A group of engaged parents filled the Board room Monday night in support of an additional 1st grade teacher being hired, which the School Board then voted unanimously to approve.
Member Jeff Basting was absent. (Scroll past the video for more article text)
The Board has a policy that states it will strive for class sizes of approximately 15 students in grades K-2nd. The current projections for 1st grade with two teachers would be 22 and 23 students each. If a third teacher was added, that would bring numbers down to 15 students each.
Superintendent Dr. Luke Francois said if the Board did not choose to hire another teacher, the District would do its best to build in some supports with literacy intervention and co-teaching.
He also added, “We don’t really know how many students will be here until the first day of school–right now the number is 45, but it could be lower or higher depending on who actually shows up.”
Board member Lisa Hay stated she believes 1st grade to be one of the most important grades as it’s where students learn to read, which is critical to future success.
Because this is late in the hiring process with school starting in a few weeks, it was asked about the depth of candidates available. Elementary Principal Matt Renwick said there are certainly challenges to hiring late, but Francois added that the District has high expectations for the people it hires, and if the pool of candidates doesn’t pan out, the District can always wait on hiring someone.
Renwick also stated there are internal candidates who are certified who might be interested.
Board President Larry Steffes asked how the intervention program at the elementary is working and Renwick stated that on the Forward Exam last year, there were no more than five kids in the minimal category, and the previous year’s data showed more than five in several areas. Renwick added, “There’s a big benefit of using data to drive instruction instead of just guessing.”
Board member Andy Busch added that, on the most recent open enrollment survey, it should be noted smaller class sizes placed high on the list of reasons why families choose Mineral Point Schools.
The financial aspect of hiring a new staff member was mentioned and Francois stated he’s confident that, over a two year biennial budget period, “we can settle into a budget that can stay balanced.” (Go to the 47 minute, 30 second mark)
— Francois’ Superintendent’s Report for the first time was presented in a visual slideshow format, including a glimpse into his calendar for the month past, as well as the month ahead. (Go to the two hour, 55 minute, 30 second mark)
The report can be found at this link: https://docs.google.com/presentation/d/1weMhNA9YaV2cAMJKLDwLSXkTmjsLLWJfxAHtKci32uA/edit?usp=sharing
— The Board began the meeting with recognitions of Katie Fitzsimmons and Haakon Schriefer who attended Badger Girls & Boys State this summer. (This begins the video)
–The Board unanimously approved the addition of a one year pilot of the Families & Students Together (FAST) Program.
The program will be implemented at the elementary only and will provide support for parents to be better engaged in student learning and their community.
The estimated first year cost is $6,000, depending on how many partnerships can be secured to help support things like meals.
Member Kelly Gundlach expressed some concerns with the program perhaps being an overreach into the social aspect of a family, or targeting just families who were economically disadvantaged.
Francois stated he feels the program is a missing segment of the school and added the new strategic plan focuses on building community engagement and trust. “We’d serve parents who don’t know how to connect, or have never been given the tools or knowledge,” he said.
Renwick added he is familiar with the program at his former school and found it to be very successful. “It’s very different than a PTO,” he said and added to address Gundlach’s concerns that he was not aware of any offended families, or families who didn’t think it was worth their time. “It was one of the best things we did in our school,” he said.
Francois reminded the Board that it agreed to increase Elementary Counselor Carla Rand’s FTE from 80-100% to implement this program. (Go to the one hour, 45 minute, 45 second mark)
–High School Principal Mitch Wainwright provided more information on the current state of the 210 Plan. 210 stands for two absences, one tardy, and no detentions.
Currently this plan is in effect for Seniors only. If Seniors have two or less absences, one or less tardy, and no detentions during the fourth quarter, they are exempt from taking final exams at the end of the school year.
In years prior, the plan had also been in effect for all high school students.
The design of the plan is to increase attendance, especially during the fourth quarter when attendance often decreases.
Wainwright stated that this year, for freshmen, sophomores, and juniors who are not on the 210 Plan, attendance was the lowest of any of the four quarters, with the freshmen having the largest attendance decrease at 6%.
Steffes asked why this plan was taken away for underclassmen, and Hay stated there were two reasons she recalled–the first being it encouraged students to come to school ill, and the second was underclassmen are then not taking finals and being prepared for college exams.
Wainwright then stated that every student still takes a final at semester time in January. He said he also believes there’s something to be said for students actually being in school as well.
