Students discuss district attendance

TORRINGTON – Relationships between students and teachers was a major talking point during the Goshen County School District Board meeting on Tuesday. 

Before the meeting, the board held an executive session for personnel reasons. 

During the meeting, the student representatives discussed the declining attendance in the school district as recommended by the board. Kamryn Rafferty from Lingle-Fort Laramie High School (LFLHS) said she worked with fellow representatives Klacie Groene from Torrington High School (THS) and Alex McIntyre from Southeast High School (SEHS). Rafferty said she sent out surveys to her classmates which asked how many absences they had and if they felt it was easy to miss school. 

“From some people I heard that since there are multiple sports going on at once especially in the winter and the fall they felt as though it wasn’t necessary to come on the Friday’s where there’s a wrestling meet and a basketball game going at the same time,” Rafferty said. 

Another reason students tend to miss school is because teachers upload all the assignments on Canvas which students find easier to look up at home than to do it at school. Rafferty said she has missed 15 days of school but has been able to make up the work.

“Personally, I feel there is not a whole lot of consequences. I have developed this thing called ‘senioritus’ but a year earlier,” Rafferty, a junior, said. “Although I do miss a lot of assignments, I’m one of those people that makes it up at home.

“One thing I think we can do to encourage better attendance is first of all tighten up the consequences a little bit and also encouraging students to take harder classes could be a good solution,” Rafferty said. 

In Torrington’s survey, Groene said 50% of the 51 students who responded said attendance was important. In terms of the relationship between the grading system and attendance, Groene said 50% of students said the grading system allowed for less attendance while also keeping up in classes. 

“My question that really struck me the most was did they feel like they missed out on learning when they were gone for various activities, 61% said that they did not miss out on any learning while missing classes,” Groene said. “I found that kind of shocking.”  

The last question asked on Groene’s survey was what the student’s main reason for attending school is. Groene said 24% responded for academics, 76% was for sports and activities. 

In Southeast, McIntyre said he interviewed about 30 students to see what they would like to see from the board and the school.

“Their perspective on the attendance is they just don’t care,” McIntyre said. “There’s not enough incentives, there’s not enough punishments that they can feel like they’re being pushed to attend school.”

Some underclassmen said sports detract from some of the incentives they feel would positively impact attendance. 

While there was discussion about incentives and punishments, Rafferty said most students will attend classes where they feel “seen.” 

I feel as though a lot of students don’t feel seen in all of their classes like if they miss a day they don’t have a teacher saying are you okay do you need to catch up in this do you need help at this time,” she said. “I know teachers that will stay from 7 o’clock at night to 9 o’clock at night doing a study hall for students that just aren’t caught up in their class.” 

Groene added 80% of the students she surveyed at THS have a relationship with a teacher or administrator who push them. 

Trustee Dylan Hager asked if the current grading system has had an impact on students’ attendance. Groene said she believes it has decreased motivation because most students feel they only need to pass the assessments to pass the class. 

Chairman Miller followed up the question by asking if most students are not in classes which challenge them. Rafferty said her college classes have less leniency on late assignments than her high school classes. 

Kramer also asked the representatives if students who knew they were going to fail class would stop going to classes. Rafferty said she knew a senior who missed 80 days but when he knew he was going to graduate he stopped trying in class. 

The board also heard from the LFLHS student council along with faculty sponsor Erin Estes about the work they have done at their school. Estes said she focused on teaching the students what their values are, setting goals and managing time. 

Dally Wilkins talked about how in leadership development they learned about individual and council growth as well as time management. Wilkins also said they organize community events such as school blood drives, homecoming events and a Christmas dinner. 

Leah Foster talked about the school spirit events put on by student council which they noticed a lack of in previous years primarily due to the pandemic. 

“People were a little bit sad coming back from COVID and we wanted to bring back the love for what it meant to be a Dogger,” Foster said. 

The student council brought back “game days” with themes for every home game. The themes ranged from “neon night” to “Hawaiian night.”

In terms of speeches and elections, Wyatt Sylvester said they organized training for those interested in order to increase participation in council positions. 

Maddy Saul talked about the Wyoming Association of Student Councils (WASC). Saul said she was proud to represent Lingle with the rest of the council at the state level. 

Louden Bremer talked about meeting they had about leadership development and gave a short presentation he did at the WASC convention about time management. Bremer showed how prioritizing major goals first helps to organize everything else. 

Superintendent Kramer asked the students if their relationship with Estes impacts what they do. Bremer said Estes teaches them a lot about how to grow and how to be leaders. 

“We transfer that into all of our peers I think and that’s what’s really helping to change the culture in Lingle,” Bremer said. 

In other information items, district guidance counselors addressed the board about neurofeedback. THS counselor Michelle Ogburn said they are requesting the purchase of Neuroptimal Advanced Brain Training Systems. The problem in the school system according to Ogburn is systemic problems of continued behaviors which affect students’ academic performance. 

