Conneaut Area City Schools Superintendent Kent Houston said that the last two weeks have been “incredible,” thanks to two grants and an anonymous donation totalling $130,000 for the SPARC campaign -- not to mention preliminary data showing major improvements in student scores on last spring’s state assessments.
SPARC -- an acronym standing for “A Social Place for Athletics, Recreation and Community -- is the name for the Conneaut schools’ athletic complex improvement project that kicked off about two years ago with the building of new bleachers. The project is far from over, a state-of-the-art track facility north of the football field on the former Eighmy property, and eventually, new tennis courts to the south.
Houston told the Conneaut Area City Schools Board of Education at its June 28 meeting that the school district had received two $10,000 grants for the project from the Conneaut Foundation and the Ashtabula Foundation, and a $100,000 anonymous donation.
The donation was a result of a SPARC “marketing” effort of sorts recently undertaken in Cleveland, where Houston said many CHS graduates reside.
Houston and Jerry Eighmy, a member of the non-profit C.A.R.E. for Kids fund-raising committee gave the presentation in Cleveland.
Houston said much of the new stadium concession stand and restroom infrastructure, such as sewer and water are in place, and he thanked Denny Bowman for donating the engineering.
The Conneaut Music Boosters plans an all-day food and music festival, “JamFest,” on July 14 to raise money for the stadium band shell.
Since SPARC money may be used only for buildings, Houston showed the board chain-link fencing to be installed on the property. To raise money, the group plans to sell 4x8-inch blocks for advertising signs that fit onto the chain-link fence, in the same way that groups sell sidewalk bricks.
Privacy and other fencing, plus a sidewalk, is needed along the east side of the stadium.
He thanked Polchosky for donating trenching services; the school district paid only for the gasoline. He thanked Reuben Schwartz for tearing down and hauling away other materials.
“It’s great in-kind service from people in this community,” he said.
Due to work at the stadium, boys’ soccer will move to Lakeshore Primary School and girls’ soccer to Conneaut Township Park. The lawn crews will line the fields.
“The fields are supposed to be three hundred feet. They’re 299 feet, so it’s doggone close,” he said.
CBOE member Joan Norton said she was pleased with the community response to the SPARC campaign, and board member Cris Newcomb said that receiving so many positive e-mails made it a “good week.”
Houston had even more good news to deliver Thursday night.
Stressing the word “preliminary,” Houston said he was too excited to keep quiet about preliminary raw data from the spring’s Ohio Achievement Assessments that he pulled from a spreadsheet at 5:30 that morning.
“The data is very preliminary, but we have the opportunity as a district to have 24 out of 26 indicators. That’s an all-time high,” he said.
Houston said the district may meet the “Annual Yearly Progress” indicators for the first time in three years.
“If we can do this two times, we may get the state off our backs,” he said. “It’s very preliminary, but it could be awesome.”
Early results from Gateway Elementary School -- which met its AYP last year -- show it has the potential to attain five of seven “indicators.”
“Two were right at 75 percent, so we may get three out of seven or five out of seven. It’s close,” he said. “But it’s too exciting not to tell, and I’m tickled to death. We’re moving in the right direction.”
He was also elated about results from Conneaut Middle School, where a change in principals in late February caused a stir among some teachers and parents. For the first time ever, it met eight out of eight academic and attendance indicators, which was especially noteworthy due to his abrupt change in principals in late February, a move that upset some parents and teachers.
“My hat is off to the staff. They stepped up,” he said.
Houston also Conneaut High School will achieve its “excellent” ranking for the eighth year in a row, having met seven out of seven academic and attendance indicators. He said that the “longitudinal” graduation rate remains unknown, however..
“We’re are demanding academic excellence for all,” he said, “and you have no idea the pressure on the administrators.”
Houston and the board were grateful to Conneaut City Council for its passing a resolution to support the ALICE training in new lock-down procedures in school buildings. He anticipates starting the next academic year with a training for staff, then branching out to include parents and students.
He also announced that the school district will partner with the Conneaut Human Resources Center’s free after school Right Track program, improving after-school busing to the CHRC and involving teachers to tutor students during the homework period.
He said that CHRC Executive Director Debbie Newcomb has applied for a grant to offer those teachers a stipend.
“We are trying to make it happen,” he said.
The school board’s work session was virtually eliminated after the board spent from 5 to 7 p.m. in executive session. It had called for an executive meeting at 5 p.m., work session at 6 p.m., and regular session at 7 p.m.
Houston and Conneaut Area City Schools Treasurer Lindsay Cotton were excluded from the meeting, though Cotton was called in near the end.
The Board of Education will meet in 6 p.m. work session and 7 p.m. regular session on Thursday, July 19 in the Professional Development room on the second floor of the Southeast Building, 400 Mill St.