said.

Also at Thursday’s meeting:

  • Board members moved up in priority discussions for installing security cameras for the 2015-16 school year.
  • Superintendent Jeremy Raley offered an update on the Student Advisory Council. Raley stressed the “great ideas” students generated at the last council meeting.
  • Gene Dykes, maintenance supervisor, said the division reduced total kilowatt-hour usage by over 3 million in 2013-14. In addition, Dykes noted that the reduction constitutes 25 percent of the division’s annual energy consumption.
  • Cynthia Page, director of finance, discussed a new portion of the district’s website called “What’s Your Idea.” This section will allow parents, employees, students and others to submit ideas on how the county can improve. Page noted that ideas can be submitted anonymously.

The next board meeting will be at 7 p.m. Dec. 11, with a closed session taking place at 6:30 p.m.

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