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by Colin Powell
At the CSD Board’s November 6 meeting, board member Skip Greenlaw brought up the idea of holding pre-budget public hearings to give parents and citizens a chance to weigh in on the programs and services provided by the two Island schools.
Greenlaw said that in recent conversations with parents and graduates, he has heard opinions about things like the math program at the elementary school and the amount of writing in the high school curriculum that the board ought to officially recognize. Greenlaw proposed holding a pair of evening public hearings to discuss programs and ways to improve instruction.
Board chairman Andrew Vaughn suggested that instead of two meetings, one for each school, both schools should be combined into one meeting. “We could hold one and then see if there’s more to talk about,” said Vaughn, not excluding the possibility of a second meeting.
Todd West, principal of the high school, said he has no objections to holding a public hearing. But he asked the board to consider how such a hearing would fit in with plans to start a new strategic planning session in the next few years.
He also wondered what the expectations would be from a public hearing on programs. “Will people show up saying, ‘we need this program,’ and then expect to see it in the budget?” Greenlaw assured West that participants will be made aware that the hearing will be only for discussion and that the board will merely take into consideration any ideas presented during budget development next year.
Vaughn also asked Superintendent Bob Webster to have on hand a document outlining the fixed costs of operating the two schools for a year. “The concern I hear is that as enrollment goes down, costs per student go up. I think it would be helpful to include a discussion about that issue,” Vaughn said.
The budget process begins in January. No date has been set for a public hearing.
In other business, the board heard an update from Macy Lasky on the Math Program Review Committee. Lasky said students in grades 6 through 8 have begun to use ALEKS, a computer program used to improve rote math skills. Using a Web site, students can practice math drills at home. Asked about how it fits with the middle school math program, Lasky said it is targeting specific needs at DIS Elementary School. Vaughn asked if the programs are being supplemented because they are not effective. “At least part of it is that we are adapting to what our own community needs and supplementing the program as necessary,” Lasky answered. She added that the only two areas currently supplemented are rote math skills and math involving money.
Besides ALEKS, Lasky told the board the extended time for the math curriculum really does seem to be helping. Given the improvement in the third-through-fifth grades, Lasky said the next goal should be to find ways to improve math instruction time for the sixth-through-eighth grades. Webster presented the board with a draft survey for graduates of Deer Isle-Stonington High School. Vaughn said while the draft looked very good, he was concerned that most students these days may not take the time to fill out and mail back a paper survey. West agreed, noting that two CREST students are currently working to establish a network of recent graduates through the social media Web site Facebook. West said he would work with those students to see about a digital survey.
In action items, the board unanimously approved a grant from the Benwood Foundation, which elementary school principal Mike Benjamin said will put $1,000 in the library fund for buying books and bringing visiting authors into the school. Board members Elizabeth Nevells and Donald Sargent were absent for the vote.