By David Prenatt
SHERMAN - Students in grades 7 12 at Sherman Central School District reported a lower usage of alcohol, marijuana, cigarettes and other drugs than districts in northern Chautauqua County, according to a recent study.
Patricia Munson, executive director of the Chautauqua Alcoholism & Substance Abuse Council, presented the results of a survey conducted in September to the district's board of education last Oct. 29. She compared the results of the 2012-2013 Pride New York State Youth Development Survey for Sherman to the results for the 2010-2011 survey conducted in the districts from the northern part of the county. The only area where Sherman students reported a higher usage was for chewing tobacco..
Out of 180 surveys, 172 were accepted as valid, Munson told the board. During the 30 days prior to the survey, 11.6 percent reported using alcohol, 6.9 percent reported using marijuana, 8.8 percent used cigarettes, .6 percent reported abusing pain medication, 7.6 percent reported using chewing tobacco and 7.6 percent said they used other types of illicit drugs.
In comparison, students taking the 2010-2011 survey for the northern county districts reported 24.8 percent use of alcohol, 15.7 percent use of marijuana, 9.9 percent use of cigarettes, 7.8 percent abuse of pain medications, 5.1 percent use of chewing tobacco, and 23.5 percent use of other drugs.
"Alcohol is the number one drug of choice for teens in the United States, as it is for adults," Munson said. "Yet 88.4 percent of Sherman students are not using alcohol. Kids have a perception that everyone uses and it's not true."
The Pride study also identifies risk factors that contribute to substance abuse and protective factors that can help prevent it, Munson said. The greatest risk factor for Sherman students was family attitudes that are favorable to alcohol use, according to the survey.
"There are things that communities can do to get that down," she said. "We are hoping in the next few years to see decrease in the risk factors and increase in the protective factors.
The survey noted that Sherman students see a lot of possibilities for positive social interaction, Munson said. However students feel that reward for positive social interaction is low in both family and school settings.
In other business, Sherman principal Michael Ginestre reported on the district's use of the iReady online assessment tool. This program offers online instruction to the student; assists teachers in instruction; and helps monitor the student's progress, he said.
The program uses an adaptive diagnostic feature that identifies the student's strengths and weaknesses as each test is taken and changes the questions to provide questions at each student's level, Ginestre said. The test can therefore become more or less challenging as each student progresses through it.
"Adaptive is the best word for it," Ginestre said. "The result is to provide customized instruction to each student."
The program helps students and parents become more engaged in education, provides a "custom fit" for each student, offers high-quality instructional opportunities, and fills the Common Core gaps, Ginestre said.
For teachers, the program individualizes instruction, saves time, automates differentiation of students, "seamlessly connects" to offline instruction and gives visibility to how students are doing, he said.
The program is fully in line with the Common Core standards and the Annual Professional Performance Review guidelines mandated by the state, Ginestre said.
Sherman superintendent Kaine Kelly told the board that, out of 429 districts in a 48-county area, Sherman has been named the "biggest overachiever" by Buffalo Business First.
"This is a great honor. We're proud of it," said Kelly. "Yet it has left me with a greater resolve to see the matter of inequitable aid resolved. It's clear we are providing an excellent education here, but the funding process is slowly bleeding rural schools into non-existence."
Kelly also told the board that he recently attended a session on school merging. "We're not actively seeking to merge but it is a hot topic right now. It's good for us to educate ourselves on it," he said.
Another point of honor for Sherman was the selection of high school science teacher Timothy Cook as a "master teacher" by Governor Andrew Cuomo. Cook was selected as one of 105 master teachers across the state. There is only one other in Chautauqua County.
The Master Teacher is a program of the State University of New York. The SUNY website states: "The New York State Master Teacher Program seeks to identify, reward, and support master teachers throughout New York State. The role of master teachers as professional mentors and content experts is key to developing the current cadre of outstanding educators as well as developing skilled future teachers."
In a related matter, Kelly reported to the board on a meeting he had with superintendents from Panama and Clymer school districts regarding sports mergers. "It's appearing that mergers of sports program appear to be the wave of the future," he said.
The superintendents were in accord that sports programs that were not complete or could not field a team should be merged, but any program that could stand on its own should be left alone, Kelly said.