"High Achievement always takes place in the framework of high expectation." - Charles Kettering

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

ACT Scores Drop for Evansville Again.

Gina scooped me on this one. She's summarized it in the GazetteXtra. Click on the post to see our summary compared to our athletic conference, Rock Valley North. Our composite score is 3rd out of 6 schools behind East Troy and McFarland. By subject, we waffle between second and third. I guess Heidi's news isn't so good for the school board meeting on September 13th. But that's my take on it. I'm sure our administration will spin this as a good thing.

I evaluated the data by gender and Evansville's boys took second place in our conference, the girls took third for composite score. The girls took second in Reading, fourth (!) in English, third in Math and fourth in Science in the conference. The boys took 3rd in Reading, 2nd in Reading, 2nd in Math and tied with Jefferson for second in Science. The stereotypical gender differences have begun to creep back into Evansville's ACT results: The boys scored better than the girls in Math (1.9 points better) and Science (1.6 points better) and the girls beat the boys in Reading (0.7 points) and English (0.8 points). Just a few years ago, the girls were kicking the boys' heines by 2-3 points in English and Reading and had reduced the differences in Math and Science to less than 0.5 points.

Compared to the state results, our composite score is just 0.3 point above the average state result for composite score this year. In individual subjects, Evansville scored from 0.7 ahead of the state average(Reading) to even with the state average (Math). Wisconsin's average composite score of 22.0 compares favorably to the national average of 21, which stands Evansville High in pretty good company nationally, which is how the administrators likely try to spin the data. But our graduates are competing locally in Wisconsin. While average Wisconsin scores have fluctuated between 22.0 and 22.3 since 1997, Evansville scores have gone through fits and starts, most recently showing a continuing slide downward from a district high composite showing of 23.1 in 05-06 to this year's 22.3. I would argue that this indicates that our graduates are becoming less competitive in the local Wisconsin Education and the job markets. I look forward to how the administration presents this data in September. It sure would be nice if we would try to compete with McFarland's excellent results (they trounce the whole conference in every category, both boys and girls). But I'm sure the company line will be "McFarland is a much different community than Evansville and we can't compare apples to oranges." But it would be great if everyone would at least ASPIRE to their results.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Should ECSD Have to Pay a Babysitter for Buses?

One item I forgot to mention in the discussion of planning for spending the new stimulus funds was an addition of $5400.00 for a bus aid. I thought this was for helping disabled students. Oh, no. This is because the bus drivers no longer feel it is safe for them to drive with all the shenanigans that transpire on the bus. Kathy Swanson was mortified that we have to hire a babysitter because kids and parents aren't abiding by the agreement to follow the bus rules at all times, which everyone signs with their registration forms. She figured it should be part of a busdriver's job and why isn't Ringhands dealing with this better? I'm with Kathy in some respects. Kick the hooligans off the bus. Unfortunately, according to Heidi, the perpetrators of bus bullying and other heathen behavior are often in situations where the parents won't make it a priority to get them to school. So what? They will become truant soon enough and get a ticket, at which point they WILL get that kid to school, or pay more fines and fees. You have to stop trying to save everybody. Let them be responsible or face the consequences. How in tarnation will they ever learn if you won't try the "Love and Logic" approach you keep touting at school? Why not try it for some routes. Tough love for half the routes, babysit the rest of the routes. See which routes get in line faster and take whatever data you want. Monitor habitual truants, behavior/discipline problems, happy parents calling in that you finally booted Jonny B. Bully from the bus, you decide what you want to follow and follow it. My gut tells you that you will have data that demonstrates the behavior on the tough love busses improved, the attendance may dip but surge back up and there will be many parents who will applaud the action that brings safety and order back to their child's bus ride. I know I would absolutely be thrilled that my kindergartener wasn't facing fear and mean nasty behavior every day.

Or how about this? I bet a dollar some parents would volunteer to ride shotgun for the bus drivers. There are probably a lot of parents who would love the opportunity to level the playing field for the victims of the bullies and show the well behaved kids there's somebody on their side.

What do my readers think? Does anybody know what the legal obligations are for booting some kid from the bus? I'm not sure what they are, but I suspect that the same bleeding heart who told school districts that they must provide education for the kids they expel would have a field day with the kids kicked off the bus... Have mercy!

On a more positive note, I just came back from a trip to the Madison's Children's Museum. Our friend had her youngest's 5th birthday party there today. Happy Birthday Julian! That place is fabulous. It is the epitomy of learning through play, a scientist's dream! When our first child was born, I was fascinated by what experimental creatures babies are. All three of our much older kids ages 10-16 had a blast the whole time. When it was time for us to leave, all of them said "Why so soon?" I felt compelled to give a donation because we got in for free with the party. Anybody who knows what a tightwad I am will appreciate the quality I perceived in this jewel of Madison. My personal favorite exhibit was the huge doll house. Miniature stuff has always fascinated me. The 10 year old loved the water play, the 13 year old thought the shadow room was AWESOME and the 16 year old sketched me in the Arts and Crafts Exhibit after I told her to sketch the guest of honor. He was darting all over the place and hard to pinpoint. I urge you all to check it out. And if you don't have any kids to take with you, just go and appreciate the awe and wonder in the faces of the patrons of all ages who are rediscovering the joy of experimentation.

Friday, August 27, 2010

In case you missed them...

I finally finished my commentary on the August 23rd Committee meetings of the whole. Since I started them way back on the 24th, part one is dated August 24th and part two is dated August 25th. Lots of good topics included. Sorry they're so long, but I had a lot of my own opinions to add here and there.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

And then the Janesville School District Caved...

The link is active now. Click on the post to link to the story. Poor Karen Schulte. She stands up to the good old boys and the Janesville School Board slaps her down. The Janesville school board came to an agreement with their Frat Boy principal to let him resign AND pay him a lump sum of 10 grand, as well as let him keep his insurance until the end of September, which amounts to another $2600, as well as not contesting his unemployment claim (I don't know what these costs are). All to avoid about $37,000 in legal fees and staff time to prepare, not to mention the potential appeals costs as well. This is really sad, because it sounds like there's a strong case against him. His denial in the accompanying article is so blinking lame. I'm so furious that our schools are reduced to making such deals with unscrupulous types because they can't afford to prosecute them in a court of law. If ever there was a case that needed pro-bono work, this is one of them.

