Last updated: June 01. 2013 7:54AM - 370 Views
Dylan Lightfoot
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The Ashe County Board of Education held its February meeting Monday night, hearing a presentation on the effectiveness of mental health services at Ashe County High School (ACHS), and an overview of pre-K and kindergarten screening for the 2013-14 school year.

“This academic year, we have served about eight percent of the student body,” said Dr. Kurt Michael, Director of Clinical Services for the Institute for Health and Human Services at Appalachian State, which offers crisis intervention and counseling at ACHS through the Assessment, Support and Counseling Center (ASC).

Last summer, the board approved the ASC center at ACHS for one full year after a promising first semester in spring 2012.

In partnership with school faculty, ASC helps students with depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts and other issues, with the assistance of licensed mental health professionals and interns. The program uses a psychotheraputic approach called cognitive behavioral therapy, which focuses on changing maladaptive thinking as a means of changing behavior and affect, or demeanor.

“The number of youth struggling with behavioral and emotional concerns (is) probably around 20 percent,” Michael said. “About six out of 10…of the young people we are serving so far have exhibited what we describe to be clinically significant improvement in their symptoms.”

Graduate Clinician Raphaelle Sale, who works with students at ASC said, “since we do this at absolutely no cost to the families…we’ve saved families approximately $6,000 since August.”

Ashe County High School Principal Jason Krider said, “I can’t say enough for what they’ve done for the kids…there’s some real serious cases that I think are here and doing well today because of this group.”

Ashe County elementary schools are preparing for Developmental Indicators for the Assessment of Learning (DIAL) screening this spring to place young children just starting school in classes this fall. Director of Exceptional Children and Pre-K Programs Terry Richardson updated the board on the active search for children to screen, which is under way.

“(We want) to make sure we reach everybody for this.” she Richardson.

One of several tools for assessing a child’s baseline development and abilities, DIAL screening is used to appropriately place kids in Pre-K, kindergarten or special needs education.

“Right now we have about 50 students at the pre-K level we’re going to screen,” said Richardson, adding that she hoped to find more. “You have to have the numbers to get the funding,” she said.

The board announced that DIAL screening will take place at all three elementary schools on the following dates:

  • Westwood — April 8-10
  • Mountain View — April 15-17
  • Blue Ridge — April 22-24

The Blue Ridge Elementary (BRE) school improvement team requested permission to apply for a grant from the I Am A Leader Foundation, an educational charity providing programs and services which build student character and leadership.

With an in-kind contribution of $5,950 per year for five years from BRE’s school improvement fund, the grant will help fund the $77,000 The Leader In Me process, a program focused on increased student self-confidence and interpersonal skills, elevated student achievement and decreased discipline referrals.

The Leader In Me had gotten “rave reviews” at schools using the program, according to the BRE school improvement team.

The board unanimously approved writing of the grant. “If you can build character, you can build anything,” said board member Terry Williams.

Superintendent Donnie Johnson sought approval for proposed 180- and 185-day academic calendars for the 2013-14 school year. Ashe is one of 12 N.C. school systems granted a waiver allowing them to start school as early as the Aug. 19, to offset snow days pushing the last day of the school year into June.

Both approved calendars have teachers starting Aug. 16, and students starting Aug. 20 this year.

A request from the Ashe County High Beta Club for an overnight trip to Greensboro was unanimously approved. Ten students and three chaperones will make the trip to the North Carolina National Beta Club State Convention February 21-23.

A request from Ashe County High School AP U.S. History students for an April 26-28 trip to Charleston, S.C., was also unanimously approved, but with some reservation about cost.

When a class takes a bus trip, the class or the school pays a flat $50 fee for use of the bus to offset fuel costs.

Board member Dr. Beckworth raised the issue of fairness: based on mileage, the Beta Club trip would cost about $1 per student, but the AP History trip — 656 miles round-trip — would cost Ashe County Schools $31 per student.

“I want all the students…to have the same opportunity. If we’re going to allow any student to take a trip similar to this one, it’s going to cost $100,000,” he said.

Approving the Charleston trip, the board agreed that a better system of accounting for widely variant student trip expenses would have to be devised before more trips were approved.

The board approved the first draft of Ashe County Schools new chemical hygiene plan for middle and high school science classes. New regulations from the state mean some chemicals are no longer allowed in schools, and that additional safety equipment must be on hand, according to Assistant Superintendent Phyllis Yates.

The new chemical hygiene plan, after approval by the state, will be integrated with crisis management plans at the middle school and high school.

An awards ceremony scheduled for Monday’s meeting was rescheduled for next month. Awards for February Employee of the Month, Teacher of the Year, Principal of the Year and other recognitions will be given at the board’s next regular meeting on March 4.

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