Greater Latrobe officials understand that state assessments and test scores aren’t the only way to measure student achievement.
But they also realize that state assessments and test scores are also a significant piece of the process.
During Tuesday’s Committee of the Whole meeting, building principals presented student assessment data to school board members, outlining strengths and areas that still need improvement.
“I’ve been in all the buildings and we have many, many great things going on besides data,” said Jon Mains, Greater Latrobe Senior High School principal.
“I’ll be the first to tell you that at the high school, data is not our focus. Our focus is on creating an atmosphere where students want to build relationships and create engagement level.”
A significant area of improvement at the high school focuses on algebra and biology.
“That’s where all of our focus is, and that’s where we’re putting all of our efforts,” Mains said.
Mains also wants a focus on relationships and building culture.
“We’re trying to do everything we can to build relationships with students and staff, and create a culture where students want to be in the building,” Mains said. “We feel that if we have a great culture and great relationships, our test scores will come up.”
Mains also touched on attempting to have students master subjects to learn the material, rather than solely emphasizing the grade. He wants to see students take classes because they have an interest in the subject matter without a lone focus on boosting their grade-point average. Mains would like students to learn the importance of critical thinking and problem solving.
“Those are two skills students are going to need when they leave,” Mains said. “Those are skills that employers are looking for.”
Mains added that almost all students in the high school took rigorous courses of study, including advanced placement, dual enrollment or a career and technical education program.
“We have 97.1% of students participating in rigorous courses of study, so we’re certainly proud of that,” Mains said.
Principal Matthew Shivetts said Greater Latrobe Junior High School made significant growth in achievement, specifically in seventh grade, where the district is ranked third in the county. In seventh-grade math, Greater Latrobe is ranked second in the county with a 15% jump in growth scores.
“I’ve never seen a jump like that,” Shivetts said. “I’m really proud of that group.”
Greater Latrobe’s junior high is ranked third out of 20 middle schools in the county and within the top 50 out of 500-plus middle schools in the state.
“We’re extremely proud of that ranking, but we certainly have room to grow, specifically with math and English,” Shivetts said.
Officials want to focus on improving text-dependent analysis or repeating what they recently read. There’s also a focus on a growth mindset.
“We want to be able to sit down with each student and individualize,” Shivetts said. “We want to talk with them about what they’re specifically struggling with.”
There’s a focus on enhancing the school’s “Wildcat time” where students can work on improving struggles in certain areas. Officials want to see growth in character education as well.
“We can talk about test scores, but especially at the middle school, we’re really invested in the choose love movement,” Shivetts said. “We want to continue our character education.”
Shivetts also discussed career readiness for middle school students as they prepare to enter the high school.
“For every seventh- and eighth-grade student, it’s mandatory to pick a guest speaker,” Shivetts said. “They get to pick based on a career interest, and we’ve had fantastic volunteers from our community come in and do career speeches to our students.”
Elementary school principals discussed state assessments, in addition to attempting to have students make a year’s worth of growth in a year’s time.
“We have some students that walk into the classroom who have achieved the state standard the first day they walk into class,” said Becki Pellis, Mountain View Elementary School principal. “But they also need to grow one year in a year’s time.”
The first focus area at the elementary level is math. The district recently revamped its elementary math curriculum in an effort to help.
“We are not okay with being better than the state,” said Sherri Holler, Latrobe Elementary School principal. “We have high expectations.”
Holler added that text-dependent analysis questions on the PSSA tests are pulling scores down. Those are questions that ask students to express what they know and explain how they know it. There’s also a focus on growth mindset throughout the elementary level.
“At one point, and still sometimes, you might hear someone say ‘math is not my thing,’” Holler said. “That’s a fixed mindset. We’re shifting it to ‘I have not mastered that yet.’ We call it the power of yet in our elementary schools. I don’t know that yet, meaning I can still grow and master that. It’s about their thinking, so children know that it’s not achievement, but also growth.”
Next week, school board members are expected to vote on two tax settlements and an electricity procurement agreement that will all result in additional funds or savings for the district.
Pittsburgh-based Andrews & Price LLC filed two tax assessment appeals to the Court of Common Pleas on behalf of the district.
One is filed against National Retail Property Trust, leased to MedExpress Urgent Care. The proposed settlement will result in approximately $36,708 in total additional school taxes. The second is filed against Edward and Carmella Rinaldi or Caribbean Pools, which will result in $1.3 million in additional school taxes.
“Andrews & Price came to an agreement with both of them,” Greater Latrobe Business Administrator Dan Watson said. “They made a recommendation to the board and it is expected to be approved next week.”
Directors are also anticipated to vote on an electricity procurement agreement that will result in a $30,000 savings.
“We were able to reduce our energy costs,” Watson said. “We’re pretty excited about this. We’re not locking in capacity. Just the energy piece.”
Items also expected to be voted on next week include:
• Resignation of Wendy Galley, custodian, and Amanda Hopper, classroom assistant;
• Lainie Osborne, personal care assistant; Alyssa Myers, English teaching assistant; Hopper, substitute classroom assistant, and Melinda Woods, personal nurse assistant;
• Memorandum of understanding for an employee personnel matter;
• Motion supporting reform for charter school funding;
• Student teaching affiliation agreement with Grand Canyon University;
• Superintendent Dr. Georgia Teppert to sign any and all contracts with the Pennsylvania Department of Education with an electronic signature, and the utilization of the signature shall execute and deliver those contracts binding;
• Gifts, grants and donations from Dick’s Sporting Goods, $1,000 to the physical education department; $1,000 from United Way for a school readiness and transition plan, and $50 to food service for delinquent accounts;
• Maintenance service agreement;
• Makerspace club;
• Participation in the Westmoreland Intermediate Unit Joint Purchasing Consortium multi-purpose paper bid;
• Notice of intent to adopt nine board policies.