Morenci school board 2014.07.16

By DAVID GREEN

The Morenci Board of Education is making a concerted effort to improve academics, starting with the hiring of a reading specialist.

Angela Pickett, a reading specialist with the Tecumseh district, accepted a position in Morenci to help bolster reading skills.

Reading impacts every other academic subject, said superintendent Mike McAran. He witnessed an impressive improvement in test scores when he was superintendent in Tecumseh through the use of reading specialists and he expects the same to occur in Morenci. To be successful, however, teachers must fully accept the reading program that Pickett will present. Pickett will focus her work in the lower grades.

Pickett was impressed with the materials she found that Morenci already possesses and she was also impressed with the knowledge and desire she observed from the teachers that she spoke with.

High school English teacher Heather Walker interviewed Pickett and told the board about the confidence and knowledge that she possesses. She's able to diagnose what is holding back a particular student and prescribe curriculum help.

McAran said that he does not want to hide data that shows academic weakness, but he wants to get busy on making improvements. He believes the new Head Start classroom plus the Great Start room for four-year-olds will help make changes, along with Pickett's work.

Although scores vary from year to year, the most recent ACT testing results for reading showed Morenci with the lowest score in the county. English was closer to the middle of the pack while mathematics and science were at the lower end. Similar results were shown on the Michigan Merit Exam.

In addition to the reading specialist, Morenci teacher Christine Grondin will serve as a math specialist to help students with algebra and co-teach with classroom teachers.

Overall, McAran said, academics must be given a higher priority.

LEVY WORK—McAran spoke of unexpected costs involved in the maintenance work from the levy approved by voters. For example, the scope of the high school parking lot project has changed, he said, with the addition of more lights and the decision to add a stone base below the new surface.

"It's going to be done right so it lasts," said board president Scott Merillat.

Complete removal of asbestos was added to the project because, in the long run, removal would be cheaper now since the equipment was on-site. Fixing the fire alarm system was much more expensive than originally planned because the decision was made to use a new system at both the high school and middle school rather than trying to patch the two together.

BIDS—The board approved bids from Arps for milk, Aunt Millie's for bread and Lightning Quick for gasoline. A three-year contract with 3-D Physical Therapy for athletic trainer services was also approved.