Southern heads back to school

SALINEVILLE – Southern Local students head back to the classroom today to start the 2014-15 school year. With the new year comes some changes for students, staff and parents.

Over summer break, staff and administrators have been hard at work looking for ways to utilize technology to enhance the curriculum for students.

The district will continue to implement familiar computer programs such as the phonics and spelling program Wilson Foundations – for grades kindergarten through third – and Wilson Reading Intervention – for students in grades seven through 12 – who need remediation.

Renaissance Learning is another innovative computer-based learning program which will continue to be used in the classroom this year. Students in all grades will spend some of their time using the program for all major subjects such as math, science and reading.

The program works by tracking each student’s progress through a series of tests on a given subject, allowing each student to progress at their own pace.

With the nationwide push for a greater emphasis on science, technology, engineering and math (STEM), the district will be taking part in a new program to change with the times.

The district was recently named as a recipient of the “Straight-A-Fund” grant. The $250,000,000 state grant program was created by Governor John Kasich last year as a way to encourage districts to update their curriculum to keep pace with scientific and technological progress.

With the grant money, the district will implement a STEM curriculum starting at the third, fourth and fifth grade level by using the “Inventor Cloud,” an online learning module provided by the Choufin Career & Technical Center in Youngstown, according to Superintendent John Wilson.

The grant will also provide students with two STEM lap top cards, a 3D printer, and remote access to the Choufin Career & Technical Center.

A major policy change could also be on the horizon at Southern this school year.

Wilson announced at a meeting of the board of education last week that he and members of the board’s policy committee had developed a rough draft of a drug testing policy for middle and high school students who participate in sports and extra-curricular activities or who hold parking permits. Under the proposed policy, students would be randomly selected for drug screens.

The board and Wilson invited the community’s input on a possible drug testing policy and will host a public forum Aug. 27 at 6 p.m. at the school.

Wilson said the policy could be adopted by the board as early as January of 2015.

Students will no doubt notice some new faces in the classroom and on the playing field as they head back to school today.

Several teachers already employed by the district moved to new positions, including Emily Smith who transferred to first grade teacher, Allison Brown who transferred to third grade teacher, James Malone who transferred to the elementary intervention specialist position.

Coaches added during summer vacation include Ashley Bergman as head girls basketball coach, Bill Watson as junior high head football coach and wrestling coach, Greg Sabbato as assistant junior high head football coach, James Malone as assistant varsity football coach, Brian Spahlinger as assistant varsity football coach, Brittany Madison as junior high volleyball coach, Aaron Blatch as seventh grade boys basketball coach, Cody Reese as eighth grade boys basketball coach and Anthony Saccoccia as a junior varsity boys basketball coach and assistant varsity football coach.