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SRVS Advisory Board meetings
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Little Snake River Valley School Advisory Board Minutes
***DRAFT until Board approved*** Minutes compiled by Tomi Sue Wille
December 8 2014 Advisory Board Minutes
Tomi Sue Wille
(These are unofficial minutes. Official minutes, kept by the secretary, will be approved at the next board meeting.)
The Advisory Board meeting on December 8, was called to order by Chairman Todd Skalberg at 4:16 p.m. The agenda was revised, Jack Corson moved and Jenny Criswell seconded, to add a letter to be read during new business. Those present included board members: Skalberg, Corson, and Criswell, as well as Principal Joel Thomas. Others in attendance included: Patty Waldron, Janet Herold, Nikkole Maxson, Jamie Litvinoff, Brenda Updike, Tomi Sue Wille, Susan Leonhardt, Paula McCauley, Jessica McCauley, and Ryan McCauley.
Minutes of the last meeting were approved. The motion was made by Corson and seconded by Criswell.
Principal's Report: Thomas gave his annual report on student performance data, which will also be given at the next school board meeting (see related article.) In the discussion about test data, Thomas said he is less concerned with numbers and test scores than on “doing our best teaching every day.” He discussed an educational philosophical change of moving away from “response to intervention”, which has been used in the past to help students who are below grade level. Instead, students are now kept in their grade level core classroom as much as possible. Thomas is also considering changes to middle school schedule to allow for longer sessions of core reading and math classes, or separating reading and writing into two classes in the middle school to give more time for core skills. This schedule change would not be possible in high school due to graduation requirements. Corson said he's glad to see the focus back on people rather than numbers “because we have to educate the whole person.” Thomas reported that high school teachers are focused on reading throughout the content areas, and they are watching to make sure students are reading at the appropriate grade levels. DEAR in middle school is now leveled to students' ability levels to improve reading skills. Some high school students can use DEAR time for ACT preparation.
Thomas' attendance report stated that today the school's attendance is at 96.2 so far this year, and the goal is 95 percent. He said attendance relates directly to student learning and student performance. He noted that individual rewards are being given, in addition to class competition rewards. Thomas noted that he did make new rule that sick kids have to go home; they can't refuse to go home because of the attendance wars.
Future plans include hiring a math teacher, a music teacher, and a STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) teacher. “We need to beef up our math and science,” he said. LSRV will use current staff to cover social studies classes 6th-12th. Thomas also noted that our special education teacher has been approved as highly qualified by the state of Wyoming. Thomas said there will be an intense focus on hiring for these positions beginning in January.
Thomas also noted that the school board is considering revising the policy on retention of students who do not meet the requirements to move to the next grade level. Decisions regarding retention in this school will be made on a case-by-case basis.
Corson asked about changes to include more technology classes. Thomas would like to see a high school class about technology problem solving. Technology is being used in the elementary core classes more than it ever has before, such as practice with spelling and math computation.
School Board Report: Feldmann was absent, but Thomas reported that the district no longer has a curriculum director district-wide, so each school can determine what curriculum is best for them. Thomas said this will be a positive change for classroom learning.
Superintendent's Report: none
Technology Report: Thomas reported that there are new routers throughout the school. However, elementary teachers still encounter problems with everyone using the on-line math program at the same time. Students are also using tablets and i-pads, as well as their own personal forms of technology during the day, so there is a large requirement placed on the system. The district director, Joshua Jerome, is still working to make improvements to move coverage of internet capacity to where it is needed at the time it is needed. Thomas said the technology use is growing faster than the capacity available.