Wainwright and Middle School Principal Vickie Dahl stated they both support the 210 Plan for all high school grades.
This was just an item for information and discussion and no action was taken. (Go to the 25 minute mark)
–The Board approved a UW-Platteville Youth Options request from Haakon Schriefer for the upcoming spring semester for four courses. Youth Options can be offered if no comparable courses are available for the student to take at his high school.
Counselor Andy Palzkill stated the school picks up this cost, and both high school and college credit can be earned.
Hay said, “This is a good way to retain your highest performing kids and challenge them. In addition, there’s a Board policy that states we offer Youth Options.”
The Board voted to approve the request with Busch and Dolphin voting no.
Busch stated his reason for the no vote was because he doesn’t like the idea of Advanced Placement high school classes Mineral Point offers not being considered comparables to college general ed classes. (Go to the one hour, 25 minute, 45 second mark).
–The District recommended approval of a middle school social studies test. When discussing the need for an updated resource Bret McGraw, teacher of middle school social studies, shared the following:
With a focus on literacy for the district, this textbook provides excellent, rich, authentic writing for students to gain an understanding of the various components of our government system. Our previous book was printed in 2001, leaving a lot of holes to fill based on the ever changing government processes and structures. The updated text will give students a more accurate and up-to-date look at how our government works.
Gundlach was concerned with how the material might be presented, whose viewpoints would be represented, and if there would be a balance between genders.
The Board voted unanimously to approve the purchase of the texts. (Go to the two hour, 18 minute, 30 second mark)
–The Board approved a new $25 kitchen use fee per event, as suggested by Food Service Director Nancy Smith. The fee will assist with replenishing soap, towels, and clean up expenses. Smith would have the latitude to waive the fee if there was truly no expense incurred. Busch voted no.
Francois stated some groups who use the kitchen are fantastic, but others are not as careful and are problematic. (Go to the two hour, 28 minute, 45 second mark)
–The Board unanimously approved renewing the BOOST agreement. Mineral Point is a member of a five school consortium that offers and receives course content via telepresence. The cost is $4,100 annually for Mineral Point. 15 Mineral Point students used this program last year. (Go to the two hour, 45 minute, 45 second mark).
–The Board unanimously approved all draft policy updates as presented, as well as the employee handbook update for reimbursable expenses. (Go to the two hour, 48 minute mark)
–September 1, 2017 marks the date that school boards are required to comply with the new requirements in PI 26 – Education for Employment (with Academic and Career Planning). Compliance begins with a well-planned, school board approved plan, as well as communication about the plan on the district website.
Counselor Andy Palzkill stated the concept isn’t new, but the mandate is. The program helps identify student interests and abilities and then link them to career and college options.
He is also excited about the Career Cruising program, which was introduced last year that will help to get more businesses involved with the school, at no cost to the district or business.
The plan was approved unanimously. (Go to the one hour, 33 minute, 45 second mark)
–The Board approved a request from Gundlach to change her vote regarding an item on last month’s agenda surrounding the athletic handbook and WIAA’s position on reporting of a sexual assault, stating she believes doing the right thing and telling the truth means doing it without expecting something in return (in this case an exemption from consequence from being at an underage drinking party). She added she knows this will not impact the Board’s decision overall to accept the athletic handbook. The Board voted 4-1-1 to approve her change of vote with Steffes voting no and Busch abstaining. (Go to the one hour, 20 minute mark).
–The Board approved the credit card statement and bills payable by a 5-0-1 vote with Dolphin abstaining. (Go to the seven minute, 15 second mark)
–The Board heard an insurance update from EMC Insurance, whom the District has had insurance with for nearly 20 years. (Go to the nine minute mark)
–The Board received its annual performance report update from Johnson Controls regarding energy efficiency for the 2016-17 school year. The total cost avoidance for utilities and operations/maintenance due to energy efficiency savings was $33,695. (Go to the 18 minute, 45 second mark)
–The Board held a first draft reading of a potential update to the Purchasing Policy which would reduce the threshold for which competitive bids were sought from the current $10,000 down to $5,000. The Board also held a first reading of its continued update to the 100 series of policies. All of these will be brought back next month for a vote. (Go to the 36 minute, 30 second mark)
–The next regularly scheduled Board meeting is set for Monday, September 11 at 6:30 pm.