The only light at the end of the tunnel is in the tiny third article on page 12A. The WI DPI has requested documents from Janesville to find out if Wolczak engaged in immoral conduct as defined in the statutes. It's not a formal investigation until the DPI determines it is possible that the jerk engaged in immoral conduct. The formal investigation could then lead to a revocation of his administrator's license. I was really glad to read this. The thing that bugged me the most about the district caving on this was that he is now free to seek a position with another unsuspecting school district and inflict his misogynist ways on other teachers. If the DPI can pull his license, this won't come to pass. We can only hope.

Janesville does good!

Click on the post to link to the article about Janeville's distribution of the pay increase for non-represented employees. They only got a half percent raise, but instead of giving each employee, they totaled the sum of this increase for all employees who are non-represented and divided it equally to give each employee a $400.00 raise. Very egalitarian and addresses many concerns about high administrator pay. Kudos, Mrs. Schulte and staff for that idea.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

8-23-10 Committee Meetings of the Whole, Part 2

A five minute break was followed by the rest of the finance agenda. Nancy gave an update on the Education Foundation which was put in place by a donation from Heidi Carvin a few years ago. Heidi shared that this was in honor of her Grandfather, part of whose bequest to Heidi's family was used to establish the Foundation. Thank you Ms. Carvin, for this generous donation. Hopefully, it can bring good things to our district. The Building Trades house has no update. There is an offer on the current house contingent on the buyers selling their house, so they are still considering unencumbered offers on the house. The purchase of another lot and sale of the house is on the special meeting agenda scheduled September 13 at 5:30 in the TRIS LMC. It needed 2 weeks of posting to meet statute, so couldn't be dealt with in this meeting. Click on the link below for details of the meeting:


The $300,000 (plus!) in stimulus funds was discussed next. These funds need to be spent by Sept. 2012, so that made it easier to spend with care. I was pleased to see that they planned to take 5 positions currently in the budget and fund them with stimulus funds, freeing up about $62K to put back into the depleted Fund 10 balance next year. Three more positions that were cut with the PBB process in February were proposed to be restored as well. Finally, a Learning Specialist at the High School to help guide AP test improvement and PSAT strategies will be considered. Studies show students who take 2 or more AP tests are better prepared for college than those who don't take the tests. Since Mrs. Hanson has requested half-time for the entire year for maternity purposes, and her full salary is in the budget, it's possible we could get a full time GT person at the high school for only half a salary more. Not a bad idea to try out. Michael Pierick voiced his concern that placing all of these items amounted to over half of the total federal funds. He wanted to save more than half for 11-12 because next year's budget outlook is worse than this year's. He has a good point too. This money is like a knight in shining armor for the school district this year and I was so proud to see the board propose conservative and responsible spending of that money. And I guess I was wrong in my "Top Ten" list. There IS more bail out money.

The teacher who resigned was a new hire 1st grade teacher who hasn't really even started. The contract approval was a replacement for a replacement, Miss Schlimgen. She may find, like Mr. Steve before her, that she becomes Miss Katy, or whatever her name is. Both personnel decisions passed 7-0.

The agenda for the 27th finance meeting will include the BT house update (sales details, hopefully), admin. salary process, federal dollars use and the final proposal to change how district officials are paid. It takes too much time and effort to pay them each by check on the day of each event. It seems every event has some change in officiating and that means one voided check and another reissue check for the replacement official. Deb will propose how to change this process to be more district-friendly. This has long been coming. Amen, I say. If it makes Deb's job easier, all the more reason to implement it. The labor it should save alone will be considerable in light of the number of checks issued each month for officials. On an editorial note, they have discussed the problem many times in the past, but not tried to really solve it before now because our AD repeatedly told them that the referees wouldn't like it. Big hairy deal, I say! Since when do employees get to dictate the terms of payment to employers?

Next came Policy and a contentious discussion about the Graduation Exercises Policy. Michael drafted a VERY DETAILED alternative proposal for 345.2 now on the books. It was not well received because of the detailed instructions included in his policy regarding graduation date and time, selection criteria for how graduates process, behavior expected, etc. I guess there was a great deal of concern expressed to Michael and other board members about the lack of decorum, the alphabetical procession, disrespectful behavior, and more shown at this year's graduation exercises. Michael and many citizens were "deeply offended" that the honor students weren't accorded the places of honor as in the past as the first in line and first recipients of their diplomas. He used the term "our best students" during this discussion and sent Nancy Hurley off on a tangent. She accused him of being elitist, that our best students aren't necessarily the ones who get all As, that she "knows a lot of honor students who don't have to work one bit for their grades and a lot of kids work their butts off for Cs" OK, Ms. Hurley, here's where I must disagree with you and challenge you. You are engaging in just as specious a generalization as you're accusing Michael of when you say you "know a lot of honor students who don't have to work one bit for their grades." What is your frame of reference? When do you observe this behavior? Do you follow their every waking moment and know how hard they apply themselves to a problem or assignment? Is working smart not working hard? You have two children whose study habits you can specifically address. You cannot make such a generalization to all students about this issue. Yes, fundamental ability may well be innate, but you cannot observe from afar and say "many honor students don't have to work a whit for their grades."

And by the narrow criteria inherent in any grading system, the honor students ARE our very best students. They get the highest grades, which is how the best students are defined in the current school hierarchy. Next thing you know, you're going to want the hardest working athlete to be placed on the first string varsity team even though he trips on microscopic elevations on the ground and the singer that practices the most to be given all the solos even if she sounds like nails on a chalkboard. Innate talent comes into play in every endeavor. Do you want an honor student processing your checking account or somebody who squeaked by with a D?

The fundamental issue here is a lack of standardization into what constitutes A results, B results etc. across the disciplines at the High School. We won't even go into how lame the actual standards have become to earn an A or a B in our district. When a department representative tells me at a meeting that it is possible for a student to earn an A on effort alone in his department, I'm pretty sure the grading scale is effectively useless as an honors student indicator anymore, at least in the traditional sense of the words.

Michael made a very good point at this juncture. He said that the board is accused of micromanaging the administrators, but essentially is forced into micromanaging because certain issues continue to be brought up as problematic year after year, which shows that the administration is ineffectively dealing with those issues. (Poms, prom and graduation were cited). We need a graduation exercises handbook, somebody suggested. Somehow, the conversation turned back to the topic of honors graduates leading the processional.

