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M-G Paying All Employees During E-Learning

By Tim Tedeschi March 18, 2020 Chronicle-Tribune

All Madison-Grant United School Corporation employees will continue to receive their regular pay while the district holds e-learning days due to the ongoing COVID-19 situation. 

The M-G school board unanimously approved a resolution at its Monday board meeting affirming that the district will continue to pay all of its employees regardless of whether they are working during this time or not. Teachers are continuing to instruct students virtually, and some non-teacher employees such as custodians and office workers will continue to work intermittently with adjusted schedules during the school’s e-learning days, Superintendent Scott Deetz said. Others, such as special education paraprofessionals and Title I assistants, are unable to work with their students during e-learning and are not working during this time. Deetz explained while teachers and administrators continue to receive their normal pay since they are under contract, all other employees who do not have a teacher contract are not typically paid if they are not working at the school during normal school days. 

“This is a very long ask to go without a paycheck. Yes, they know Christmas break they don’t get paid, at spring break they don’t get paid. They understand that, but this is something different,” Deetz said. “...For the foreseeable future, we’ve got folks that are making $11, $13 an hour that could go three or four weeks without a paycheck and not qualify for unemployment.” 

Deetz said the move covers all employees not under teacher contracts so as not to leave any employees out as an oversight, and includes workers such as bus drivers, custodial staff, Title I assistants, cafeteria workers, office staff, and more. 

He said the resolution to pay these workers is a legal mechanism that will pertain only to school days during this school year affected by COVID-19 and would not be an “evergreen” resolution for future e-learning days for inclement weather or other reasons in future school years. 

“So that allows us to legally continue to pay folks even though they’re not coming into the job and that could satisfy any accusations of ghost employment,” Deetz said. “It’s very straightforward, but yet something we never thought we would have to ask for.” 

Business Director Shaela Smith told the board tax revenues and funding for enrollment is still coming into the school as usual, so the paychecks for all employees will continue to be paid out of the typical revenues. She said she is keeping track of all employees being paid who are not working and any other additional expenses the district incurs due to COVID-19 with the hope that reimbursements and grant funding will be made available in the future.

M-G Gets Digital Learning Grant

The News-Sun

Wednesday, March 4, 2020

Fairmount, IN- The Indiana Department of Education (IDOE) recently announced Madison-Grant United School Corporation was the recipient of a $50,000 Digital Learning Community Advisory Grant. For 2020, grants were awarded to districts focused on building digital initiatives around the purposeful and strategic integration of technology into instruction. 

"Immersing children in a curriculum centered around technology and community establishes an academic environment whereby current and future success is certain to follow," said state superintendent Dr. Jennifer McCormick. "I congratulate our awarded districts for their commitment to creating lasting partnerships within local communities, and for their continual efforts to making a positive impact in the lives of students." 

With a continued spotlight on enhanced technology integration, IDOE expanded the digital learning grant to include a focus on building community partnerships. Eligible partnership opportunities also provided matching grants by way of monetary funding or in-kind services. 

Along with the expanded focus, 2020 Digital Learning Community Advisory Grants centers around connecting academic concepts to real-life applications, both in the classroom and abroad. By doing so, schools can maximize relevancy and engagement, thus transforming K-12 education for students. This year's grants requested schools further develop technology integration capacity through implementing transformational initiatives in one of three areas - Instruction and Learning, Leadership and Development, or College and Career Ready. 

In total, 52 districts were awarded nearly $2.5 million in funding, with grants ranging from $19,000 to $56,000.

Preparing Students to be Ahead of the Curve

Madison-Grant announces its partnership with Waterford.org as an addition to their early childhood curriculum as yet another piece of curriculum to round out a cutting-edge education through their early childhood programming. Waterford.org “seeks to blend the best aspects of learning science, mentoring relationships, and innovative technologies to form community, school, and home programs that deliver excellence and equity for all learners.” The program is currently being offered through Madison-Grant’s early childhood education programs and is being utilized in the classroom. Dr. Scott Deetz explains how Madison-Grant uses the tools provided by Waterford.org, “it's a vehicle for pre-k students to deliver curriculum that lends to academic development for our students. It’s part of our foundational curriculum that is in concert with live teaching. In our pre-k classroom, for example, a teacher is working at a center, then we'll have some students working independently through the software and monitor the progress on teacher assigned lessons based on level and interest that can adopt to students.” 

