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CLCS, Ripley discuss ‘Restructuring Project’

August 25, 2016
By David Prenatt - , Westfield Republican

RIPLEY - Ripley and Chautauqua Lake school districts have been seeking to provide the "best of both worlds" to their students by exploring new ways to share services, Ripley Board of Education members learned Thursday.

CLCS superintendent Ben Spitzer joined Ripley Superintendent Dr. Lauren Ormsby in presenting the progress of the Administrative Restructuring Project that the two districts have embarked on in recent months. Spitzer said the districts doing well in their efforts to combine certain services in order to increase efficiency and decrease costs.

"I think this has been a very interesting, very exciting time. I think we have a really good start," Spitzer said. "We're always looking at what we can bring to the table that will benefit the kids."

Article Photos

Photo by David Prenatt
Michael Boll Jr. tells board of education members about his experiences as a high-school intern for Ripley’s Eagle University summer program.

Spitzer and Ormsby stood side by side and reviewed the services that the districts already share, as well as areas that they are currently working on.

The two districts began exploring shared services when Ripley tuitioned its students in grades 7 12 to Chautauqua Lake three years ago. Since then the districts have hired three persons who will share their services between the two schools. Wayne McGuire will serve as director of facilities and spend four days at Chautauqua Lake and one at Ripley. Jim Morrison will serve as transportation supervisor for both districts. And Pam Gross will serve as social worker for both schools.

Ormsby said that continuing to combine services would help to bring educational programs in the two districts into alignment with each other as well as with state guidelines and laws. Planners were looking at "anything and everything any opportunity that could arise to increase efficiency," she said.

Areas of primary focus for the future include student program and services, professional development, program efficiency and operations and management, Spitzer said. The districts will take steps to gather the resources needed, develop goals, formulate related work plans, address costs, create channels of communication, create written agreements, Spitzer said.

Spitzter and Ormsby spoke of ways in which the districts are combining programs for the students. For instance, Chautauqua Lake is incorporating Ripley staff into its program with the Kennedy Center in Jamestown, Spitzer said. And Ormsby noted that Ripley is including CLCS in its field trips.

Spitzer said the districts will also be looking for "striking moments," which he described as "opportunities for change." For instance, the retirement of the head bus driver gave the districts the opportunity to make the position as shared one.

There are several areas where the districts are hopeful that more services can be shared, Spitzer said. "Technology is a whole area where I think we can take a look at how we can do it and see some savings," he said. Also, Spitzer said that the area of business office functions had a lot of potential for mutual services. "It will take a lot of work. But I think there is some work to be done there that can be beneficial to both districts."

In other business, Ripley's Eagle University coordinator, Erika Meredith, reported that the district's third summer program had been a great success. Many new programs were added and 103 children were signed up, she said.

The program was expanded this year to include seventh and eighth grade as well as "early explorers" from the district's pre-school program, Meredith said. While no students from the eighth grade enrolled in the program, several seventh-graders took part, she said.

Eagle University offered many new activities this year, including volleyball, engineering, acro-dance, football and crime-scene investigation, Meredith said.

The board also heard from Michael Boll Jr., one of the high-school interns for Eagle University. Boll said the experience helped him grow as well by giving him the opportunity to teach others.

Ormsby applauded the high-school intern program for Eagle University. Having the high school students assist in the courses provided unexpected benefits, she said.

"With the addition of the high school students, what we saw was the kids trying harder, trying to be like them," she said.

Ormsby also updated the board on the district's efforts to become an Expeditionary Learning school in the Deeper Learning network. Deeper Learning is an umbrella for several "brand names," such as Envision Education, Asia Society, High Tech High, and Expeditionary Learning. These groups are exploring new approaches to education that goes beyond the passive learning of information, she said.

Expeditionary Learning strives to actively engage the student in their education by focusing on master of content, student character, and high quality work, Ormsby said. Its goal is have the students not only learn, but the inspire and empower them to work for change in their communities, she said.

Ripley has incorporated many facets of EL into its curriculum in the past two years. Recently, it was officially invited to become an EL school, even though the group usually chooses schools in large urban areas.

Ormsby said EL is perfect for Ripley. "For our small town, it is essential for our students to know that they can have an impact on their community," she said.

In another matter, the board held a public hearing prior to the regular meeting to hear any comments regarding the first of Ripley's Smart School Investment Plan applications.

Ripley was recently awarded $540,000 by the state to be used to improve technology. Each proposal for use of these funds must be advertised to the public first before being approved by the board. After approval, the project is then submitted to the state for review.

Kimberly Oakes, director of Technology and Programs, said the first project would be to obtain Chrome Books for the fifth and sixth grades, and for the staff. The project will also involve training of the staff, as well as a cart to house the items and chargers. The district is applying for $20,000 for the project, she said.



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