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KPS parents plan ACT workshop
 
By Jon Dohrer
Kingston Public Schools
 
KINGSTON — Parents at Kingston have become involved in implementing a federal/state program for college preparation.
Appearing at Monday's Kingston Public Schools Board of Education meeting, Kelly Shipley delivered a report on the progress and plans of a parent group helping to carry out the collaborative project Gaining Early Awareness and Readiness for Undergraduate Programs. That initiative seeks to increase the number of students who are prepared to enter and succeed in postsecondary education.
Shipley, who has attended workshops and training with fellow committee members Trina Williams and Amy Stauffer, said involving parents in the GEAR UP program is an important component of the project.
"It's our job as parents to do everything we can to help our children succeed — not only our own kids, but all the children of the community, since they are our future," Shipley said.
The parent committee is currently raising funds to host an ACT workshop to help students to prepare for the college entrance examination, and also increase the number of Kingston students who take the test.
Connie Arneson, regional GEAR UP coordinator, was on hand to give board members an overview of the project.
"We're trying to help students in seventh through 12th grades prepare for college, regardless of their income level or any other circumstances" she said. "If you teach to ACT standards, you're covering Common Core, you're covering PASS objectives — you're covering it all."
Arneson added that the program provides funding and training not only for students, but also to assist teachers and administrators in helping to prepare students.
Shipley said the GEAR UP Parent Leadership Association has gone through extensive classes and workshops to prepare them for project implementation. She, Williams and Stauffer have studied the ACT, the EXPLORE test and school report cards at length in an effort to understand the district's needs and to establish goals for the GEAR UP program. The group has set two primary goals.
First, the parents would like to increase students' collective test scores by at least 10 percent, a lofty goal for a district that already leads its region in ACT improvement. Superintendent Jay McAdams told board members he wholeheartedly approves of that objective.
"Ten percent — that may not sound like much, but let me tell you what that does: that puts us in the upper echelon of schools across the state," McAdams said.
The parents also seek to increase the number of students who take the exam by 50 percent. Last year, only 32 students took the ACT, so the committee members would like to see that number increase to 45 or more students.
The group is planning a workshop entitled "ACT Up" for March 9. Invited to the seminar will be all juniors, as well as sophomores who are enrolled in algebra II. That should put the number of attendees in the neighborhood of 50 to 75 students.
The group plans to use GEAR UP matching funds to compensate teachers for their participation in the workshop, and also to provide meals and door prizes.
"We want to feed them a nutritious breakfast and lunch so that they will have good brain food to help them learn," Shipley said. "We want to give away door prizes like iTunes cards to make it fun, so students want to participate."
The parents group also plans to provide T-shirts to commemorate the event, as well as publicize it for future years.
Fund raising will be an important part of the project. Committee members said GEAR UP Oklahoma will match the funds they raise up to $8,000. Donations in several forms have already been pledged. One company is providing free advanced calculators at a value of about $100 each, and the students will be able to keep them after the conference. Another company is being asked to provide catering. All in-kind donations can be counted toward the district's portion of the matching grant.
 
Other Business
• Also in the Monday meeting, board members Michael Herndon, Gary Cluck, Jeff McDonald and President Randy Arneson extended McAdams' contract by another year, employing him through July, 2016.
• McAdams reported that total district revenue is down by about $1 million from last year's figure. He said a lack of federal Impact Aid payments accounts for about half the disparity, with the rest attributable to large one-time purchases of buses and a security system.
He added that spending has been under tight rein, and the district remains on firm financial footing.
• Athletic Director Brian Brister told board members the recently completed Kingston New Years Classic basketball tournament was once again a success, and he praised everyone who had a hand in carrying out the event.
• The board approved expenditures, reports and minutes from previous meetings.