Madison-Grant extended their offerings in their community this year with the addition of the Argyll Adventure Academy, a STEM focused pre-k. Dr. Scott Deetz  says, “The intent of our early childhood programming, regardless of the program, is to develop a sound social and emotional foundations that will last through their career.” The addition of a STEM specific preschool is only one aspect says Deetz, “The steps we have taken is to have STEM related activities in each one of our pre-k programs. We went above and beyond to find outside funding through the Department of Education and grants to help develop our teachers professionally and also provide them with top notch resources like additional robots, computers, circuit boards, and software to deliver hands on experiences to our pre-k classes so our transition into our k–12 program is virtually seamless because this is the same focus we have in the rest of our system.” Waterford.org is an exciting part of this STEM focus in supporting teachers and students to be kindergarten ready as Waterford.org believes, “while every individual has the capacity for growth at every stage of life, childhood academic experiences are uniquely critical for setting a lifetime learning trajectory.”

Active Event Warning System

Madison-Grant United is accustomed to coordination. This district covers six townships between Madison and Grant Counties and works regularly with both sheriff departments, as well as two local police forces. “Any time there is an alarm, there is usually coordination between three agencies, if not all four,” said Superintendent Scott Deetz. This became apparent in March 2019, when multiple teachers reported the sound of gunshots to their school’s office. The system activated, and within ten minutes more than 100 first responders from 12 different agencies were on scene. Deetz worked to simultaneously communicate with media, parents, and teachers. While the noise was ultimately from construction activities nearby, the response was comforting to the school staff.

Through the SSSG, Madison-Grant United’s goal is to set up and initiate an active event warning system. The district will be using the same program as sister school Mississinewa, so he continues to promote efficiency of communication between all stakeholders. With so many agencies to coordinate, Deetz is hoping to standardize the system. “The next piece is creating a unified network between the two counties.”

Good Morning: Madison-Grant Gains Membership in National FFA

For the first time since the 1990s, Madison-Grant Jr./Sr. High School received a membership with the National FFA Organization. FFA is an intra-curricular student organization for those interested in agriculture and leadership.

With new construction this past summer, the school added over 1,400 square feet dedicated to agricultural education. With both Madison and Grant counties nearing 75% of land use for farming, according to the Indiana Business Research Center, the program is relevant to students in the area.

According to agriculture teacher Courtney Tate, membership in the FFA will provide new opportunities and access for competition and connection for Madison-Grant students in the new agricultural education program.

The group planned for four major events in the future. Their planning requires illustrating how parts of the projects involve the community, chapter, and members and how all can benefit.

Madison-Grant’s agricultural education program begins in the seventh and eighth grade, as all students participate with required course work. The classes introduce agriculture, as well as leadership skills, opening up the ability to a more advanced course load when they reach high school level.

Madison-Grant Starts Its STEM Focus at the Preschool Level

Rachel Dilts hands the four-year olds blue pegged geoboards. One student sits at a desk while others lie on their stomachs on a rug pulling rubber bands around the pegs to make squares, rectangles, and trapezoids. The exercise is part of a science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) lesson at the Argyll Adventure Academy at Summitville Elementary School, believed to be the only STEM-related program serving Madison County preschoolers.

"I think it helps the students having hands-on learning where they're doing it themselves instead of all on paper," Dilts said. "They are a lot more involved when it's hands-on instead of so much paper."

Open to 15 four-year olds, the Argyll Adventure Academy is one of three preschool classrooms at Summitville, through it is a separate program from the other two. Please take a moment to read the entire Argyll Adventure Academy article.

Summitville Elementary Reintroduces Cursive Writing

Article by Rebecca R. Bibbs with The Herald Bulletin. Photos by John P. Cleary

In Samantha Smith’s kindergarten classroom at Summitville Elementary School, an artist in a video instructs the dozen students to draw two long lines, then go out about an inch and draw a dot before connecting each line to the dot.

“Pinch it. Pick it up. Make the slide. Rest it on the next finger,” the voice instructs the students as they pick up a pencil to draw.

It may not seem the pencil that students are drawing and coloring in has anything to do with their ability to write in cursive, but the teachers and school leadership hope it will revive in Madison-Grant United School Corp. an increasingly lost art.

“There’s some science behind that that’s helping them with their grip,” said the school’s principal, Jackie Samuels.

As schools and districts have turned to computers over the past decades, students spend more time at keyboards and less time simply writing things down. Additionally, changes to Common Core standards that did not require handwriting further decreased students’ access to this once-important skill.

A 2017 survey by the Indiana Department of Education of school teachers and administrators concluded 70% supported a cursive writing requirement, but only about 20% of schools teach it.

