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Test standards ‘finally caught up to us’

Improvement plans are next after reading scores fall short

ROCK FALLS – The Rock Falls Elementary School District has fallen behind in reading scores, but continues to get high financial marks.

The district’s board on Wednesday discussed the failure of Merrill and Dillon elementary schools and Rock Falls Middle School to meet federal standards in reading for the second straight year.

It also accepted an audit report, moved funds to complete a cafeteria project, made some hires, and extended work hours for some.

Reading scores

The district must make improvement plans after its three schools failed to make Adequate Yearly Progress again last year in reading under the federal No Child Left Behind act. It also must send a letter to Dillon and Merrill parents explaining that, if the district had more than one facility for each grade level – it doesn’t – they would have the opportunity to switch schools for their children.

The state board of education must approve the letters before they are sent.

The AYP status was part of the district’s report cards reviewed by the board.

Under No Child Left Behind, the state’s proficiency benchmarks for student performance increase by 7.5 percent each year.

“It finally caught up to us,” Superintendent Dan Arickx said.

Board member Troy Ebenezer said the test scores don’t take into account that the district has “a lot of kids who are going through a lot of stuff.”

Meanwhile, Arickx noted that the No Child Left Behind act itself might get left behind. He called the program which demands all public elementary and secondary schools meet AYP standards a “lame duck program.”

“We’re waiting to see what happens just like everybody else,” he said. “We are churned up in the middle.”

Cafeteria work

The board voted Wednesday to move – and not return – $700,000 from the working cash fund to the operations and maintenance fund to pay for the cafeteria project at Dillon Elementary School.

After the transfer, the working cash fund will have slightly more than $100,000, Arickx said.

The cafeteria project, which is expected to cost $968,600, is on schedule to be finished by mid-February. The weather has helped the progress, and it is hoped that a roof will be installed before this season’s first snow, Arickx said.

District audit

An audit report by Wipfli LLP was accepted by the board.

The district received about $340,000 in cash on July 1 because of its annexation of the former Riverdale Elementary School District, said Dan Ribordy, partner of the accounting firm. The district also assumed $345,000 in bonds because of the annexation, he said. He rated the district a 3.8 on a 4-point scale, meaning he expects the district to receive recognition from the state.

Personnel decisions

The board also voted to hire a night custodian at the middle school and a food server at Merrill, and to extend the hours for breakfast servers and breakfast supervisors at Dillon and for the Riverdale Preschool Center custodian and nurse.

The number of students in the district who eat breakfast at Dillon has increased from 80 to about 140, Arickx said. The extension of hours for breakfast supervisors and servers will cost the district $2,395, Arickx said.

The extension of hours for the preschool nurse will cost $2,370; for the custodian, $2,909.

The board also voted to hire three coaches: for seventh-grade boys and girls basketball and track.

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