With a recent accident involving a school bus fresh on their minds, USD 257 board of education members approved the purchase of a software program that will help deal with such tragedies, among other things, at their meeting Monday night.
The Zonar program includes a communications system, navigation services, and an inspection process to ensure vehicle safety.
Had Iola school buses been equipped with such a service before the Nov. 18 accident involving a school bus, school administrators would have immediately known which students were aboard the affected bus in addition to its exact location.
“When I got the first call from my drivers, they were kind of shaken up and couldn’t tell me exactly where they were,” said Jack Koehn, superintendent of schools. “With GPS, we could have known immediately.”
The new system includes students carrying a card that is swiped when boarding or exiting the bus to keep tabs of their location.
“That tells a driver who is on the bus and where he or she gets off and at what time,” said Scott Stanley, director of operations, in his presentation of the program.
School board members needed no further convincing and approved the purchase of a three-year lease for $6,784.82 a year.
BOARD MEMBERS also approved the purchase of a program called MAP — Measures of Academic Progress — that gives teachers and administrators critical data on how a student is faring in his or her studies.
“This is data we don’t have in math, English and reading at the secondary level,” said Stacey Fager, principal at Iola High School. “It would help show us where students need help.”
At the same time, the assessments can target high achievers and “move them on down the road,” in their studies, said Brad Crusinbery, upper elementary principal at Iola Middle School.
MAP tests are given up to four times a year. The sophisticated program comes with a price tag of $8,150 a year.
Along that same line, Scott Crenshaw, assistant principal at IHS, presented his Behavior and Academic Expectation Report.
With a passion for “moving toward excellence,” Crenshaw said the program’s goal is to decrease student absences by increasing their involvement, lifting their morale and their investment in getting a high school education.
Crenshaw proposed the high school adopt an academic adviser model where beginning in a student’s freshman year he is assigned an adviser with whom he will meet on an almost daily basis during the period set aside for seminar.
“These advisers will monitor and mentor these students for all four years,” of their high school career, he said. “They encourage and support the students and keep track of their progress. They will know their grades. They will become their pseudo parent, wanting students to succeed in life as well as in school.
“They will tell a student, ‘I am here for you and we will walk this walk together until you walk across that stage in a cap and gown.’”
Crenshaw noted success in his efforts to develop relationships with students in the 18 months he has been at IHS.
“There is a student who used to flip me off. Now he gives me high-fives. Today I got a hug. That’s awesome,” said the high-energy administrator.
“The goal is to make this high school a magnet, a place where students want to be,” he said. “You can change a culture if you are willing to put the work in.”
That can be advanced if teachers and administrators model a positive attitude, he said, and adopt a common language that supports education.
“We all need to talk the same language,” he said, and model characteristics of punctuality, respect, excellence and integrity.
“Students will buy in to what you have going on,” he said. On the flip side, students “can sense negativity in a heartbeat.”
“It’s up to us to stay connected with our students. Old buildings be damned,” he said. “We can be the phoenix that rises out of the rubble.”
It should be noted that in early November Crenshaw was named an Assistant High School Principal of the Year by the Kansas Association of Secondary School Principals. Crenshaw was one 400 candidates nominated by their peers. Candidates were evaluated on their leadership, dedication and professionalism to their jobs.