Staff members at Columbus Elementary and Discovery Charter School have reason to celebrate.

The school received a Character Education Award in June at the Wisconsin Character Education Conference. Principal Beth Hellpap and Dean of Students Karin Westlake presented the award and talked about why the school was honored at the Aug. 12 school board meeting at City Hall.

“The Wisconsin Education Partnership awarded us this for our all-school morning meeting,” Hellpap said. “We have come to a conclusion that meeting with our students every day is important and gathering them together and creating a community is very important.”

Previously, the school held morning meetings inside its gymnasium, but with growing class sizes and anxious elementary school students, the gatherings became overcrowded and time-consuming. In recent years, Hellpap has aired announcements through a video messaging system every morning before classes begin. The principal invites students to participate, interacting with fellow classmates.

“I have students who do a weather report; the Discovery Charter School students do a recycling and composting report, and we celebrate the birthdays and do the pledge of allegiance together,” Hellpap said. “One of the most important things we share on a daily basis are the character education traits that we believe are very important for our students to learn.”

Westlake said students follow CARES traits focusing on cooperation, assertion, responsibility, empathy, and self-control. While the district hopes students follow all the traits every day, emphasis is placed on one trait per day for each day of the school week.

At the conference in June, Hellpap got an award banner to display in the school’s hallways, along with a plaque. Hellpap also brought a small team of the school’s staff to the conference to hear presentations from other schools.

“That’s where we really learned a lot of what other schools are doing to spread the word about character and giving a good character education,” Hellpap said. “It was a great conference and I’m glad we’re going again next year.”

Hellpap said the school applied for the award. She said many Dane County and Milwaukee area schools received character awards. Staff members who attended the conference picked up some great character tips.

“One of the schools had students write little notes about something they saw another student do and put it into a box and at the end of the week, they would pull them out and read them,” Hellpap said. “That’s something we could do very easily and it would allow the students to have a say in the share of appreciations.”

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Facility survey update

The school board continues to move along with the community facilities plan, hoping to have a survey released to the public in the coming weeks. The board plans to review survey results in mid-October.

The survey comes after a recommendation from the Community Facilities Advisory Committee for the district to receive community feedback on a possible referendum to improve facilities.

“We respect history in this community and the community has told us they don’t like to support something that is superintendent or board driven,” said Board President Cindy Damm. “In creating Launching a New Legacy, we made steps three years ago to follow a different path.”

Superintendent Annette Deuman said the district will work with Bray Architects and School Perceptions to craft the survey. Several drafts will be presented to the board in coming weeks before a final survey is approved.

“We hope to get it out to the community and then bring it back to the board on our timeline, which is middle of October,” Deuman said.

Having survey results by mid-October works well with the district’s scheduled annual meeting on Oct. 28, which often features several community stakeholders.

New hires and resignations

The board approved several new hires, including, for certified staff, Jessica Poh, cross categorical staff member at the intermediate school, Anne McRoberts, high school English-language arts teacher, Mary Maxey, bilingual resource teacher, and Thomas Luedtke, cross categorical staffer at the high school. The board also accepted the resignation of technology integrator Nathan Grundahl.

New hires for non-certified staff include Katie Kahl, junior varsity volleyball coach, John Crombie, JV boys’ basketball coach, Elliott Wolf, assistant football coach, Tammy Sether, administrative assistant to the superintendent, Katie Markle, assistant cross country coach, Yael Sumberg, high school special education and English for specific purposes instructor. It also accepted a resignation from Vince Kube, middle school boys’ basketball coach.

Follow Kevin Damask on Twitter @kdamask or contact him at 608-963-7323.

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