Depression, anxiety and trauma are issues which could be solved by neurofeedback, Ogburn said. Most kids have a hard time to talk about what is wrong when dealing with trauma, but neurofeedback is used to help calm a student and transition back into “learning mode.” 

Ogburn referenced research from Dr. Bessel van der Kolk which showed trauma literally rearranges the brain’s wiring, but neurofeedback can reactivate those areas. 

Ogburn said it is not biofeedback which is when a person learns to control their blood pressure while neurofeedback uses a machine to trigger brain patterns. 

The machine is not a medical device and is done through music. The student wears headphones with pads which track the electric impulses from the body. A screen provides colorful images and when there is an abnormality in the brain the music pauses which the brain adapts to on a subconscious level. 

Ogburn said it can be used for anxiety, depression, ADHD, PTSD, trauma-related behaviors, chronic pain and even sleep. Ogburn also said there has yet to be a negative side effect found from neurofeedback. 

Superintendent Kramer said 91 parents were asked by the counselors if this would be something they would want to try with their kids and every parent said yes. 

During district recognitions, retirees and staff resigning with 10 or more years of service were recognized which included THS and Torrington Middle School (TMS) nurse Wendy Lewandowski of 34 years, special education teacher and district case manager Gaylene Guth of 29 years, Lincoln and Trail elementary and art teacher Sherry Kelly of 27 years, Lincoln Principal Nyana Sims of 18 years, TMS lunch clerk and special education paraprofessional Dona Foster of eight years and THS trade and technology education/woods teacher Charles Richter of six years. 

The board also presented a scholarship to Tyne Stokes who was the 2021 THS student representative to the board. Kyland Fuller from LFLHS and Bree Coxbill from SEHS also received the scholarship but were unable to attend the meeting. 

Superintendent Ryan Kramer was also recognized as a top five finalist for the state’s superintendent of the year.

During public forum, Rebecca Cochran addressed a student-related issue which the board decided to discuss further with her in an executive session. 

After the executive session, the board approved the consent agenda which featured a special education contract with Wyoming Child and Family Development Inc. for preschool screening services not to exceed $8,000 from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023 and contracting with Great Minds for Professional development to provide an additional Eureka Math administrator training session for $3,900. 

In old business, the board approved District Policy 3381 (memorials for students or staff) on introduction and first reading which was tabled at the last meeting. Revisions to District Policy 5131.7 (interscholastic athletics and school activities on second and final reading. 

In new business, the board approved the salary of Superintendent Kramer for the upcoming school year and teaching contracts to Cathy Herstead as an academic interventionist at THS and Kaitlyn Koepp and Kathryn Keller as teachers at Lincoln Elementary. 

The board also approved the resignation of THS family and consumer science teacher Lisa Bartlett, a contract renewal for business officer software from Software Unlimited from July 1, 2022 through June 30, 2023 with the addition of Web Link for $10,545, the purchase of greenhouse equipment for THS from Greenhouse Megastore for $15,142, the purchase of a Hot Water System at LFLHS, a contract extension with Brooke Carson LLC for additional autism consulting services for $12,000, the purchase of Orton Gillingham materials from the Institute of Multi-Sensory Education (IMSE) for $13,309.74, the purchase of classroom supplies from School Specialty for $6,360.91, the purchase of Orton Gillingham transition teacher materials for program revision from IMSE for $14,081.25, contracting with IMSE for district Orton Gillingham professional development and support for $293,500, proposed revisions to District Policy 3651.1 (gate receipts and admissions) on introduction and first reading, revisions to District Policy 4150.5/4241 (military leave) on introduction and first reading and proposed revisions and title change to District Policy 411.9/4219/5156 (sexual harassment) on introduction and first reading. 

The board also rejected a bid received from Complete Wireless Technologies for the P25 Radio Bridge project. According to Business Manager Marcy Cates, the bid was received late and incomplete. 

The preliminary budget was approved and a public hearing will be held during the regular meeting on July 12. 

During discussion topics, Trustee Matt Cushman asked to send another survey to see how teachers feel about standards based grading. In response to a request to send the surveys to students and parents as well, Superintendent Kramer said it will be a tight deadline to get it done before the end of the year, but they will try to do so. The board also discussed holding open forums with select board members at each school to allow members of each community to voice their opinions. 

During the superintendent report, Kramer said a special meeting will need to take place after the interview with the principal for Torrington High School which was set for Thursday. The meeting will consist of offering a contract to the candidate and accept other resignations. 

Kramer also said next month’s board agenda will have an item for high school girl’s wrestling, middle school cross country and allowing Valley Christian students to participate in extracurricular activities at TMS. 

The next meeting is June 14 at 7 p.m. 

© 2022-The Torrington Telegram


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