Ripley Program Boosts Student Relationships

RIPLEY — At their regular meeting last month, Ripley Central School District Board of Education members learned that the Capturing Kids’ Hearts strategist, O’Neil Arrington, would be visiting the school.

School Principal Micah Oldham told board members that the program has been going very well. O’Neil Arrington, who joined the Flippen Group (Flip Flippen, Capturing Kids’ Hearts Founder) in 2013, is a leadership development strategist who assists teachers, principals, and superintendents.

“O’Neil will be visiting classrooms and working with our Process Champions,” Oldham said.

Ripley initiated the program in September. At that time, Superintendent William Caldwell said that the goal of the program is to increase the trust children have in school personnel and to build strong relationships with the kids, so they will be more eager to learn.

One focus of the program, said Oldham, is for adults to know how they communicate nonverbally, such as body language, tone, etc. “A lot of the tools they gave us to implement the program, the teachers have really latched on to,” he said.

Caldwell followed up by noting that the program takes a lot of commitment to implement it fully. “It is a shift in the way we interact with our students, and it takes some time for everyone to acclimate to the changes,’ he said. Nevertheless, as Flippen has stated, “If you have a child’s heart, you have their mind.”

Along with Capturing Kids’ Hearts, Oldham told the board that students are participating in the Kids’ Heart Challenge, which is an event organized by the American Heart Association. The program is designed to help students learn about their own hearts, as well as help others by raising money for heart health initiatives.

According to the American Heart Association website, the Kids’ Heart Challenge encourages physical activity and emotional well-being. Students also learn about how their hearts work and why heart health is essential. ‘Students become Heart Heroes by taking part in the challenge,’ according to the AHA.

In other business, Director of Curriculum and Pupil Services, Michelle Waters, reported that on Feb. 16, all teachers took part in a district data dive. “This process takes multiple data points for each grade and allows teachers to analyze the strengths and weaknesses of the district,”she said.

With this data, teachers were able to target vocabulary and comprehension as areas of focus in reading and fact retention and word problems in math, Waters said. “This data helped teachers plan Response to Intervention plans that target each student’s biggest need,” she said.

In matters of personnel, board members accepted a letter of resignation from School Social Worker Aleah McAfee, effective April 8. They also approved the appointment of Pamela Gross as Interim Social Worker, from April 9 through June 30, 2024, or until the district appoints a school social worker.

In other business, Caldwell reviewed the preliminary 2024-25 school budget. Board members approved the publication of the legal notice of the Budget Hearing and Annual School District Vote and Election of Board members for the 2024-25 school year.

Voters will also be asked to approve the purchase of two 65-passenger buses, at an estimated cost of $164,000 each, before trade-in. The Annual Budget Vote and School Board Election will be on Tuesday May 21.


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