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Sun, Oct. 20

Discipline issues kept in line<br>

Special Olympics athletes Mark Konkel and Bryant Wiese, at left, return to their seats while athletes Chris and Ryan White finish shaking hands with school board members at the Nov. 17 Williams Unified School District Board meeting.

A September WEMS Board report indicates significant decreases in disciplinary referrals over the past two years. Over 1,200 referrals were reported for the 2002-2003 session, but only 597 were reported for the 2003-2004 year — a decrease of over 40 percent.

Administrators say WEMS is currently at about 90 referrals, which is less than 50 percent of the 2003-2004 numbers registered during the same months.

“I’m very happy with the way things are going,” WEMS Principal David Bowling said. “To have one year with over 1,200 referrals and then to go down like we have is marvelous.”

Both Bowling and Assistant Principal Jack Johnson attribute much of the success to having the school’s disciplinary room — called the Character Room — staffed nearly full time by Williams High School vocational teacher Sheldon White. White became available to staff the room due a reduction in vocational classes offered at WHS. When the Character Room is empty of students, he spends the day roaming the WEMS hallways, attending classes, and counseling kids until 1:30 p.m., at which point he goes back to WHS for his vocational students.

“We’re doing a lot of things,” White said. “We’re trying to be proactive to keep [students] from getting into the Character Room.”

Citing discipline as important not only for grades and learning ability, but also as a tool for better social development, Johnson says the new discipline policy has flowered and is taking off with both kids and parents understanding it better.

“We’ve been trying to cut [referrals] in half every year — that’s our goal,” Johnson outlined.

Other items discussed at the meeting included an approval of the district’s capital plan — a structured seven-year projection of growth or non-growth of student enrollment sent annually to the state’s School Facilities Board.

This gives the SFB an idea of what kind of monies to set aside for building construction once a school reaches its capacity. For Williams, the projected seven-year change is quite small — 790 total students in the district as opposed to 731 currently.

As explained by school board president, Janet Cothren, since forms are submitted annually, the district can adjust for the projected growth Williams city officials have recently speculated on.

Approval of district-wide distribution of monies received for the Classroom Site Fund — or 301 plan — was also given. The plan comes from the four-year-old Proposition 301 which takes a portion of state sales tax revenue and distributes it to teachers in a bonus-type structure.

Teachers receive the monies in addition to their standard pay. According to Cothren, 20 percent is spread evenly among teachers, 40 percent is awarded on a performance scale, and the remaining 40 percent is distributed based on points teachers and certified staff earn for extracurricular activities.

The Nov. 17 meeting started, however, with the highlighting of accomplishments within certain areas of the district.

One such accomplishment was that of the Williams High School Band, which won awards at a recent state-level competition with 22 other 1A, 2A, and 3A bands at Higley High School.

Another accomplishment that received accolades at the meeting was that of the district’s special education students.

Of them, six — those with aquatic abilities — competed at a recent Special Olympics aquatic competition in Scottsdale on Oct. 8-9, and four came back with medals.

Mark Konkel, a first-timer at this particular event, won the gold for his backstroke while Bryant Wiese won a bronze medal for his efforts in the 25-meter freestyle swim. Carisa Stilwell received a silver medal in the same swim as well.

Twins Chris and Ryan White also competed and won. Ryan took home the silver for the 25-meter freestyle competition.

For Chris, his gold medal for the same competition was especially well received because it was his first time in Special Olympics and his very first time away from home.

Tarl Cribbs, a competitor from Seligman invited on the basis that Seligman has no Special Olympics team, received a participation ribbon.

“What was nice was that we only competed in seven events, but we came away with five medals, so that was great,” recalled WEMS Special Education Instructor Peggy McCahan.

Finally, members of the WEMS Student Council took to the floor to highlight their latest newsletter publication — called the Communicator, complete with an Arnold Schwarzenegger head shot on the front page — and upcoming events/fund-raisers at the school. Those include holding more dances, more raffles and fund-raisers for playground equipment, and making posters to support various school sports.

Many were delighted at the quality of the displayed newsletter issue, produced by eighth-graders in the Publications class.

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