Last updated: August 14. 2014 4:40PM - 54 Views
Gary Chapman Superintendent, JA schools

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Dear Jonathan Alder parents and school community,

Welcome to the 2014-15 school year. It’s my hope that you’ve had a restful and rejuvenating summer with your family and friends. We, with many of you reading this, have been working hard for our schools and students. This is the type of work we love to do regardless of the fact that we have real challenges and areas for improvement as a school district and a service-oriented organization.

As we prepare to welcome your students to our schools and classrooms on Wednesday, Aug. 20, I want to provide you with an update highlighting some of the endeavors we have undertaken in striving to provide the opportunity, flexibility and accessibility our students need.

Over the past year our teachers and administrators have been working diligently to seek donations and apply for various grants which will have a direct impact on our classrooms and students. Since July of 2013, we have applied for and received more than $70,000 in grants and donations. These dollars and resources have gone directly to our students in the form of classroom supplies, digital textbooks, listening centers and book rooms. We are extremely grateful to our athletic and music boosters who continue to support our student participants in extra and co-curricular activities and performances through combined donations of more than $35,000.

Through various K-12 state technology grant funding sources, E-rate and permanent improvement dollars, we have been able to provide greater accessibility to technology for our students. This year teachers and students at Monroe will see broadband capacity increased by 250 times its original speed. In addition, by October of this year, Monroe, the junior high and high school students will have wireless accessibility. This will be the first time in Jonathan Alder history where all pre-school through 12th grade students will have access to the internet regardless of where his or her computer may be.

As we continue our work to keep kids safe at JA, visitors will soon experience new camera and buzzer systems at Monroe Elementary, Plain City Elementary, Canaan Middle School and the high school main entryways. These systems will be similar to the one currently used at the junior high.

Although you will see many new faces when school begins, we have not yet been able to add classroom teaching positions. As a result we still have teacher student ratios which are higher than we would prefer. However, we have used our financial challenges to spur creativity and innovation for our students. Our high school students will now have more flexibility through a new “Innovative Learning Series” which includes a small menu of elective course offerings. Desperately needed library services at Plain City Elementary and Canaan have been reinstated to original levels.

For the first time, our students at the junior high will have opportunities for exploration in Engineering & Informational Technologies programs provided by our partnership with Tolles Career & Technical Center. This year Canaan students will have accessibility to a new creative learning space which was envisioned and designed by students last year. Working together the students raised funds to purchase comfortable furniture, bright paint colors and new technology for all students to enjoy.

And, most recently on July 29, the district received notification of acceptance of a 21st Century Grant application for Plain City Elementary. The district will receive $357,000 each year for the next three years, dedicated to our students. This grant is significant in that it provides greater opportunities and accessibility for our K-4 students through various after school literacy, math, intervention and enrichment programs, kindergarten literacy intervention, materials, resources and technology support and integration.

In spite of the funding challenges our district faces and public education imposes, we will continue striving to provide the opportunity, flexibility and accessibility our students need. Although we will not receive any additional dollars from the passage of the May 2014 levy until April of 2015, your vote of confidence is providing a tremendous testament of hope and optimism for our staff — and most importantly — for our students.

If you cannot tell by the tone of this letter, I am excited, hopeful and encouraged about the 2014-2015 school year and the work we are doing for our kids. I want to welcome you to be part of this excitement and energy in making JA an even better place for students.

As you send your most precious possession “off to school,” please know that you are sending them to staff, principals, and teachers who truly love what they do and will work relentlessly in taking care of kids … our kids.

Gary Chapman is the superintendent of Jonathan Alder Local Schools. He can be reached via email at chapmaga@japioneers.org.

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