Charlton Heston Academy Approves COOR ISD Contract

By Kevin Howe

Tuesday, September 11th was not only Patriot Day but also the first time that the Charlton Heston Academy Board of Directors were able to meet inside of the charter school in Saint Helen. With an agenda set and ready to go at 7:00pm, the meeting brought out some new ideas and locked in much needed information for parents and students.

Currently, there are 220 students enrolled at the academy. Class sizes are an average of 15 students per class in the middle school and 22 in the K-5 grades. Keeping sizes manageable comes from teaching assistants being added to the classrooms. There are currently two vacant classrooms. One will be used as an instructor workroom, and the other will be the new Headstart classroom, slated to be open in Mid- October. Most of the playground equipment has been removed, with the exception of a swing set and the boat structure, both were deemed salvageable. The board will start looking for grant funding for a new playground that is to be designed by the students.

The board will post a new position to be filled in the coming weeks. This position will be for a network support technician. There are still a few bugs to be worked out of the wireless setup within the building, and should be taken care of by KB Technologies when they arrive

Superintendent Dave Patterson and Chief Academic Officer Jason Sarsfield both noted how great the community is for supporting this academy from day one. Patterson noted, “We have a great community here. No other community in this country could have opened a school like this in under two month’s time.” Patterson also stated they are still receiving donations from the community for uniforms and bus tokens.

Chief Academic Office Sarsfield added a big thank you to the staff, students and the entire team for making things run so smooth during the first days of operation. He noted, “It is great to hear school kids in this building again.” “We have gotten off to a great start this year.” Sarsfield also noted the addition of new staff members. Karen Laframboise is the new first grade teacher and Kate Lepper will teach health and physical education.

Student assessments are starting to take place and will continue for the next few weeks, well into October. These assessments are varied in levels, and will be completed at least three times during a school year to measure success and areas that may need work.

Building repairs are nearing completion and permits are being issued. Currently, the academy has a 30-day permit from the fire safety code enforcement due to some doors and alarms not properly functional. Patterson assured everyone that the building “is safe.

Talks will begin next month about renovations and possible expansions with the current building. The addition of a garage type building is also being looked at for storage and maintenance. This building would need workspace and a shop area for repairs to be done.

The one-year contract with the COOR ISD for special education needs was brought to the table. Patterson stated, “Our student population is sitting at 20% classified as special education. Of that 20%, a majority are St. Helen children, and that number is constantly growing.” Currently, the contract is proposed with a cost of an estimated $75,000 for services offered by COOR to the academy. The board voted all in favor to approve the new contract.

Patterson commended Rural Education Matters (REM) for their efforts in fundraising. REM covered the bills for the academy on their first month. Consumers Energy, DTE and insurance bills were paid by REM. Patterson noted, “REM is there for us. Whatever we need, they take care of it.”

Talks were done about the community using the building and grounds for activities. Patterson brought up flag football pick-up games and basketball on different days. In an all in favor vote, the board approved for Patterson to make the judgement call on what and when activities would be allowed on a case-by-case basis.

In public comment, Patterson commended and thanked Mike Jarosz for helping and not accepting payment. Pam Colby noted that t-shirts were bought with the academy logo on them and are for sale. There are 114 on order. They will be for sale next week at the school and the Hen House Restaurant. A new fundraiser has been started which is a joint effort between REM and St. Helen Metal & Iron. The public can take their scrap metal into the recycler and have the money donated to the academy. Judy Scroggin is selling tickets for the dinner theatre being held at Kirtland Community College on October 5th and 6th. The flag fundraiser that was held raised $5000 that will go to new uniforms. It was asked of the board if fundraiser letters could be sent home with kids for the parents to read. Patterson said he was not totally opposed to the idea, but that the academy needed to be careful and make sure that “meaningful correspondence” was sent home. Pam Scott commented that all three newspapers were present and maybe they could help the fundraising by adding it to the articles. Mike Jarosz mentioned to the board the possibility of the kids having a fundraiser for the new playground. This was taken on by the board to be discussed at a later meeting. Richard Wood publicly thanked Jan Waltz for the donation of the old school building model. Patterson held up a beautifully carved and painted wood sign with the academy logo on it. This was made and donated by J&K Custom Woodworking of Saint Helen.

Reprinted with permission – Roscommon County Weekly September 14, 2012 issue