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SMS transforms from keyboarding to computer science curriculum

Posted Date: 02/14/2022

SMS transforms from keyboarding to computer science curriculum

Credit: Standard Democrat

Sikeston Middle School students are learning the ins and outs of computers this school year through a new computer science curriculum at the school.

Sikeston Middle School principals Susan Long and Michelle Gilmer provided the building’s achievement update to the Sikeston R-6 Board of Education during its monthly meeting Tuesday at the district’s central office.

“We thought we’d share with you a little about our transformation going from a keyboarding to actual computer science curriculum this year,” Long said.

Fifth grade is still working on learning typing skills and keyboarding, but they’re taking those to the next level, Long said. For example, on Tuesday they were using the Google office by taking NFL statistics and learning how to create charts and graphs. They’re also learning the parts, function and purpose of computers by taking one apart. Fifth graders are also receiving an introduction to coding.

“Our sixth grade again is working with coding,” Long said. “They will be learning how to develop a website, expanding different things using microbits and our Project Lead the Way project that we do. They’re really working hard toward expanding their knowledge of understanding the computer science.

Youth Coding League students have also excelled this year, Long said.

“While we want to keep our students learning and moving toward understanding the computer, we also want to keep them safe,” Long said. “So our counselors have been going into classrooms this month and teaching our students about internet safety and cyberbullying with our students because, disciplinary wise, that is something that we deal with quite often so we we want them to understand that aspect of it as well.”

The school is taking the topic to the next level by offering an informational night to Middle School parents on Feb. 16, Long said.

“Counselors will share with with parents what they’ve told the students about being safe online and expectations — and to be nice and kind online,” Gilmer said. “We also know that a lot of our students are just getting a phone and getting into social media so parents sometimes don’t sometimes know all they can do to help lock their children out and restrict it — keep them safe and keep them from getting themselves into drama and trouble which spills over into school. So, I’m hoping we have a good turnout and share some good information with our parents.”

Also some middle school students will be participating in the living wax museum for the district’s Black History Month Program, which is at 7 p.m. Feb. 25 at the Sikeston Field House. Students are also preparing for an upcoming math competition, the principals said.

Sikeston High School counselor Kim Thornbrough briefed the Board with the annual guidance and counselor report for the 2020-2021 school year.

“We have three goals we focus on each year,” Thornbrough said. “Our goals are modeled after the Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program’s program standards, and they are: to assist in academics; careers; and personal and social development.”

The first goal was to assist students with academic development.

“During last school year, we provided approximately 1,250 guidance lessons to our K-12 students,” Thornbrough said. “Every November and December, we do an internal improvement review of our program through DESE (Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) that indicated we are fully implementing our individual students’ planning services and our response of services are fully implemented, according to what DESE is requiring us to do.”

Some improvements and changes included: the high school had a system of contacting on a daily basis every student who was quarantined. It also started the College Now Program, which had its initial group of of students who are working toward their associate’s degree or Core 42 certificate, and those students will graduate this year, Thornbrough said. Also, the Junior High and Middle School counselors contacted parents unable to complete online enrollment and helped them complete it prior to the start of the school year, she said.

The second goal was in career development, and the high school will continue using an online program called Missouri Connections, which provides lessons to students. A job fair for grades 10-12 was held in the spring and the high school plans to do another this school year, Thornbrough said.

The third goal was personal and social development. Some things the district did differently was Southeast Elementary implemented the SEL program, which is through the Missouri SEAL curriculum program. Lessons covered healthy lifestyles, safe choices, goal setting, problem solving, stress management, healthy relationships, etc. The Middle School implemented The Zones of Regulation program for teaching students strategies for emotional and sensory self-management.

“We want to continue with these same three goals as long as we’re following what DESE is providing for us to do through the Missouri Comprehensive Guidance Program,” Thornbrough said. “We do a survey each year for the parents, students and teachers. At the end of last year, 81.77% of those people rated our program as excellent or good, and that’s about what it is every year.”