There was clear tension between Michael, and Tina and Eric, who seem to view Michael as being hypersensitive to the perception that athletes are unjustifiably revered and honored in the district. Athletes have their awards night and so do the scholars, they said (I've heard that story before). Honors and high honors students aren't any more important than the other graduates and don't deserve special recognition at graduation, according to these two. Besides, they already have their honors cords and sashes which are specific to the academic honor they earned. There is some truth to the fact the everyone can see who the honors kids are by what cords they sport at the ceremony. However, their premise that there isn't any special treatment given to athletes beyond their banquet is false. Here's just a few ways in which our district kowtows to athletics. Number one, the abysmal so-called 1.5 GPA requirement for participation was set by the WIAA rules and by extension, the athletic department. Why does something as fundamental as our level of academic performance required to earn co-curricular and extra-curricular participation get driven by athletics, when all the other kinds of co-curricular activities combined exceed athletic participation? Our district is second lowest in our conference in this GPA requirement (yes, somebody has a 1.25 GPA "requirement, believe it or not), so this is not the status quo in Wisconsin. Number two, all the band and chorus concerts have to be on Monday night, the same night as the board meetings. When I asked why, I was told that it was because it's the only night athletics aren't held. "You won't have the athletes participating in music if you do it otherwise!" Well, OK, lets turn that thought process around. What if the athletic department had to work around the band schedule and chorus schedule? Let's say jazz band and jazz chorus have draconian rules about missing a practice leading to reduced participation IN SOMETHING THAT IS VOLUNTARY IN THE FIRST PLACE!!! Lets imagine that the musicians wouldn't participate in sports unless the sporting event were only held on their day 0ff of music. Who is it that plays at the games in something called the PEP BAND in support of sports? In what way is sports equally supportive of band? I have attended every band and choir concert at the HS for 2 years and don't remember seeing the coaches, ADs and non-musician athletes attending in droves. There is a clear hierarchy and sports calls the shots. Is anyone internalizing this yet? Number three, the board meeting is probably held on Monday night for the same reason: so the administration doesn't have to miss any games to attend a meeting. Enough already! The board makes it a priority to work quickly on concert nights so the many music parent board members can attend the concerts. This results in a very rushed meeting on concert nights. It also will be nearly impossible to rush through the Committee Meetings of the Whole if they coincide with band concert nights. Does anybody still wonder why some athletes have a sense of entitlement? They have been "worked around" all of their life and accommodated rather than taught to work athletics into the rest of their life. All of this accommodation to the schedule so kids can play A GAME. Number 4: Has anybody seen the hoopla surrounding the homecoming game? When's the last time there was a parade in honor of the AWARD WINNING JAZZ BAND? When does the High Mileage Vehicle program get their own pep assembly in the gym before competition (that they have won for the last 2-3 years)? When has the Musical Week been kicked off with a cook-out and ceremonial bonfire? Need I go on with the litany of the myriad ways in which athletics are revered in Evansville specifically and society in general?

Since Tina and Eric's premise that sports are not unduly accommodated in our district is incorrect, their conclusion that Honor graduates shouldn't have special honors at the graduation ceremony also falters. Graduation is absolutely the time when honor students deserve special recognition. Why should scholars be acknowledged at graduation above others? The primary reason I will cite, besides the fact that Education with a capital E should revel in its scholars, is that GPA is the first criteria used for acceptance into the National Honor Society. It is the first cut criteria used for acceptance into the college of choice. GPA is not the sole criteria used for either of these honors, but unless a certain level of GPA is met, everything else is moot. Honors Scholars have not only met graduation requirements, but met them with distinction. Why shouldn't the head of the class be honored at the head of the line? The reaction of people to this has been amusing to me and reflects the "don't dare hurt anybody Else's feelings" movement afoot in the country. Now students who thrive in academics should somehow downplay their accomplishments or not be proud of themselves for fear that somebody's self-esteem might suffer to see somebody get something they don't have. Good grief! And yes, there are nerds and nerdettes out there for whom this honor on this day is the ONLY special acknowledgement they ever had and why the hell does anybody want to take that away from them?

Even amongst the honors students, there is controversy. The kids who take AP and honors courses and earn an A rightly surmise that they're more challenged than those who earn As in the "cake" classes. They are often beat out in GPA by kids who get straight As in regular classes, classes we in Chemistry, Physics and Shakespearean Lit. used to call "underwater basketweaving." The true tragedy is the kid who takes these "cake" courses to pad his GPA, when he or she could fluorish in the rigor of the AP classes. They will get to college very likely unprepared, in shock that their A effort from EHS now earns them an F. The kid who doesn't make the top 10 in GPA, say with a 3.90 GPA, but takes AP classes is probably headed for college and will be better prepared when he or she arrives. If they earn college credit in the process, even better. It's an important consolation prize worth a lot both in money and time.

So, with all that fury floating around the room, Eric moved and Tina seconded to table the Graduation exercises policy until the High School creates a Graduation Handbook, which is to be brought to the December meeting for review. Then they can complete the Graduation Exercises policy. Motion passed 5-2, Pierick and Hatfield dissenting. We'll see what comes of it in December, I guess.

The next policy discussion was "Public comment at Board Meetings." They want to change the process to make it more manageable, but not so as to cut off the public. Some ideas proposed by administration were: reducing the per person comments to 3 minutes from 5 and total comment time per topic limited to 15, with which the board was not comfortable, as it seemed too restricting. Counter proposals upped the per person time back to 5 minutes and the per topic time to say, 30 min or an hour, at which point a separate "public comment" meeting would be recommended for that topic. Seemed a reasonable compromise. The board members seemed most interested in setting boundaries for the public comment time structure. The board doesn't want to limit the public in their comments or numbers, but after the public comment part of a topic is over, it needs to be over period, with no "rebuttals." There shouldn't be a dialogue with the board on the topic, but rather questions from the board for clarification after comment period. Once the comment period is over, then it's time for the board to have their uninterrupted discussion. This seemed a very good idea. Some people don't understand when it's time for the board to discuss amongst themselves and because of the more casual board dialog, these folks believe it's OK for them to chime in too. This change will help improve the flow of the meetings.

At last the final topic for discussion at Policy: Policy 324 Evening, Wednesday and Weekend Activities. Click on the link below to view it. This policy doesn't come close to describing the district practice. Evening practices routinely exceed 9:15 pm, there are regular soccer games on Saturday, athletes in particular leave school early to get to far-reaching venues from which they don't return until 11:30 pm, or later. After which they then have to do their homework for the class for which they just missed the last 30-40 minutes that afternoon. Mr. Busse stated, "We try to wait until 2:40 or 2:50 to leave, at worst the last 45 minutes of last block, which is work time anyway." When I made that same remark during my criticism of the block schedule two years ago, they bit my head off. "Many teachers are teaching the whole 90 minutes of the block!" Yeah, right. And those poor kids need that class work time to do their homework because they're getting home at midnight. Dennis Hatfield proposed that the students GET HOME by 10 pm from away games. Eric Busse was affronted that the athletic department be so criticized. "We don't set the conference, the WIAA does. It's not our fault! We'd have to FORFEIT games to leave in time to be home by 10pm." Imagine, if you will, the strength of the district that finally stands up and says NO MORE! OUR FIRST PRIORITY IS EDUCATION. MAKING OUR STUDENTS LEAVE EARLY AND GET HOME AT MIDNIGHT AND SPEND THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS IN TRANSPORTATION IN THE PROCESS IS NO LONGER AN OPTION, WIAA. FIGURE OUT CONFERENCES THAT ARE EDUCATION FRIENDLY.


