New hires fill various roles at school

A quartet of new hires and one contract renewal were approved by the Skagway School Board on Sept. 19.

The board signed off on bringing Ashlei Leggett and KayLynn Howard on as preschool aides.

Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran said the school has a large preschool class, which he thinks the school can count around 30 3- and 4-year olds during the shoulder seasons.

“That’s our biggest class in the building right now, is that 4-year-old class,” Coughran said.

Jill Cox was hired as spirit squad advisor.

Andy Miller’s contract as robotics coach was renewed, and Mary Tidlow was brought on as an additional coach. Skagway robotics’ Team Prickles performed well last season, winning the Southeast Alaska tournament in December 2016 and finishing fifth in the state robotics competition, out of 58 teams.

School Board approves gifted and talented plan

To give students with the ability to excel in certain areas the opportunity to do so, the Skagway School Board has approved a new High-Level Learner and Gifted and Talented Education plan of service.

“What we need to identify are students with specific needs,” Coughran said. “And when we talk about gifted students and our high-level learners, they have some pretty specific needs.”

Traditional practice with high-level and gifted learners is to advance them a grade level, but that solution may leave out some of the social and emotional needs of the students, according to Coughran.

“I think the entire nation struggles with how to serve this population,” Coughran said. “Our goal is that we’re able to maintain the peer group, serve the social/emotional needs of the child while also satisfying and challenging them academically.”

The goal of the new program is to challenge those gifted students to unlock their full potential.

The plan opens up myriad ways for students to be evaluated for high-level learning potential. Direct teacher referrals, achieving in the 97th percentile on a MAP assessment and even peer referrals from other students are ways to become a potential candidate for the program.

Once a student is in the program, Coughran said a plan of service would be created for them.

“Whether that involves additional support in the classroom, additional projects, things outside the school, we can’t really define that yet because it’s going to be kid-by-kid, and it’s also going to be content by content,” Coughran said. “We’re looking at students that have gifts in math, reading, language usage, leadership, science.”

School Board Member Jaime Bricker encouraged parents to give feedback on the program, good or bad, and added she thinks it is going to be “phenomenal” for the students.

First reading held on student travel request form

A new process may soon be in place for student travel. At the Skagway School Board’s Sept. 19 meeting, it held a successful first reading over a new process to help formalize the request process for student travel.

School policy mandates all student travel requiring an overnight stay must be approved in advance by the board.

Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran said traditionally student groups would come before the board to present details and funding mechanisms for their trips. The matter will go back before the school board for second reading at its October meeting.

-DAN FOX