Whitehall after-school program honored

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 Messenger photo by Lori Smith

Berta Johnson, principal of Kae Avenue Elementary School, and Oather Talley II, school resource coordinator at the Kae Avenue Elementary after-school program, show off the plaque they were presented after the Whitehall school was selected as after-school program of the year by Children’s Hunger Alliance. Kae Avenue’s program was chosen as program of the year out of 70 Children’s Hunger Alliance sites due to its exemplary record-keeping, compliance, communication and overall efficiency.

It used to be that when the last school bell of the day rang, gleeful students flew out the door with academics quickly out of their minds.

But times have changed. Now, after that final bell rings, many students head right back to the classroom as part of an after-school enrichment program such as the award-winning program at Kae Avenue Elementary School in Whitehall.

Berta Johnson, principal of Kae Avenue Elementary School, came to the April 10 meeting of the Whitehall Board of Education to announce that her school has been selected as after-school program of the year by Children’s Hunger Alliance. Kae Avenue was chosen from 70 after-school nutrition sites in central Ohio.

The principal credited Oather Talley II, school resource coordinator with Communities in School and the 21st Century After-School program, with much of the program’s recent success.

"He is phenomenal with the kids and they love him," she said. "They will do anything for him."

The after-school program, which is funded through grants, provides tutoring, homework assistance and enrichment activities to students in second through fifth grade from 2:50 to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"We also provide a snack to the children to keep their stomachs from rumbling," Johnson said.

After an hour of tutoring in math or reading, students then enjoy a light dinner served in the cafeteria and additional enrichment activities. They even take field trips from time to time.

Johnson said since Talley has taken over the program this fall, test scores have already increased.

"It’s gradually gone up over the year, but we had a huge jump in October," she said.

Part of the reason for the increase was increased tutoring. She said Talley has enticed the Whitehall/Bexley Rotary to help on a regular basis.

"These kids who were targeted for this needed just a little more intervention," Johnson said. "This shows if we can be consistent, we can get there."

Kae Avenue was chosen as after-school program of the year by Children’s Hunger Alliance, a state-wide agency focusing on childhood hunger in Ohio, due to its accuracy and timeliness of meal sheets (record keeping); compliance of site during monitoring visits; relationship between site staff and AmeriCorps member during enrichment programming; communication skills of staff; and overall efficiency of after-school program.

Superintendent Judyth Dobbert-Meloy said the after-school program has been well-received by students, parents and teachers.

"I think it provides a good service for families," she said.

Dobbert-Meloy pointed out there is an accountability factor built in to the program. If students don’t meet the goals, the district does not get reimbursed for the cost of the program.

Board member Ronda Howard said she is impressed with the program.

"You can tell they spend their time very well," she said. "It’s amazing what an hour of spending time with a kid will do."

In other news, the board:

•Agreed to increase lunch prices by 5 cents for the 2008-09 school year. Elementary lunches (kindergarten through fifth grade) will be $2; middle and high school lunches (sixth through 12th grade) will be $2.25; adult lunches will be $3; milk will be 40 cents; and breakfast will be $1.15.

•Announced its next regular meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Thursday, May 8 at Whitehall-Yearling High School, 675 S. Yearling Road.

•Announced it will hold a special meeting Wednesday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. in the cafeteria of the high school. It will be a community forum to gather feedback on plans for construction in the district funded in part by the Ohio Schools Facilities Commission. A second meeting will be held to make a decision on how to proceed at Thursday, May 22 at 6 p.m. at the administration office, 625 S. Yearling Road.

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