Anne Trubek, author of “The History and Uncertain Future of Handwriting,” said initially the demands for a return to instruction in cursive writing in popular culture were rooted more to an idea that someone who is unable to do so is less civilized, cultured or educated. More recently, however, the idea of being able to write in cursive has been part of a patriotic rallying cry closely allied with the call for school uniforms and the Pledge of Allegiance, she said.

But education experts are also increasingly calling for a better balance between keyboarding and writing because some studies demonstrate a brain-to-hand link that shows handwriting improves academic achievement in all disciplines. For instance, officials for the College Board, which develops and oversees the SAT test, reported students who wrote the essay portion of the exam in cursive scored higher than those who wrote in print.

Summitville Elementary School has partnered with DrawntoDiscover to help students master the fine motor skills necessary for good penmanship. DrawntoDiscover also helps students strengthen their socio-emotional skills as the presenters talk about peace and tolerance while they guide the students through their tasks, Samuels said.

“The kids love it because they don’t realize how they’re growing because they’re drawing,” she said. “It’s really a lost art, cursive writing.”

Allison Gill, who teaches sixth grade at Summitville, said she has seen a decline in students’ abilities to write in cursive and has to spend more time teaching them something they used to learn in earlier grades. That’s why she is happy to see the DrawntoDiscover curriculum come to her school and become implemented starting in kindergarten.

“We’re very lacking in fine motor skills these days. These are just muscles that don’t develop as early as they used to,” she said. “They have trouble reading what they wrote and what other people do, as well.”

Though most contemporary books and documents are printed with uniform type, there are instances in which knowing cursive comes in handy, Gill said. For instance, people need to develop their unique signatures to ward off fraud.

Knowing cursive is equally important for literacy, Gill said. Students may be required to read an older document, such as the U.S. Constitution in its original form, she said.

“Even some novels have sections that are written cursive,” she said.

Bringing It Back

The issue of writing in cursive remains intensely political.

Cursive writing has not been part of Indiana’s education standards for more than a decade, but some lawmakers are pushing for its return. Some Hoosier lawmakers would like to join the two dozen other states that have reintroduced cursive writing to their curriculums.

In 2018, state Sen. Jean Leising, R-Oldenburg, for a seventh time authored a bill that would have required all traditional public, charter, and accredited nonpublic elementary schools to introduce cursive writing into their curriculum. It would have been considered a part of the English language arts standards.

In 2019, state Rep. Sheila Klinker, D-Lafayette, authored House Bill 1162, seeking the same.

Neither bill got very far in the process. Each year, Leising’s bill was killed by the House Education Committee chairman after passing the Senate.

Pre-K Students Learning STEM, Coding Skills

Article by Samantha Oyler with the Chronicle Tribune.

Pre-K Students learning STEM CodingWith no knowledge of a similar program anywhere else in the surrounding area, Madison-Grant’s Summitville Elementary School is pioneering a program called Argyll Adventure Academy that will expose pre-kindergarten students to science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“If they’re exposed to it early enough, it’ll be like second nature,” Summitville Principal Jackie Samuels said. The preschool STEM program was first announced back in May.

Students utilize tools like Dash, an interactive robot, to draw connections between technology and the coding that goes into it.

Dash responds to voices, sounds, and commands given through students utilizing tablets.

While Dash is technically designed for children ages 6 and up, officials at Summitville have adapted his abilities to suit 4-year-olds too.

The little robot has a variety of accessories that he can interact with, like a colorful xylophone.

As students tap a key on an image of a xylophone on a tablet, Dash follows along, tapping the same key.

Jenna Langel, an innovative learning specialist with Five Star Solutions, said that while there is a specific STEM preschool program at Summitville, the focus doesn’t stop at a particular grade level.

“We’re trying to create 21st century ready students,” Langel said.

The older grade levels take on both “plugged” and “unplugged” coding activities.

“Kids love these hands-on experiences. … They don’t even know they’re getting exposed to science,” Mallory Raichel, a Summitville fifth- and sixth-grade science and social studies teacher, said.

She said that this program has been a learning experience for not only the students, but the teachers and administrators too.

Those involved in the program spent time going to information sessions and doing research on age-appropriate coding activities they could implement.

In an effort to keep kids in line with technology advancements, Raichel said some staff will be training to work with a 3-D printer soon.

Raichel also has an aquaponics system set up in her classroom, which creates a sustainable environment by combining aquaculture and hydroponics systems.