The "avoid Wednesday" part of policy 324 has become more of a guideline also. It was requested by the faith community as a standard night on which faith education was held, so let's avoid regular school activities on this day. The policy specifically states that a student excused from practices for pursuit of faith education will not suffer any penalty for missing that practice (K-8). But when a kid is excused from an athletic practice for this reason, if it happens the day prior to a contest, the kid has to sit out the contest. "It's a WIAA rule!" rebuts Busse and Rossmiller, "not against the student himself." Who the heck is in charge of challenging these stupid WIAA rules? And if this is a WIAA rule, why the heck is something that violates WIAA rules in our own ignorant policy? Have Mercy!

And lest anybody think I'm picking on the athletes, the drama department is in gross violation of this policy on a regular basis. I made an issue about this when the play was held at the end of finals week one year, placing hell week smack dab in the middle of finals week. Either change the policy or change the practice.

After the myriad examples of activities that violate this policy, Heidi was most concerned with the frequency of early dismissals in order to get to a game on time. This has a direct effect on instructional time for these students. There was general agreement to collect information on how the policy is being violated. Heidi especially wants data with regard to early dismissal. Heidi didn't think that it would be feasible to collect all the examples of policy 324 violations. That alone should tell you it needs to be changed! The process for continuing with the revamping of the policy wasn't made clear. It may be tabled while data is collected.

A preview of September meetings was summarized. The interesting highlight for me for the September 13 board meeting will be Heidi's discussion of our ACT scores, which sounded promising. Let's hope so! There will be a call to annual meeting to sell and buy the Building Trades properties on September 13 as well. The 20th will be the Visioning process with the administration and the 27th will be the next Committee meetings of the whole and the Annual Call to Meeting.

The meeting adjourned with a motion by Dennis Hatfield and a 7-0 vote. Whew!

It's coming!

Just a note to let you know I'm working hard on the Committee meetings of the whole minutes. It was a five hour meeting and had lots of information I think my readers will be interested in . Hope to have this by Friday!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

8-23-10 Committee Meeting Highlights Part 1

I'm still recovering from the five hour meeting. I finally decided to split this into more than one post. This is part one. I stayed for the whole meeting to find out what the Special Meeting scheduled September 13 is about. I had to endure policy discussion, which is not my forte. I internalize the critical importance of the policy aspect of Board Meetings, but I don't think our district effectively or efficiently reviews and suggests changes to policies. Every time I sit through a policy meeting, I think: "There must be a better way to accomplish this important task." I just don't know what it is. Ah, but I digress... On a side note, the Policy discussion was probably the most controversial part of the meeting. Since recurring themes were involved, I don't think it was entirely because of the late hour and sheer exhaustion of the board members by the time it came up on the agenda, but I'm sure that contributed to the contentious tone.

I got there about 20 minutes late, in the midst of the Board Development discussion regarding the Vision Statement. They're taking the Vision Statement Process to the Administrators September 20 at 5:30 p.m. in TRIS LMC, which will then be rolled out to the staff.

There was a little bit of agenda hopping at this point in order to accomodate the Youth Center Board members who attended the board meeting. Click on the post to see a copy of the agenda if you're confused. They went from item IV A directly to item VI A 2, the discussion of Establishing Fund 80 and followed that immediately with the action item VI B 4 "Approval of placing Fund 80 on the Annual Meeting Agenda." This was a thoughful change in Agenda so these folks didn't have to sit through everything else (lucky them). Anyway, much discussion was had on the topic once again, including details regarding the lease agreement with the city for use of the building that currently houses the Youth Center, possible housing of the program in the middle school, possible use of round two of stimulus funds to pay the salaries at the Youth Center (I'm doubtful that this falls under the jurisdiction of the federal funds), the philosophical opposition of just about everyone to housing the Youth Center in the schools because this isn't a conducive atmosphere for many of the Youth Center regulars, the counterpoint that if the school can't swing it any other way, are you willing to risk the program for a philosophical disagreement, a litany of what schools have established Fund 80 in our area and for what, and on and on. Throughout it all, there was an underlying certainty that the city will cut off the Youth Center and it will fall to the wayside if the school doesn't pick it up. I told the school board members I spoke to last night that the Mayor is threatening to cut every department in the city. Are they sure the EYC is going to be cut from the city budget? What if the school calls her bluff and just says NO? Will the city really cut the youth center? None of this was addressed. Conspicuously absent at both of the discussions I have attended regarding this subject were parents of children who benefit from this program. Where are the hordes of people joining their voice to the process?

After what I count as the third and not necessarily more illuminating discussion about the youth center (OK, maybe the lease details were new), the board moved (NH) and seconded (KS) to place "Establishment of Fund 80" on the Annual Meeting Agenda. There was some hair splitting at this point. Mr. Pierick said he supported the EYC as a private citizen and would vote for Establishing Fund 80 at the Annual Meeting. But he indicated that the Annual Meeting vote is not binding on the school board to implement. They don't even know what the final district enrollment numbers are yet, nor do they know what their per pupil reimbursement will be from the state. When the final tax rate is set in October would be the time the Board would vote to exceed the caps to institute the tax, I believe. This is the point at which Mr. Pierick said his duty as a board member of a very highly taxed school district would force him to vote "no." A lot of the board agrees with him in some way. The motion to place "Establishment of Fund 80 on the Annual Meeting Agenda" failed 2-5. I believe dissenting were Skinner, Hatfield, Pierick, Hurley and Busse, but I may have a few of them mixed up. It will be up to citizens to place this item on the agenda on September 27. Even if the citizens ratify the additional tax, the school board will have final say as to placing the tax in the final tax rate established in October. The usual people who show up to the Annual Call to Meeting is hardly a representative cross section of our community. YOU can change that by showing up on September 27th at 7 p.m. in the High School Media Room to cast your vote on this item and much much more. The saga continues along with the regularly scheduled agenda. Click on the link to the Observer below to see that the EYC board is wasting no time in strategizing for the upcoming public vote:


The next agenda item was V A 1 (Senior Project Graduation Requirement) so Mr. Everson could say his piece and leave. This time Board members were provided a detailed proposal for the Senior Project Pilot Program. 3-4 board members took issue with the general idea of citizen mentors with no training in grading having final say in whether or not a student graduates, much less having a graduation requirement that is not academically based. They asked for a staff member to be the liason between the project mentor and the district for final grading responsibility. To be clear, the staff liason has to be a volunteer activity.

