School board trustees were presented with a trove of data about Four Georgians students Tuesday, but it was the students themselves who stole the show at the board’s work session.
A group of kindergartners danced to “Shout!” and a third grade student sang an original ode to his school, adding a bit of charm to principal Melinda Thompson’s presentation about academics and school services.
In her remarks, Thompson emphasized the staff and parent work to create a warm, “family” environment at one of the district’s largest elementary schools.
Trustees also heard about student performance on seasonal benchmarks in math and reading. The district-wide assessments are ungraded but provide teacher and administrators with data to track student learning.
Four Georgians boasts a unique writing program for students that assesses third, fourth and fifth graders in both fall and spring. The school presented data on scored writing samples which indicated that 95 percent of fifth graders were at least proficient writers by the spring quarter of their last year at 4Gs.
Ninety-five percent of students this year have had little or no behavioral incidents. For those who do, the school offers a variety of alternative recess options and other support, Thompson said.
Four Georgians also reported an attendance rate that is better than the district average — an average of 5 percent of students were absent on a given day last semester — but still somewhat below district goals.
Thompson noted that attendance data may reflect a change this year in district attendance policy. If a student is more than 30 minutes late to school, they now record a partial absence, rather than a tardy.
Trustees asked Thompson about the benefits to the school’s larger size, as it looks to expand other schools as part of a bond measure. Four Georgians currently enrolls 490 students.
“I would say one of the nicest pieces is that connection that we’ve built within our building of the older students with the younger students,” Thompson said.
“It really helps to make a rich group when you have a bigger group working together,” she added of school staff. “We have full-time specialists. I think that plays a nice role in helping us because of the scheduling opportunities we have.”
Thompson said it takes a concerted effort for staff, and students, to connect in the larger environment.
“It’s obvious you’ve worked very hard to have a community here,” trustee Libby Goldes said.
In his report, Superintendent Kent Kultgen said a work group for the elementary bond proposal is being established, with a first meeting date set for March 19.
Former Helena Education Foundation Executive Director Cindy Lewis will facilitate the committee of some 35 stakeholders, Kultgen said.
“We wanted to bring in somebody who knew the community and who knows the challenges of the schools but could be objective,” he said.
The meetings will be open to the public and will include time for public comment.