DOLLAR BAY - The students at the Thomas R. Davis Elementary School will be using a new English language arts program, which Principal William Rivest thinks will greatly benefit them.
During the regular meeting Monday of the Dollar Bay-Tamarack City Area Schools Board of Education, Rivest told board members the new language arts program, called Journeys by publisher Houghton Mifflin, is unique to the area.
"This is the latest version that's out there," he said. "We are the only school district in the area to have it K through 6 (grade)."
Rivest said the program has both a book and an online component, and it can be used both for students having trouble and those who are doing well.
"We have lots of intervention material now, and we have another level above that for those that might be advanced in the language arts area," he said.
Rivest said the elementary school teachers are impressed by the program, also.
"There are enough teaching materials here to teach language arts for a full day, every day," he said.
The program also conforms to Michigan's Common Core education requirements, Rivest said.
"Reading isn't just reading anymore," he said. "It is much more complicated than that."
Comprehension of what students are reading is much more important, now, and Rivest said the new program should help students with comprehension.
"It is very exciting to have this (program)," he said.
Rivest said he and the staff looked at five programs over a two-year period before choosing the Houghton Mifflin version.
During his report to the board, Rivest said the latest state test scores show the Dollar Bay-Tamarack City district improved from the 44 percentile range in the state to 70 percent. However, because the district has so few students, results can vary widely from year to year, but he is guardedly optimistic about those results.
Rivest said the most recent ACT scores for the district are very good, also.
"We are above state averages in every area, some substantially," he said.
The biggest area of improvement for the ACT scores was in science, Rivest said.
Rivest told the school board members the district will be offering online classes to a greater degree than previously to keep up with state requirements.
"Online classes is something that is the future," he said.
Students have to request online classes, Rivest said, and if it's determined they qualify, they can take either all their classes online or they can combine in-person classroom time and online time.
Those students who take online classes are evaluated regularly to make certain they are learning properly, Rivest said.
Board President Dallas Bond said a recent survey about the schools taken by parents in the district went well.
"We had a lot of positive response towards the school," he said.
District Superintendent Jan Quarless said he was pleased by the positive responses to the survey.
"There was positive feedback whether it was administration, staff or teachers," he said.
Quarless said the responses to the survey were positive for every aspect of the district's functions.
"That's exciting," he said.
Rivest said he thinks the positive responses on the survey are due to the school improvement plan, which has been in place for years.
In other business, the board members:
approved the school calendar for the year.
approved the current parent-student handbook.
approved the hiring of Kelsae Eliszewski as girls' junior varsity volleyball coach, Jade Babcock as J.V. girls' basketball coach, and Sara Moilanen as junior high girls' basketball coach.
approved writing off the $4,333 food service debt, which Quarless said the district has been trying to collect from some parents without success for three years. Quarless said the district's auditor suggested writing it off as bad debt.