Nancy Hurley brought up several thoughtful points. While true that any major project costs are understood to be borne by the beneficiaries of the project, there will be incidental costs for all projects requiring digital components with pictures, such as digital cameras and computer access. There needs to be a form that parents sign to agree to support incidental expenses of Senior Projects. A "slush fund" would need to be established to fund these incidental expenses for students who qualify for free and reduced lunch. A product of the helicopter parent age is parents who do student's work for them. Anybody who has attended the Energy/Science Fair can spot a parent directed project a mile away. These Senior Projects are intended to become a graduation requirement and as such need to be completed by the students. Therefore, another agreement parents would need to sign is the "butt out of the project" form, verifying that this was the student's own work. Finally, any volunteer mentor would have to sign a form stating that they realize that they are volunteers and no compensation is forthcoming from the district for thier efforts.

Kids targeted for the pilot program will be those who are "over-credited," or who have met all of their graduation requirements already. An incentive half-credit will be offered to entice a larger group of kids to participate. It will look good on college application forms as well. Mentors will be identified by word of mouth and will require background checks like all school volunteers.

A vote to approve the pilot program for this year passed 5-1-1, with Pierick abstaining and Hatfield dissenting.

Now back to the regularly scheduled agenda with item IV B, 10-11 Board Goals. If you're confused about the order, don't feel bad. Most everyone in the room was by this time as well. Heidi Carvin noted that there was significant overlap between the Vision Process and the Current Goals. Her suggestion was to update the current goal list with words like "continue" and rewrite new goals during the PBB process in February by which time the ECSD Vision Statement should be complete. The new goals could flow from the Vision. Heidi has tried for two years now to get the Board to have the next year's goals ready by June so the staff can work on writing building action items over the summer to meet each goal on a building level. She has a good point here. If the board brings them goals in September, how can the buildings hit the ground running with goals that flow from the overall Board goals? Continuing with the current goals, plus a few tweaks, and writing the new goals for 11-12 in Feb or March will give the Administrators plenty of time to align building goals with board goals next summer.

But Nancy Hurley had some suggestions to improve on the goals. And, as I have come to expect, they were pretty darn good suggestions. She wanted to change the Finance Management goal into Finance and Resource Management Goals and include an item of actively seeking ways to increase revenue and resources, both monetary and human, for the district. I have not seen a very successful grant-writing process in our district. There needs to be more effort placed on this important source of funding for school districts.

The next thing Nancy wanted to add was Improved Communication between the public and the District. Oh, shades of two years ago goals, in which I proposed and volunteered to write a column for the paper. They formed a communication ad-hoc committee instead, which went nowhere fast. What Heidi really wants is a PR director for the school. Good luck with that!Anyway, Nancy proposed to write a blurb for the website and Tina agreed to pretty it up with graphics. This is a great idea, but I think they're missing the point. If you don't have kids, why do you go onto the district website? Don't they want to reach the whole community? They need that physical connection to the paper, but fear they have to pay for the column. Or would they have to pay? I don't know. It needs to be investigated. But the fundamental goal of improving public relations between the district and the community still needs to be foremost in the district's thought process.

Nancy's list also included continued emphasis on developing student character and respectful behaviors under Safety and Security. All well and good, but again, there is a piece of the puzzle missing. If a goal is improving students' respectful behavior, one of the best ways to do this if for the students to have a good model to view in their teachers, administrators and staff. When students see teachers belittling students, administrators and other teachers in public, what message do you think is getting through? Respect is a two way street, and if teachers want to receive it, the first thing they have to do is consistently offer it in all directions, to students, to peers and to administrators. This begins with the top dog. Ms. Carvin has said things about her staff in public meetings that were simply uncalled for and certainly meant to deflect blame for a bad outcome from herself to the staff member. This is not respectful or professional behavior and serves only to further alienate the community. She should save that kind of remark for private meetings with the staff member in question and for executive sessions with the board.

The 10-11 board goals and building level action plans for the goals will be on the September 27th Board Development Committee meeting agenda, along with the outcome of the vision meeting with the administration on September 20.

Heidi gave a summary of a conference she attended about "Strength Based Leadership," which states "an organization that builds on talents instead of looking at what's wrong with the organization is much more successful." It sounded like each board member and administration member took a "strengths" survey and she wants them to keep these strengths in mind when dealing with one another. The idea has some merit, although Tina remarked that she saw the data as more validating why she voted differently than others on certain topics. Her tone was more indicative that she didn't view the strengths of others as strengths, but rather why they're an obstacle to her.

I have had this experience. Many times in my career in the male-dominated field of chemistry, I was challenged for behavior the men considered to be a personal failing which I considered to be a strength. One such character trait was to deal directly with job performance of my technicians in an honest and straightforward way. This led to a person who wasn't very well suited for lab work quitting because management wouldn't assign her to another supervisor when she adamantly refused to work with "that woman" (me). My behavior was considered to be contrary and inexcusable behavior by my male collegues. I figured if her job performance was sub-par and didn't meet my expectations, which I repeatedly laid out for her, we were better off without her. They figured I was rocking the boat too much. Go figure. If this attitude prevails in the "Strength Based Leadership" thing, there won't be much improvement.

That's enough for round one. Round 2, the rest of Finance and Policy, coming soon.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Observer scoops School Scoop in linking to Janesville Sports budget cuts.

WARNING: Before anybody accuses me of being anti-sports or biased against them because I am an inept nerd who likes playing with data, I will proudly state that, yes I am an inept nerd who likes playing with data. No, I never played organized sports, unless you count the time I signed up for Softball as an adult and surprised everyone (nobody more than me!) when I caught a line drive to right field (yes, I was relagated to right field to minimize damage). I am not, however, biased against sports. I know they provide an important role in many people's lives. My own children participate in soccer, swim team and new this year, basketball. Only one of these are through the school at this point. I AM, however, against sports or any other co-curricular activity being considered more important than or even as important as Fundamental Education. They should be just what they say they are: EXTRA-curricular meaning outside of the curriculum, in addition to the curriculum, in the case of sports and CO-curricular, meaning supporting of existing curriculum such as Jazz Band and forensics. For proof of my equilateral hatred of these items superceding Education, please reference my previous posts regarding my opposition to the drama and musical productions essentially stealing over 10% of a students school life every quarter they're offered. Note also my extreme frustration with the abysmally low GPA (1.5) required for co- and extra-curricular partication.