Based on Sikeston’s results from its Internal Improvement Review through DESE, the counseling program is 96% fully implemented, and the goal is to be above 90%, Thornbrough said.

Chad King, director of Sikeston Career and Technology Center, provided the annual Perkins and vocational grant report to the Board.

“The money tree is growing in DESE for CTE (career and technical education). There’s money falling at us left and right. I’m taking advantage of it,” King told the Board.

The district’s past four years of allocations from the Carl D. Perkins Vocational and Technical Education Act were: $254,202 in fiscal year 2020; $204,010 in FY21 (decrease due to losing Dexter as a sending school); $233,550 in FY23; and the estimate is $219,502 for FY23. King said the actual FY23 allocation won’t be known until April or May.

The allocation of the Enhancement Grant, which is available for career and technology schools and community colleges, pays 75% state funds to 25% district funds on equipment and 50% state funds to 50% district funds on software and any items less than $1,000. The grant is used to purchase equipment for SCTC and software for the district. After three years, any equipment purchased by the can grant can be moved throughout the district or sold.

The FY 23 grant is in the process of being written and will focus on equipment upgrades and replacing outdated equipment. The grant will be written for $63,828 with an estimated cost to the district at $20,809; the remaining balance will come from the state.

Other grants SCTC received were GEER II for $97,489 which was given to CTEs with high county COVID cases, and funds will be used to purchase equipment. SCTC also received the CTE Construction Grant for $20,000, and it will be used to add an addition to the welding shop King said.

“You’re doing a great job staying on top of all these grants,” Board President Aaron Boyce told King.

Board member Matt Drake asked if King was looking at adding any new programs at SCTC in the future.

King said there’s not enough space to add another program at the SCTC site. However, he’s applied for a grant aviation program through Southeast Missouri State University, and he’s still waiting to hear from them.

Sarah Thompson, R-6 communications director, provided the annual communications report.

“My first goal was to provide ease and functionality to stakeholders in all forms of communication,” Thompson said. “We did a website redesign, and that’s about 95% finished. I say that because there are so may pages throughout the website you don’t see on a regular basis, and when I do see them and the need for them comes up, I do change those.”

As of Tuesday, the district’s website had 2,307,000 hits for this last year, which is 600,000 more than the district has ever had in a year, she said.

“I’m really glad to know people are using our website,” Thompson said.

She also noted the district-branded app is complete.

“We only have 1,050 downloads of the app, which is not where I’d like to see it, but I do plan on reorganizing that this summer and doing a big push for parents right before school starts,” Thompson said.

Goal No. 2 was to increase communication with stakeholders, and Thompson said the district increased its text messages.

“Text messages are pretty much our only form of communication that we use these days —just because we can send long letters; we can send short texts, and more parents get those. Last year we sent 69 text messages. Already this year we’ve sent 74 text messages,” Thompson said.

Coffees with the Superintendent have also been conducted on a monthly basis

“That’s for our staff to meet with Dr. Robinson off of school grounds, typically at Parengo,” Thompson said. “It gives staff a chance to talk to him without being under the school roof — and really just talk about whatever they want to talk about. It’s an open forum. It’s not led by him.”

Typically about five to 10 staff members show up each month, and they invite one school per month, she said.

“Ideally, we’d like to have more than that, and we’re looking at ways to increase that engagement,” Thompson said.

She also added a weekly email called Bulldog Bites that goes out to staff, and it has any information staff needs to be aware of regarding the district.

Thompson’s last goal was to increase visibility of Sikeston R-6-branded items and access to purchase these items

“We finished the cashless campus which is our online store. It’s called Bulldog Merch. You can get on our website and buy bulldog items,” Thompson said. “We’ve sold $2,999 worth of items this year. Ideally, I’d like to sell a lot more than that, but I do need to purchase more items to fill up that store.”

The districtwide-branded logo will be a part of the strategic plan which is set for this spring, she said.

In other news, as of Jan. 4, districtwide enrollment was at 3,375, which is up 11 students from last month.