10-12-2017 Hartford Board thanks Redwood staff; positive outlook of first 30 days; Senior Services

HARTFORD HOMECOMING ROYALTY… Crowned to reign over Homecoming Festivities last Friday was, (left to right): King- Adam Wheeler, Queen- Olivia Ziemer, Princess- Lakayla Wiggins, and Prince- Joel Soto. Winning the float building contest was the Junior Class, followed by the Seniors in second place, the Freshmen in third and the Sophomores in fourth.

Hartford Board thanks Redwood staff; positive outlook of first 30 days

By Jon Bisnett

The Hartford Public Schools’ Board began the month with the staff of Redwood Elementary prior to the October 5 Work Study session. Pizzas served were a token of the board’s thanks for soldiering through the many adjustments of the first month of classes in the new combined elementary campus. Acknowledging a few things that still need tweaking here and there, Superintendent Andy Hubbard joined Redwood Principal Ed Dickenson in saying, “All things considered, I don’t think any of us thought things would go as smooth as they did.”

Redwood Elementary update

The board heard a report from Timmery Fuller, the new Elementary Literacy Coach. Fuller outlined assessments in progress and the subsequent development of individual improvement plans which are now critical in light of the recently enacted 3rd Grade Reading Law, which mandates students to demonstrate grade-level appropriate proficiency by 3rd grade or possibly face retention.

Christine Quist is the new Dean of Students at the Redwood campus. Quist comes with an excellent track record of experience in her field and reported on strategies to encourage and develop expectations of “Safe and Good Choices.” She further explained by breaking down behavior issues into a common sense basis; explaining that despite the popular buzzword, not all bad behavior is “bullying.” She compared definitions she applies with students of the differences of what she characterized as mean, rude and bullying acts. Quist also detailed the application of “Restorative Justice” practices as a positive and practical alternative to the “Zero Tolerance,” now generally eliminated except in the most extreme of circumstances, usually not commonly found in elementary buildings. Electronic logs of behavioral interventions are another new step towards efficient and appropriate actions to be applied when issues occur.

Building Principal Ed Dickenson summed up the first 30 days at Redwood as an amazing dynamic with 700 students ages from 5 to 11. Dickenson commented on the pick-up and drop-off issues stating dismal opening day bus departure time of 3:53 p.m. has been trimmed to 3:05. The computerized pick-up system is not yet fully implemented, pending a needed extension of wireless internet coverage in an unanticipated signal dead zone. Seven hundred students break down into roughly 70-80 cars each morning and afternoon, 30 walkers and the remainder riding the bus system. The wildly popular new city bus route sees a typical average count of 89 students per day. The redesigned parking lots receive parents of 3rd-5th grade from the south via Woodside Drive, while K-2nd graders are reached by a recently extended and widened Spaulding Street from the north end of the building.

Dickenson also commented on the growth of the new Redwood social media presence which has quickly grown to over 600 followers since its recent launch.

Strategic Plan

Speaking to the communication goals of the District’s long range plan, tech guru Rob Sheffey walked board members through the newly redesigned HPSMI.org website. He described the new online product as predominantly informational, with news and photos best left to social media while keeping the website a text-based information source. The new website software addresses the issue of viewing from mobile devices with an intuitive feature that detects the user’s device and instantly reformats the page view to suit the device. Sheffey assured that whether the user is at their home PC, smartphone, laptop or tablet, the site will adjust itself automatically for optimum viewing.

Kim DeBoom briefly discussed the District Newsletter which is now serviced by a new printer offering a high-resolution gloss-stock hard-copy previously unavailable from the District’s prior printer. Going forward DeBoom indicated she will refocus the newsletter to publish mostly information on “coming events” rather than share events that have already taken place.


Former Woodside Principal Brad Geesaman is now in his new position as Curriculum Director for the District. Geesaman presented a detailed overview of the Illuminate Education software which is being rolled out throughout the District. It provides a database tool for monitoring student achievement through a comprehensive system to keep student records with historical data. The software permits a true real-time basis for records access to tune lesson plans to either individualize instruction for a single student or a broader solution for multiple students long before mandatory annual state testing is taken.

Secretary Jason Meachum challenged Geesaman as to “…What guarantee do we have that teachers will actually use this in developing an instructional plan? And how will you track the teacher’s use of the product?”

Geesaman explained extensive training sessions with the staff combined with an intentionally slow roll out of the software integration is making for a non-confrontational transition from pen and paper to a software based tool that will make their job easier in the long run.

Red Arrow building update

Superintendent Hubbard recapped recent events regarding the disposition of the former Red Arrow Elementary building, now idled with the opening of Redwood.

A $1 million donation to rehab the building into a Community Center falls short of the preliminary figure of $2.7 million per a recent study by Kingscott Architects working in conjunction with Kallaward Construction for the bidding of work. The bulk of cost is tied to major code revisions. With the change of purpose for the building, many previous provisions must now be adhered to. City Manager Yemi Akinwale has been involved to search for possible grant opportunities. Akinwale has sent the project to the City’s architectural firm Wightman and Associates for a second opinion on cost. That report is expected perhaps in December. Neither HPS nor the City will incur any costs in the work done by either architectural firm.

City Commissioners Frank Docktor and Terry Tibbs were both present. Tibbs, who serves as the City representative to Van Buren Senior Services warned the VBSS board of directors may not be willing to wait, as their need for space is immediate. Tibbs also expressed concern as how the district would maintain the property going forward. Dockter also expressed concern about the future of the building in light of the need for clean-up of non-conforming properties in the city. He further expressed his disbelief that a project could cost that much and wondered if a local contractor would do the work at cheaper cost.

Hubbard and Business Manager Mike Hallgren both responded, first that HPS will continue to mow and generally maintain the exterior as long as it owns the building. District maintenance workers will begin winterizing the building shortly. Hallgren further reminded the board that their responsibility is to “…Dispose of the building, not redevelop it….” The board will reserve any action until the second proposal can be reviewed.

Superintendent Report

District Superintendent Andy Hubbard reported the student enrollment numbers appear to have exceeded projections on October Count Day. Hubbard alluded to some budget adjustments he may recommend next month. He went on to caution the board that the new city bus route may be well-received by parents, but at the same time it has taken a bus from the District’s back-up fleet. Though idle through most of the year, the extra buses get almost daily use in spring when baseball, softball, track and now girls’ soccer all converge.

Hubbard also addressed the question of a possible Liaison Officer for the HS/MS campus. Informal quotes from Hartford and Bangor Police Departments have ranged from $12-$14,000 annually. The Van Buren County Sherriff’s Department is also a consideration.

Hubbard will be going over the job description for the Business Manager position about to be posted. The description was last updated in 2005. Hallgren and Hubbard will verify that current standard tasks are included.

The Board meets next at Central Office on Thursday, October 19 for the monthly business session, 7:00 p.m.

MISS EAU CLAIRE/SODUS 2018 CONTESTANTS… are pictured (from the left) Gabrielle Turbyfill, Shyan Yonts, Jamie Tidey, Alyssa Mast, Elizabeth Jorgensen, Mikayla Blanco, and Skylar Hicks. The pageant date is October 21, 2017 at 7:00 p.m. at the Student Ac-tivity Center on Main Street in Eau Claire. The theme for Blossomtime this year is “Blossomtime Rolls out the Red Carpet.” The communities of Eau Claire and So-dus have selected “Eau Claire/Sodus Rolls out the Red Carpet on Agriculture.” These seven young ladies are vying for the title of Miss Eau Claire/Sodus 2018 and the winner will go on to compete in the Miss Blossomtime contest in March.


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