Click on the link to read the Gazette article about the proposed cuts in the Janesville School District Sports budget. As expected, the comments indicate that many sports proponents are outraged and uninformed and many sports detractors feel vindicated and are equally uninformed. The Observer scooped me in posting this one. Thanks for keeping me posting! Here's my musings about this issue:

One particularly stubborn misconception surrounding high school sports is that they are money makers. Tiring of hearing people say "when the band makes the kind of money the football team does, then the band will be treated equally," I did a study in 2008 based on coaching contracts for the 2007-2008 school year. I compared sports gates to sport coaching contracts. The only 2 sports to come close to "breaking even" are boys and girls basketball at the high school level. There wasn't any record of gate fees for the Middle School level, but the overall results, combining Middle School and High School contracts vs. Gate receipts showed more than a 3 to 1 ratio of contracts paid to gate fees received. In 2008, we spent $99,391.00 for all sport coaching contracts and received 30,245.16 at the gate. So in ECSD, and likely most other high schools, sports are not self-sustaining.

Anybody who believes sports is considered just one way to encourage student engagement is deluding themselves. Last year, the co-curricular contracts for all activities in the entire district totalled a little less than $150,000. Only 50% of the compensation used for sports alone is considered acceptable for everything else. Music, drama, academic (chess club, science club, etc.): all these kinds of activities in Evansville School District put together are considered to be worth half the value of the sports offered when viewed through the lens of the almighty dollar. Like it or not, accurate or not, this is the perception of the maddening crowd. Click on the link below to see the "report card" posted on the district web site for 2007-2008. On page 9, there is a summary of co-and extra-curricular participation in various area schools. The number of students participating in Academic and Music co-curricular activities in ECSD was 528 in 2007-2008, comprising 55.6% of the total Middle School and High School population. Athletics had 482 participants, or 50.7% of the total enrollment in these schools. When you add the academic and musical co-curricular involvements at the intermediate school (there are no school sports offered at this level), even more students are served. If we view this disparity through the lens of number of students served, it is even more of a disservice to our students. Contract costs alone for sports cost the district $206.20 per participant in 2007-2008. If we estimate the co-curricular participants at TRIS to be about 72 kids, (which I think is a conservative estimate considering drumming, choir, science club and history hunters alone), the cost per student to provide non-athletic coaching contracts for their activities is $83.33 per kid. The next time you pay your kid's participation fees remember this! That $60.00 per sport is merely 29% of your kid's portion of a coach. The $24.00 activity fee for non-athletic endeavors is a similar percentage of the coaching contract: 28.8%. Middle schooler? What a bargain, you only pay 15.5% or $32.00 per sport. Same thing for Middle School activities: that $7.00 only covers 8.4% of the coaching contract.


Does the disparity in pay between the athletic and other activity coaches affect the quality, commitment and consistency of the lesser paid coaches? Maybe. There are certain expectations inherent in an athletic coaches job that they teach our children how to safely play sports and minimize injury. There is always the hope a kid gets a scholarship and (please oh please oh please) go pro. All of this is wrapped up in coaching salary, but nobody is willing to admit it. Is all of this worth twice as much as the music coach who may guide a child so well she scores a full ride scholarship to the UW-Madison? Doubtful. Or how about the forensics coach who encourages the next Mike Wallace? And what is it worth to have music programs (and really dedicated parents) that mentor and encourage the likes of our own Olivia Fontaine, who sings like an operatic virtuoso at the age of 14?? I am not convinced that it is equitable that this disparity exists, but I'm sure many people will disagree with me.

An additional discovery in studying our coaching contracts in 2008 was the disparity in boys and girls sports. That year, 61.05% of the coaching dollars grades 6-12 went to boys sports, 38.95% went to girls sports. I was told that it was because they had a hard time keeping young women coaches in the system due to increasing family obligations. But this is an easy, superficial answer to a complex issue. When the coaching contracts were reviewed last year for conference comparable salaries, I discovered that there was a grouping of "gold level, silver level and bronze level" coaching pay categories, which according to our Athletic Director, corresponds to the amount of student contact time required in coaching these sports. Girls have only one sport at the "gold level", which includes football, basketball and wrestling. Boys have three. The sports used to meet Title IX requirements of providing an equivalent girls sport, Volleyball and Poms, both have "silver level" coaching compensations. That fact alone shows lack of commitment to me. Poms and volleyball are cheaper sports to provide and while following the letter of the law, this certainly violates the spirit and purpose of the law. And maybe there's more to their retention problem than "young women don't stay in coaching positions once they get on with having their families." That's just a very simple reason given that administrators are happy to believe because they don't want to investigate what the real problem could be. The good old boy system is alive and well in Evansville, WI.

Anyway, kudos to Janesville for spreading the pain to all areas. It bears noting that they're still spending over one and a quarter million dollars on athletics, so it's not as if all funding has ceased for sports. God forbid that money go for Education, with a capital E, that is.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

8-23-10 Committee Meetings of the Whole

Click on the post to see the agenda for the August 23, 5:30 pm Committee Meetings of the Whole located in the High School Media Room. Board Development, Finance, Policy and Curriculum are all on the agenda for tomorrow.

Board Development will describe the outcome from the Vision Meeting, craft 2010-2011 Board Goals and discuss agenda for Sept 13 special meeting and the annual meeting Sept. 27. I don't know what the special meeting covers on Sept 13, but should find out tomorrow.

Curriculum will discuss the High School Senior Projects Graduation requirement and the professional collaboration (late start) days scheduled to begin in September at the High School. Check the schedule on the School website for details. It appears to be the 2nd and 4th Mondays of most months (some months have only one day):


Finance will likely be a long discussion of several controversial topics. The Fund 80 establishment comes back for an encore tomorrow with "approval of placing Fund 80 on Annual Meeting Agenda" as a later action item. There's approval of another staff resignation (?), the third from my count, unless it's one of the previous two from last month. There's an update on the Building and Trades house, hopefully including the sale of this year's house. There's a discussion of how to spend $304,617 in round two of stimulus funds for retention, removing from lay-off and hiring of teachers. Click on the link below for the article in the Gazette. There's an important caveat in spending of this money: it can't be used for administrative costs, which should make some people happy since many seem to think the bosses get overpaid. Another warning I read somewhere, perhaps the State Journal, is that schools may simply be buying themselves increased unemployment costs in two years when the funds run dry. So great care needs to be used in deciding how to use this boon to the district.