Old Business: none
New Business: The Advisory Board discussed the unit school policy, which directly pertains to LSRV School. With advice from the school's attorney, the advisory board needs to review and update the document to make it in line with school board policy. Waldron discussed the need to keep autonomy for the LSRV School. Turcato wants the unit school agreement to give the Advisory Board power and authority to advise the school board regarding decisions that affect LSRV. With this policy change, the LSRV principal can be given more autonomy over the calendar and budget, as well as over departments such as custodians, transportation, maintenance, and food service. The advisory board plans to have the school attorney outline the parts of the current unit school agreement that is already covered under school board policy and what parts conflict with current school board policy. The plan is to shorten the policy, make it more concise, and give it more power. Jack moved to work with the school attorney and school board to revise the unit school agreement and have it completed by this summer. Jenny seconded the motion, and it was approved.
Skalberg read a letter which was presented by Ryan and Jessica McCauley and addressed to Mr. Thomas. The letter stated, “As the leaders of the “Milkshake Club,” and we would like to be allowed to have a guest speaker as often as we want, to be able to make decisions about subjects we talk about, what foods we can eat during the meeting, and who we invite to speak whenever we want.” The letter was signed by six middle school students. Discussion ensued between Advisory Board members and Ryan and Jessica McCauley. The students reported that the group is discussing the Book of Proverbs, issues facing middle school students such as peer pressure, and the U.S. Constitutional interpretation of the separation of church and state.
Skalberg quoted the school attorney's opinion given at the last Advisory Board meeting to say that the group can (1) occasionally invite outside religious leaders to speak, (2) food can't be used an incentive, (3) the group must be student led, (4) a staff member must sponsor the group, (5) the group must peaceably assemble, and (6) parents must give signed permission for students to attend. Thomas said the question facing the Advisory Board is the definition of the word `occasional.' Thomas clarified that students can bring treats, but adults can't bring them as an enticement for attendance. It was decided that since the original decision was made by the school board, the Advisory Board can't change the policy or determine how often is considered `occasional' for a religious guest speakers, only the school board can. The Advisory Board believed that Superintendent Turcato intended `occasional' to mean about once per month, but that decision is not clear. Skalberg advised Ryan and Jessica that if they are not satisfied with the answer of the Advisory Board, the issue needs to go to the school board for further interpretation. Skalberg praised the students for taking the initiative to write the letter and get it signed by those in the club and other students who support the requests in the letter. He also praised the students for being the leaders of the group. The members of the Advisory Board and Principal Thomas encouraged the students to have guest speakers often, but to only `occasionally' invite a religious speaker, such as a minister or preacher. Corson acknowledged the value of religious education, and suggested that if they want to have a religious speaker more often, that they hold their meetings either before or after school or at a different location.
Audience Discussion: Regarding the change in educational philosophy of moving advanced kids to the higher grade level during their core curriculum time, Patty Waldron, commended teachers for allowing kids to move across grade levels. She said she knows it's not easy for teachers, but it's important for students to be challenged. In the discussion of school performance, Paula McCauley pointed out the problem with low reading skills affecting students being able to solve math problems and use math vocabulary that require lots of reading. Thomas acknowledged this problem and said the school will focus dually on reading and math, but also keep in mind that all other classes are important for educating the whole student. In the discussion on the unit school agreement policy, Waldron suggested that the Advisory Board set an annual meeting to review the unit school agreement.
Patty Waldron asked why there is not an evening all-school Christmas program. Thomas reported that when Hannah Cheatham was hired as a long-term music substitute, he was very happy that we were even going to be able to have music classes. Hannah taught without being paid for the first couple months of school until her certification was complete. Thomas said he is the one who first told Hannah he would not expect any concerts since she is a substitute teacher. She volunteered to have concerts, but wanted them on a small scale, such as one part of the school at a time and during the day. Because a night program is traditional in the community, both the elementary teachers and Jenny Criswell volunteered to put on an evening program, with the decision being made to allow Criswell and her committee of volunteers to move forward with their community program in the evening at the Valley Community Center. Because of the school concerts held during the day, when not all parents are able to attend, videos of each program are and will be uploaded to Facebook.
The meeting adjourned at 6:25 p.m., with the motion made by Corson, and seconded by Criswell. The next meeting will be held February 2, 4:15 p.m. at the school library. Other future meetings will be March 16 and April 20.