Wellington Ed Board Approves Keely Spinelli Grant Requests

Wellington’s Education Committee approved grant requests from all 11 village public schools on Tuesday, Aug. 29. At the meeting, the board heard proposals from the school principals on how they would use their Keely Spinelli Education Grant funding for the 2017-18 school year.

Through the grant program, the Village of Wellington designates a set amount of money each year with the goal of helping the schools assist lower-performing students.

Out of the 11 public schools, six spent all the grant money received last school year, and five had money carried over. Every school requested either close to or exactly the $27,000 in designated grant money for the new year.

According to the grant summary, $295,000 is the total amount requested by the schools combined, and the total funding will come out to $319,339, taking into account the carryover from five schools.

“My concern is the money that wasn’t spent, and I’d like to see us focus on using all of the dollars that were given,” Education Committee Vice Chair Shelly Albright said. “I’m not sure if there is a specific reason as to why the funds aren’t spent every year.”

Principal Michele Johnson of Equestrian Trails Elementary School spoke on behalf of some of the schools regarding carryover dollars.

“My situation last year was that I had someone in place, and she quit after one week, and it took me to almost the end of December, right before winter break, to get that second person, so I lost all that time,” she explained. “You classes and want a qualified person to be in there working with your lowest 25 percent.”

Binks Forest Elementary School requested the hiring of new tutors, along with the purchase of 36 laptops.

“The goal last year was to hire tutors to work during the day, but we weren’t able to find them, so I asked my own teachers, and I got 15 teachers who signed on to tutor our lowest 25 percent last year,” Principal Michella Levy said. “I have 15 more teachers who have signed up, and that’s just a carryover from last year. I haven’t even put it out again for this year, so my goal is to get even more.”

Levy said she wants to bring focus to gains in mathematics, continuing to focus on reading like last year, in hopes to see gains in both this year.

Principal Gail Pasterczyk of Elbridge Gale Elementary School requested the hiring of a new reading teacher.

“This year, the focus of my grant is reading,” Pasterczyk said. “I finally, after several years, did find somebody to tutor during the day — a former teacher who had moved out of town came back. She is elementary [education], ESE certified and LLI trained already, and she is going to be tutoring three hours a day as an additional reading tutor.”

Johnson, from Equestrian Trails, asked to hire two new Leveled Literacy Intervention (LLI) teachers for grades K through 2 and 3 through 5, plus a part-time reading tutorial teacher.

“Last year, our scores were good. Our proficiency was great, but we still need to work on our lowest 25 percent,” Johnson said. “What I’m finding is the grant that started a few years ago, those kids, we focused on primary, and they’re getting up to the upper grades.”

Johnson hopes that bringing in a tutor before testing will help students in fourth and fifth grade who perform in the lowest 25 percent better prepare for the Florida State Assessment.

Principal Betsy Cardozo of New Horizons Elementary School requested the purchase of seven Reading A-Z licenses, tutors for grades K through 5, the hiring of a part-time LLI reading teacher for grades K through 5 and math tutors for grades 3 through 5.

“I actually have a lead, someone who Mrs. Pasterczyk told me about, for a part-time LLI teacher during the day,” Cardozo said.

Principal Edilia De La Vega of Panther Run Elementary School requested the hiring of a teacher who will tutor during the school day. She wants the person to work on the Fountas & Pinnell Benchmark Literacy Assessment for grades K through 2, as well as purchase Wilson Foundation Manual kits.

“Last year, we focused again on our lowest 25, with K through second-grade students,” she said. “We had a wonderful retired teacher who also has an ESE background, as well work with the students with Wilson Foundation, and she did a wonderful job with them. We’re going to rehire her again for this school year, but we also want to focus on our intermediate students.”

Principal Maria Vaughan of Wellington Elementary School requested the hiring of a part-time tutor for reading in grades 2 through 5 and the hiring of two new LLI tutors. She also requested the hiring of three tutors for reading strategies, five for math and the purchase of 110 Florida Ready workbooks.

“Last year, we used some of the money for tutorial and some of it to buy kits. This year, we did have some of our money, $7,725.16 to be precise, so we’re going to carry that money over in addition to the $27,000 that we hope to be getting to use mostly for tutorial,” Vaughan said. “We’re going to continue the allied tutorial program that we have during the day.”

Principal Ann Clark of Polo Park Middle School requested reading and math tutorials, along with tech tools to facilitate reading, intensive math and language arts, and the purchase of Newsela for high interest and low online reading magazines. She is purchasing books for intensive reading classes and seven LLI language arts classes.

“Our learning gains were at 62 percent, which was second in the district. To me, you get your kids where you get them, but those learning gains are the most important things,” Clark said. “Proficiency is great, but you’ve got to move them, and you’ve got to move them at least a year, and we’ve been able to do that.”

A guest author is scheduled to visit Polo Park this year. “This year, I want to have an author come in,” Clark said. “We do an author month, and I want to have an author come in and try to turn on those kids to reading and writing.”

Principal Eugina Feaman of Emerald Cove Middle School requested to provide remediation in math and reading, tutorial and mentoring in math and reading, and the purchase of tech tools for intensive and regular math classes, reading and language classes. She is also requesting the purchase of Newsela for high interest and low online reading magazines and is scheduled to have an author visit the school.

“We also have a battle of the books club, and our battle of the books students have requested for an author to come in as well, so we’re also going to do an author presentation,” Feaman said.

Principal Blake Bennett of Wellington Landings Middle School requested sets of books and magazines for reading classrooms, tutorial teacher pay, tech tools, a math instructor to offer tutorials and the purchase of supplemental materials.

“There is no curriculum for intensive math without your support,” she said. “We would not have been able to purchase the tech tools, the support materials and the teachers, as well as the tutorial piece we did, and that’s huge, and of course continuing with your support in our reading. We have four points up in our overall school’s learning gains.”

Principal Darren Edgecomb of Palm Beach Central High School requested weekend tutoring programs for math and reading, daily math tutoring during school lunch, new calculators and the System 44 Next Generation computer program for reading.

“In reading, we continue to use the System 44,” Edgecomb said. “We definitely think it sometimes emphasizes some of the skills that aren’t traditionally emphasized in high school. A lot of them are taught in foundational classes in elementary. It mimics a lot of the things that we did in elementary school, but they make the material at a level where high school students aren’t embarrassed to do it.”

Principal Mario Crocetti of Wellington High School requested tutorials for literacy and mathematics, new material for the media center, and after-school and weekend tutoring.

“This year, we are focusing strictly on learning gains, and, of course, you get to learning gains, then you get learning proficiency,” Crocetti said. “So, we are asking for a large chunk of money for the after-school tutorial — more than we have in the past. One of the pieces that we want to reduce is the student-to-teacher ratio.”

Education Committee Chair John Webber made a motion to approve each school grant request to improve learning for the 2017-18 school year, seconded by Committee Member Francine Nelson. The motion passed unanimously.