Finally, Policy will have four policies to review, with "Graduation Exercises" on its third reading before formal implementation.

If any of these topics tickle your fancy, come on down to the media room at the high school on Monday August 23 at 5:30 p.m. for more complete information.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Wisconsin Ties with NE for Third on ACT, behind MN and IA

This sounds so fabulous until you read the fine print. Of the 27 states with 50% or greater participation rate on the ACT college entrance exam, Wisconsin tied for third with Nebraska. When compared to the entire United States, Wisconsin ties for 17th with Nebraska. Click on the link below for a look see yourself. Pretty cool interactive table on the ACT website. Data!data!data! I know, I'm weird.


I'm a bit perplexed about why this 50% cut-off has been used to make it seem like Wisconsin is so fabulous on the ACT. For one thing, the average national participation on the ACT is only 47%. This is an arbitrary way to exclude the very high performing east coast states from the data pool. It's not that these students don't take college entrance exams. It's just that their local schools prefer other entrance exams like the SAT. Maybe the ones who take the ACT in Massachusetts and RI are the lower performers of those states and they still kick our butts! Wisconsin should be proud that 69% of our students take the ACT, which in the past meant they were planning post secondary education of some kind. But with the advent of MPS requiring the test as a graduation requirement, it's less indicative of students moving on to higher education. I'm not exactly sure what it's a measure of, but not what it used to be. Over the last ten years there has been a trend among states to use the ACT as a graduation requirement. In 2000, no states did this. Illinois and Colorado paved the way beginning in 2002, Michigan joined the group in 2008, Kentucky and Wyoming in 2009 and Tennessee this year. 12% of our states now have 100% participation in the ACT college entrance exam. Nationwide, from 2000-2010, the percent of students taking the ACT has increased by 47.3%. WOW! The most amazing thing to me is that the average composite score has seen only minor cyclical fluctuations despite this dramatic increase in participation. Our own state has a few districts with 100% participation: Monona Grove and Milwaukee School District, which just started this year. Others are said to be contemplating the move. However, in the time that the national participation in ACT has increased by nearly 50%, the state of Wisconsin has only increased its participation by 9.3%. Most of this increase can probably be attributed to the sheer size of MPS senior class (nearly 5000 kids. Imagine a school district so large that one class is almost as big as the town of Evansville. Of course they're spread out among many schools, but really, this is enormous). The ACT data for Individual Districts are not accessible yet because the states have to have time to enter the data. But click on the link below to see Monona Grove's reasoning for using this test as a graduation requirement. Our own district has added EXPLORE and PLAN testing to the high school curricula for the last 2 years, perhaps in an effort to emulate Monona Grove's success.


There is a big hoopla because WI scores are "the lowest since 1996." OK, here's the real story. The composite score on the ACT in WI from 2000-2006 was 22.2, from 2007-2009 it was 22.3 and in 2010 it was 22.1. Considering that the MPS senior class comprises about 10% of the entire population taking the ACT and factoring in the knowledge that the most recently available ACT results from MPS averaged a composite score of 17.2 when only 49% of the class participated (YIKES!), it's not a big stretch to attribute the 1% reduction in the WI composite score almost entirely to the MPS. Milwaukee hasn't publicized their 2010 scores due to some technical glitch, per their spokesperson. I suspect it's more like "we're so embarrassed we're putting this off as long as possible."

If you view the national ACT data over the last decade, every time another one or two states added mandatory ACT testing for their junior class, the national scores took a little dip. When CO and IL started in 2002, the national composite score dropped from 21.0 to 20.8. It took four years to recover to 21.1 in 2006. When MI came on board in 2008, there was another dip from 21.2 to 21.1. The scores stayed steady when KY and WY made ACT compulsory in 2009 and another small dip was seen from 21.1 to 21.0 when TN was added this year. It's remarkable to me that the score has remained flat considering it has been administered to all students regardless of their higher education goals in 6 states now. The addition of the scores of 30-40% of the students from these states who probably never intended to go to college has not drastically reduced the national averages. There were blips, but the average National composite ACT score bookended the first decade of the 21st century with identical scores of 21.0. But Wisconsin has a hissy fit when one set of scores from one failing school district in Wisconsin representing about 10% of all graduates causes scores to drop by 1% to "the lowest since 1996!" Spare me, please! Have patience Wisconsin. If the trends of compulsory ACT testing continues in Wisconsin, things are going to look worse before they look better. I don't know if it's a good thing or a bad thing to use the ACT as a graduation requirement. I think it's a good thing to help students learn to be successful at test taking and prepare for college through such programs as the EXPLORE and PLAN tests. If that's the upshot of declining scores, this is a good result to take from this data.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

It's official: I now have 2 followers!

Today was a cool day in blogdom! I officially got my second "follower," although I'm pretty sure more than 2 people read this blog. I have had three people openly admit to reading it on a regular basis. But there's this little area on the blog you can click on to become an official "follower" and I have 2 now. I got my first follower the day I started the blog, and now my official count has doubled since debuting in May. Yeah blog.

I also follow stats using "feedburner." I'm not so savvy with this tool, but it's fun to see how many clicks lead to which posts. It's always surprising to me which posts attract the greatest traffic. Interestingly, agenda postings for school board meetings are pretty hot commodities! Thanks to all of my readers for keeping my statistic viewing interesting.

Fund 80 Discussion Tabled: Update

The minutes aren't posted yet, so it's not official. My inside sources say the discussion was tabled regarding the proposal of establishing a Fund 80 to support the youth center. The city has a tight budget next year and can't afford it so they asked the school to establish a Fund 80 to finance the youth center, which allows the school district to levy beyond the revenue cap. Cry me a river, Mayor Decker. As one friend pointed out, this is the height of audacity after years of blaming Evansville's high tax rates on the school district. "It's not our fault your taxes are so high! It's the school district that kills us." Now the heat's on and they want to push even more of the tax burden onto the schools. Afraid if you raise taxes you won't get reelected Mrs. Mayor? I hope to God the school district thumbs their nose at the city on this one. Hypocritical politician.

All her little pet projects like making a drive down Main Street feel like driving on a washboard have come home to roost. She has told all the city departments to propose "zero increase budgets" because state funding isn't expected to increase. She has essentially threatened the termination of every city program that isn't "self-sufficient," when previous expectations in the near past have been 50% tax payor subsidy, 50% participant fees. In the last few years, I understand that has changed to 40% tax payor subsidy, 60% participant fees. Now she expects any program to be self-sufficient.

