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News Feature

The Island
Originally published in Island Ad-Vantages, November 3, 2011
Teacher evaluations and math program discussed by DIS school board
New technology coordinator hired

Deer Isle-Stonington CSD Archive
Click here to see the full Deer Isle-Stonington CSD Archive.

by Jessica Brophy

At their monthly meeting on Tuesday, November 1, the Deer Isle-Stonington school board discussed changes to the teacher evaluation process. High school math teachers Keith Hoover, Rhonda Turner and Leslie Billings presented information about the high school’s math program.

The board hired Heather Wren as part-time assistant adult education director (6-0). Wren is originally from Louisiana, and is finishing her master’s degree in adult education.

The board also hired Marcus Ford as the school district’s new K-12 technology coordinator at a salary of $46,000 (6-0). Ford has a wealth of technology experience, including stringing network cables, working in education, and working as a training consultant for large corporations. Ford replaces Joseph Audette, who was arrested in September on charges of possession of child pornography.

Evaluation policy changes

Changes have been proposed by the school board to the teacher evaluation process, which would tie teacher evaluations to contract renewals. The proposed changes in evaluation policy include a process and timeline for teacher improvement if they are evaluated as “basic” or “unacceptable” in an evaluation area.

“Proficient” would be the lowest acceptable rating, with “basic” and “unacceptable” below that. If a teacher were to be rated as “basic” in one or more areas, the teacher would have a grace period determined by the principal, but no more than two years, in which to improve performance through informal procedures.

If a teacher were to be rated as “unacceptable” in a category, the principal would develop a focused assistance plan with the teacher. The plan would list problem areas, prescribe strategies and goals that a teacher must meet. That process could take up to a year, but may be less if the teacher is unwilling to work toward improvement or if the teacher’s behavior endangers student safety.

If a contract teacher—one who is beyond the initial probationary period—failed to improve performance from “basic” or “unacceptable” to “proficient” or “outstanding,” the board would consider not renewing their contract, according to the proposed changes.

Categories of evaluation currently include professional behavior, lesson planning and the primary assessment of classroom observations.

Currently, the board must show “just cause” to not renew a teacher’s contract.

Board member Skip Greenlaw asked whether a focused assistance plan provides more support to teachers than informal assistance, and why the policy gives two years.

Superintendent Bob Webster said he didn’t think that one could assume that the informal process was less supportive than the focused assistance plan.

High school principal Todd West said the two-year grace period was due to teacher evaluation cycle.

Board member Andy Vaughn said it was important to make the expectations “crystal clear” as the new policy can lead to non-renewal of contracts. “However it is defined, I think having something that is clear, and having feedback from the teacher’s association that they understand it’s clear,” said Vaughn.

Board member Linda Nelson asked if the teachers had input on the policy. Webster said no, they had not.

“I think we’re muddying our roles here,” said board member Vicki Zelnick. “Policy is something the board sets.”

The board will consider the policy again next month.

High school math program

Hoover, Turner and Billings discussed the common core standards and the high school math program, as well as the new textbooks, which include online versions, and the “ALEKS” online math training program.

Turner said Maine common core standards are pushing ninth grade standards into the eighth grade, changing expectations for Algebra I. The current written math curriculum for the high school asks students to take a minimum of Algebra I and Geometry, but may need to be changed to include Algebra II. Some students are able to finish Algebra I in a semester, some students need a year.

Billings demonstrated the online support that comes packaged with today’s math textbooks. Included are tutorial videos, practice questions, assessments and other support material.

Hoover demonstrated the ALEKS program, which assesses a student’s strengths and weaknesses in relationship to the common core standards and then custom-fits a program to the student. The student can work at their own pace, and track their progress, which Hoover said is very encouraging to students.

Nelson asked if there were issues with students having access to the Internet at home. West said there is a relatively small number of students who don’t have access at home, and those students are encouraged to do that work during school hours.

In other news, Webster reported the initial mediation session between the school board and the teacher’s union would take place on November 9.

West said the 2011-12 School Improvement Action Plan has been revealed. IT includes general goals, and action plans to reach those goals. The entire action plan is available for viewing on the school’s Web site at www.dishs.org.

The strategic planning process is underway, and its first meeting is Wednesday, November 16, from 5 to 8 p.m., at the elementary school. The school board meets for its next monthly meeting Tuesday, December 6, at 6 p.m., at the elementary school.