Notes from the 9/17/2013 MCCSC School Board meeting
Board members present: Jeannine Butler, David Sabbagh, Martha Street, Keith Klein, Kelly Smith, Lois Sabo Skelton
Absent: Sue Wanzer (on vacation)
The meeting began with public comment. Dan Maki, a grandparent of children in MCCSC, said that he was concerned that MCCSC policies are sending parents to charter schools. (The hearing for Green Meadows, a proposed Waldorf charter, was happening simultaneously at the public library.) His perception is that test scores are overriding art, music, and other engaging work. He says he picks children up from school and asks them what they did that was fun, and they tell him, "nothing." This stands in contrast to three years ago, when his grandchild in kindergarten was bouncy and happy after school. He said the announcements at the children's school are things like, "Congratulations to this class for passing this standard," not "congratulations to this class for learning about frogs," or "for having fun exploring such-and-such."
I (Jenny Robinson) was the second commenter. I said that my children are having fun in school, and that one element that keeps them engaged and excited about school and learning is the specials time. I'm concerned that at Rogers we have ten minutes less of each special per week than we did last year. We are fortunate to have wonderful teachers and programs, but what I want to hear as a parent is commitment from the top, from the administration, to these programs. All around us, in southern Indiana, schools are losing their certified teachers in these areas…but Bloomington passed a referendum to support them. There is fear that our librarians will not be offered a contract when the current one expires. There would be an easy way to dispel this fear. The administration and board could affirm a commitment to our specials and to the school library program, where each library is staffed by librarian/media specialist.
As part of the superintendent's report, Dr. DeMuth read a statement that Tammy Miller was making on behalf of MCCSC at the Green Meadows hearing: MCCSC is a successful school corporation serving its district well. If Green Meadows enrolls 200 students, MCCSC would receive $1,830,000 less from the state, or the equivalent of salaries and benefits for 22 teachers with masters degrees. The loss of students, families, and funds would have a negative impact on MCCSC and the 9,000 or so students it serves.
Dr. DeMuth also mentioned the formation of a new committee headed by Tim Thrasher, Jason Taylor, and McNeely (?) to look at capital projects needs for facilities, safety, and technology. [I did not hear the details. It is not clear to me whether any parents or teachers will be on the committee, or how the committee would reach out to them. It seems to me that it might make sense for PTOs to discuss building needs with their principals and to communicate with the committee and the board about them.]
Mrs. Chambers, in the celebration of success agenda item: Cardinal Stage is doing Lord of the Flies and is working with MCCSC to bring high school students (who have been reading it) to the production. Middle school students at all three schools now have the option to learn Chinese. A new bass fishing club at South is carrying off top state honors.
Jan Bergeson, director of secondary education, presented on the SAT results from spring 2013: They were excellent. The number of students taking the SAT increased by twenty-five students. Normally when the pool of test-takers increases, you can expect the scores to decline somewhat, but the opposite happened. Scores were, as usual, above the state and national averages. The critical reading and math scores increased by 12 points. The writing scores increased by 15 points.
The principals of North and South were present, and each thanked the community for the referendum and the board for the extra time built into school with the longer day.
Jan Bergeson presented at length on the history of the Common Core State Standards (now on hold).
A new policy on bullying was approved.
The Personnel Report was approved as presented, with 4 new teachers and 59 support staff. (No more details were given, but this should be available on the board documents on the web site.)
The South principal presented a plan called the "Panther Champions Fund," to raise about $700,000 by reaching out to South alumni to enlarge the Brown building (which serves track and football). Board members approved it unanimously. First, though, board member Kelly Smith expressed some reservations about a fundraising drive and about asking taxpayers for more money. He thought it could result in inequities between the high schools. He wondered if there could be more discussion about using the capitol projects fund instead.
In board comments at the end of the meeting…
David Sabbagh said that he's impressed with the SAT results and with comments fro the high school principals about how MCCSC is using the referendum dollars. He said, "I'm a big fan of Common Core and college and career readiness." He said it sounds like kids are having fun in school and that the longer school day does work. About the proposed new charter, he said, "We can beat anybody. Bring 'em on because we're doing the right things.'
Kelly Smith agreed with him and said that we are required by the state to do certain things (meaning testing, I think). Kelly said that he is committed to specials.
Keith Klein said that his quarrel with charter schools is that it drains money for us. "Until charter schools accept all students, this is detestable that Ball State or anyone else would consider establishing another one."