All these tools will help students gain skills they can use in the future.

Madison-Grant Speaks up for Small Schools at Rural Caucus

Dr. Scott Deetz and State Rep. Tony Cook pose togetherIndianapolis, IN - (August 14, 2019) - The Rural Caucus met today at the Indiana State Fair in the Normandy Barn, where legislators gathered to learn about the issues facing rural communities in the heartland. Small and rural schools were first up on the agenda. Dr. Scott Deetz of Madison-Grant United School Corporation and Dr. Travis Madison of Barr Reeve Community Schools both spoke on their recent success by doing what rural communities do best: build community partnerships. The superintendents are stand out small and rural school corporations able to increase offerings at every level through their ability to tap into other resources.

State Representative Tony Cook was also in attendance and credits the success of Madison-Grant “to the grassroots efforts of the Madison-Grant team to cultivate relationships with community resources that benefit the students and staff.” Dr. Scott Deetz agrees, and said of their ability to thrive in a small and rural school community, “We teach our students how important it is to be connected as part of our community. This also holds true for our school system; we really focus on partnerships.”

Every year Madison-Grant students go out into the community to learn about service, volunteerism, and being a great citizen in their area. The school corporation is setting the example for students by working together with other systems as part of a co-op to reduce costs. “We partner with other school systems to share the cost of food services and are also a part of a consortium for insurance. Our costs are 25 to 30% less than those not a part of the group. We can funnel those dollars back in house to offer more to our students.” Special education is also another area where Madison-Grant maximizes funds by subscribing to a co-op and developing the services to best meet the needs of their students. Small schools are given the opportunity to thrive when control is local, and the community is invested in their success. Deetz credits community partners for amping up an initial offering of three dual credits just two years ago to currently 50 dual credits and the opportunity for students to graduate with 18 job ready certifications. Madison-Grant’s mission is to inspire, challenge, and cultivate excellence in every Argyll.

Pictured: Dr. Scott Deetz of Madison-Grant with State Rep. Tony Cook at Indiana Rural Caucus.

Google Certified Educators
staff working on laptop computers

We'd like to congratulate our educators listed below for their achievements in becoming Google Certified Educators! Our team at Madison-Grant focuses on providing the best education possible for our students. They spent part of their summer pursuing professional development to achieve this certification through coursework and testing. Congratulations on your achievement and dedication to education! Always ready to inspire, challenge, and cultivate excellence in every Argyll.

  • Eric Cale 
  • Katie Coryell 
  • Suzie Klee
  • Todd Morgan
  • Alice Bennett
  • Tara Eastburn
  • Amy Slane
  • Brittney Creager
  • David Pyle
  • Amber Cheney
  • Christine Myers
  • Michelle Harrold
  • Ben Hook
  • Jacob Sliger
  • TJ Herniak
Service Learning Day 2019 A Smashing Success

By Gwen Hodson

Students pose together in front of a buildingAt Madison-Grant Jr./Sr. High School, we believe that it is imperative to prepare our students for life after high school. This includes academic preparation as well as social, emotional, and civic preparation. So much of the knowledge that our children need for the future is rooted in the skills that come from social interactions, soft skill building, and the value of community. Community Service Day supports the building of all of these skills. Service learning is a way that we can help to foster the development of civic engagement skills by offering our students the opportunity to give back to our community. On Wednesday, May 15, 2019, Madison-Grant Jr./Sr. High School staff and students participated in a school-wide service learning day. Our plan included 452 students in grades seven through eleven going out into the towns of Fairmount and Summitville to participate in prearranged activities to beautify and serve citizens of these towns. We also had groups traveling into Grant County to serve some of our community partners such as Project Leadership, Gas City Park, Matter Park, and Splash House. Dee Amos of Summitville’s Main Street Organization and Alissa Meyer of Main Street Fairmount have been instrumental in helping us to coordinate our efforts within each town to provide meaningful experiences for our students, as well as to build relationships with members of the community through servant leadership. We have designed a special service project for our twelfth-grade students. They will begin the day by hosting breakfast for their elementary school teachers, to be followed by athletic clean up at the MGJSHS campus, and finally, they will host a post-event celebration for the returning grades seven through eleven students. It is our hope that Madison-Grant Jr./Sr. High School will lead our communities by example and create an environment that embraces service and citizenship. We would like to thank all of our partners, families, and students for making this event possible.

Madison-Grant in the News

We invite you to read through these news articles about our district.

Wyatt Rudy shooting a basketball