By Mark Ambrogi
Dr. Scott Robison, Zionsville Community Schools superintendent, sums up the district’s new Wellness 360 program nicely, Eagle Elementary Principal Christine Squier said.
“As Dr. Robison likes to say, ‘It’s not your grandpa’s PE class,’” said Squier, who chairs the group. “It’s going to look slightly different at each school and slightly different at each age group. We’ve done a lot of research on what children need at each age group. While physical education is part of it, the social, emotional part is another section we’re working on.”
Squier said they looked for another model around the country and couldn’t find it.
“So we’re going to build it from the ground up,” she said.
As a result of the 2010 referendum not passing, ZCS eliminated the physical education teacher positions in the elementary schools. The 2012 referendum victory was not large enough to reinstitute the program.
In November, Zionsville voters passed a six-year school-funding referendum, which maintained a tax rate of 24 cents per $100 of net-assessed value. As part of that, the district was able to hire a physical-education/wellness teacher for each of the five elementary schools. Since the 2011-12 school year, the classroom teachers had to pick up the slack by instructing physical education and wellness.
“It’s a broader focus than just a traditional, physical-education course, so we’re lucky to have our physical-education courses under the moniker of Wellness 360 being taught by trained professionals,” Robison said. “It’s an amalgam of health and wellness, touching across lifelong fitness and responsibility for one’s own numbers, knowing that movement is incredibly important not only to health but to cognition. We know from the research when kids move, their brain functions elevate. We want to foster that in a new and better way.”
Foremost, the referendum victory meant that 87 additional teaching positions were sustained.
“At a time we are going to be drawing 200 more students, we would have been laying off 87 teachers and not add the things we’re going to add in program restoration,” Robison said. “The impact cannot be overstated in the quality of services we can provide in class sizes that are actually reasonable. It’s really a huge impact as we go into this school year.”
Robison said the district will add approximately 15 full-time equivalent teachers across the district to accommodate the growth.
“In addition, some program things that have been sorely needed are going to be coming about because of the passage,” Robison said. “Project Lead the Way is going to get a footprint, starting with grade five. Project Lead the Way is the preeminent science program that I know of on the planet.”
Project Lead the Way has been in just grades seven and eight in ZCS.
“The referendum allows us to solidify Project Lead the Way through the high school with a computer science course. Most districts have been able to implement Project Lead the Way in the last 10 years. Now, we are getting the full complement of those courses grades five through 12. That’s a benefit to a community that has a sizable number of engineers and a sizable number of kids that see their moms and dads doing that work and have an affinity for science.”
ZCS will add guidance counselors at Zionsville Middle School and Zionsville West Middle School. Robison said the counseling positions had been planned but couldn’t be filled until now.
Robison said class sizes have decreased since the 2012 referendum passage.
Zionsville remains the lowest-funded school district school district in Indiana on per pupil basis, Robison said.
“The way (the state legislature) changed the funding formula, we are still are dead last,” he said. “It’s quite obvious we couldn’t do business to accommodate 7,000 students (enrollment) if we didn’t have the supplemental operating referendum. That’s just the way the legislature has designed it. So we have to do that to make sure we can offer the strong programs our community has come to expect.”
ZCS held a job fair July 13 to seek support help. Unrelated to the referendum, ZCS Human Resources Manager Robyn Nelson said the district is still seeking bus drivers, substitute teachers, lifeguards, pool managers and instructional teachers.
“It’s all the jobs that are not certified teachers,” Nelson said. “We’re always hiring. We always have open positions that we need outside of the teaching positions that are important to our staff and our students. We need to try to find a way to generate excitement and knowledge about it.”
This was the second year for the job fair.
“We had some success last year, and we said, ‘Let’s do it again,’” Nelson said.
Pay for positions
- Bus driver trainees (while earning their license): $10/hour
- Bus drivers: $17/ hour; $17.25/hour plus benefits after 90 days
- Bus monitor: $11.17/hour
- Instructional assistants: $11/hour
- Life Skills instructional assistants: $12/hour plus end of year incentive
- Food service: $9.30 to $11.95/hour, depending on position
- Substitute teacher: $72/day
- Before- and after-school care: $11/hour
- Preschool assistant: $11/ hour
- Preschool leads: $13/ hour