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by Colin Powell
At its May 4 meeting, the CSD 13 school board approved the 2010-11 school budget with a 2.44-percent increase. Superintendent Bob Webster noted that the $6,455,773 budget is up $153,000 over the previous year.
Board Chairman Andrew Vaughn noted that the budget increases were largely the result of salary increases, which are in the third year of a three-year contract. “We did cut some things to get to 2.44 percent,” said Vaughn, adding, “We would have had further staff cuts to get lower than that.” The budget was approved with a 4-1 vote, with board member Don Sargent voting against.
A more in depth look at the budget will be coming before the budget is up for a public vote on Thursday, June 3.
With a full agenda, the school board delayed discussion of a number of major items until June, deciding to hold to full meetings on Tuesday, June 1 and Thursday, June 10, to get through all the topics. Touching briefly on one, high school Principal Todd West presented a plan for developing a K-12 curriculum.
West preceded the document with a warning that many people have preconceived notions of what a curriculum is. “Most educators now don’t talk about ‘the’ curriculum, they talk about three curricula,” explained West—the written, taught and learned curricula. “If you aren’t paying attention to what students are learning and teachers are teaching, then the curriculum is just a stack of papers,” he added.
The proposal would base the district’s work around curriculum-mapping software developed by Heidi Hayes-Jacob. The software encourages teachers to constantly discuss and revise the curriculum as they go through the year to reflect deficiencies discovered via standard tests and interaction with the students. West noted that the software also has a public window, so that parents and community members can look and see what expectations their son or daughter will be held to in 10th grade.
Implemented over three years, West said the plan calls for the first year to be spent writing down what is being taught now and putting it into the mapping software. The second year is spent developing what the curriculum should be across grades and across content areas. West said the content areas would allow teachers K-12 to look at what a student should be expected to know in math through their time in CSD 13. The third year will be spent implementing the new curriculum, with continued evaluation of the curriculum every year after that. “You can’t, at the end of three years, say we’re done,” said West. “You have to continually ask, are kids meeting our expectations? Are we still happy with the expectations?”
Responding to concerns about curriculum work in the elementary school, DISES Principal Mike Benjamin said the bulk of the curriculum work has to happen in the middle grade levels of 6-8. The hope is that the new software, combined with professional development time, will allow teachers from the middle school to consult with high school teachers in the same content area to allow students to enter high school without gaps in their knowledge.
West said half of the school’s workshop days will be spent on curriculum development next year.
The board also approved the third draft of the 2010-11 calendar, though with some caveats. Namely, Vaughn asked that the calendar include a note about the school days being extended by five minutes in the morning and 10 minutes at night. The change was made to facilitate school being released an hour early every Friday for professional development time. With the change, the elementary school will start at 7:55 a.m. and end at 2:50 p.m., while the high school will begin at 7:50 a.m. and end at 2:40 p.m. On Fridays, school will release at 1:40 p.m. at the elementary school and 1:30 p.m. at the high school. The calendar was approved with a 4-2 vote, board members Mark Cormier and Sargent voting against.
A tuition waiver was unanimously granted to elementary school employee Casey Parker to allow her daughter to continue attending school on the Island, despite the family’s recent move to Sedgwick. The waiver is contingent upon Casey remaining an employee in CSD 13.
A grant was also unanimously approved for $4,668 from the Richard S. Petty Charitable Foundations for an after-school cooking program in the elementary school. Heather Barton-Lindloff said the program will run in three six-week sessions and the grant includes stipends for two staff people to work on the program.
In June, the school board will be discussing instructional time for reading and math at the elementary school. Board Vice-Chairman Skip Greenlaw said he wanted to discuss the issue because of what he perceives as a lack of progress. Noting the reading program, Reading Streets, which the elementary school has been using for a number of years now, Greenlaw said friends of his in Pennsylvania and South Chicago said they see positive results from the program in the second year. “We haven’t seen any significant changes, and I don’t know why,” said Greenlaw, frustratedly.
Also up for an extended discussion is a review of the school’s cell phone and digital device policy. Greenlaw said that while the policy was recently reviewed and rewritten, a few weeks ago he had a conversation with a parent about sick students out of school texting and sending photos to students in school. While all devices are prohibited in the elementary school, the high school allows their use between classes and in classes with teacher approval.