One program with which I am intimately involved is the pool. All three of our kids are on the swim team, the Blue Sharks. Since our oldest joined the team 9 years ago, it has grown in size from about 30 kids to nearly 80 kids ages 6-18. The most challenging meet we attend is the Milton invite, for which we have never posted over 200 points prior to this year. Our goal this year was to break that 200 point barrier. We earned 353 points this year and placed third (out of six teams) for the first time ever! Milton won and they have a year round team. Go Sharks!

Fees have skyrocketed for pool programs in the time we have lived in Evansville. In 2001, we paid $25.00 for swim team and lessons. I think a family pass was 90 or 100 bucks. This year, we paid $50.00 for lessons and swim team and $200 for 5 season passes (no such thing as a family pass anymore). We pay it because it is a great opportunity for our kids and they love it. They aren't COMPLETE lumps on a log all summer and it builds character. It's not a guarantee to keep kids out of trouble, but it goes a long way in providing insurance that they are too tired to find much trouble.

At the July Park and Rec. committee meeting, Rick Hammacher proposed his budget for 2011. There is a big expenditure in next year's budget: $60,000 repair needed on the pool they just spent a lot of money on less than 10 years ago. I believe that they must have cracked the foundation of the pool when that work was done if they need a $60K liner less than a decade later. On the revenue side, some fee increases were proposed. There is a flat rate for walk-ins at $4.00, instead of different rates on different days like now, so that averages out to a 0% increase. There is a $0.25 increase for group rates proposed, averaging 13% increase, no increase for swim lessons, no increase for season passes and a whopping 50% increase proposed for swim team from $50.00-$75.00. He rationalized this because the kids are in the pool an hour most days for 6 weeks instead of a half-hour or 45 minutes for two weeks like they are in swimming lessons.

The problem with this proposal is that Evansville walk up, swimming lesson and season pass rates are all higher than the tri-county rates surveyed in Edgerton, Brodhead, New Glarus, Stoughton, Monroe and other communities. This was particularly exaggerated in the swimming lessons rates, which in one egregious case was 333% higher than a neighboring municipality. Since Evansville already exceeds the industry standard for the other services the pool provides, the first place they sought to raise rates was the swim team. But using the time in the pool as a guide is a specious argument.

Swim Team has one paid coach, the ever patient Lisa Phelps nee Hrdlicka. I'm sure her stipend doesn't come close to covering the gas alone for her to drive down here to practice every day from her home one hour away. There are 2-3 awesome, patient volunteer coaches as well. This results, at best, in a 20-1 ratio of swimmers to coaches in the pool at any given time. Swim team practice (and sometimes the meets) are controlled chaos. Lessons, on the other hand, have about a 5-1 ratio of students to instructors. There are always lifeguards on duty for afternoon lessons, swim team practice, aerobics and lap swim. There are only 2 weeks when extra guard duty is required specifically for swim team during the breaks between swim lesson sessions. So swim team does not strain the pool resources. In fact, without swimteam, the pool would be even more underutilized than it already is.

The way I look at it, they want to maximize their revenue on the backs of the one group they know is growing by 5-6 kids every year. They didn't propose to spread the wealth on revenue increases because they already charge way too much for lessons, season passes and walk-up swim. The mayor has told them to find revenue and this is how Mr. H proposed to get it. Over half of the swim team have siblings on the team, meaning their parents face $50-$75-$100 increases with this proposal. Some may not be able to afford it next year. Some may have really sacrificed to provide this activity for their families THIS year. So this shortsighted plan may backfire on the park and rec. department with reductions in participation leading to reductions in revenues. They already saw a 10% reduction in revenue on season passes this year. Other projected revenues are down as well, according to Mr. H at the park board meeting yesterday. This could indicate that they are already at the tipping point in their fee structure. I hope an alternative proposal can be structured in which the pain is more evenly distributed.

I posted this Fund 80/Swim Team discussion for many reasons. The first is to give a well deserved plug to the Blue Sharks, Coach Lisa Phelps, volunteers Matt Rohloff, Keith Hennig and all the amazing Blue Shark Families who dedicate their summers to their kids pursuit of wholesome activity and sporting competition. They chose to add their voices to the political process and spent time to come to the Park Board with a thoughtful counterproposal. Thanks also to Christine Krueger, Sandy Rohloff and Chris Leggatt for attending the park board meeting last night to help make the board aware that this isolated fee increase is a bad plan.

I also wanted to make my readers aware that our Mayor's shortsightedness is ubiquitous, not focused only on the school and the youth center. She may well be another political casualty come re-election time. We can only hope.

The minutes for the meeting of August 9th will better describe what happened during the Fund 80 discussion. They should be posted by Friday because I expect them to be on the agenda for approval at the committee meetings of the whole on August 23. I'll post a link to them when they're available and together we'll learn more about this topic.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Did you view any of the Perseid Meteor Showers?

We were so lucky to be in northern Minnesota at our cabin for the Perseid Meteor showers this year. Usually, we go to the cabin at the end of July to avoid colder weather that often sets in up there in August. This year, the Boy Scouts changed the Webelos II camp to the July week, so we switched and went to the cabin in August, when the Boy Scouts have traditionally camped. The weather cooperated most nights and we saw some really beautiful "shooting stars."

While there, I happened to read the bad news for Minnesota and their failure to meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) this year and last. Click on the post to see an article in the Duluth News Tribune. In the "more" section on the right, click on "Adequate Yearly Progress results: Duluth and Minnesota" which indicates that the entire state of Minnesota has failed to meet AYP for two years in a row now. This worries me somewhat because Minnesota has been kicking our butts on the ACT for the last few years. In reading, it's in the Native American and Special Ed. populations that failed statewide. In Math, all but one of the traditionally at risk populations have been left behind. Native American, African American, Hispanic and Special Ed. subgroups all failed to meet AYP statewide. Of the 7 subgroups in Minnesota for which sufficient population exists to count separately, only 3 met the math standard this year: Caucasian, Asian and the "free and reduced lunch," or students at economic disadvantage. Only one of these, the economically disadvantaged, is traditionally considered at risk in these scenarios.

In Minnesota, people of color comprise 11.8% of all Minnesotans, but when you break the data down by age, the results are striking. 18% of Minnesotans in the under-18 age group are considered as "total population minus white alone, non-Hispanic." Nearly half that value, only 9.7% of Minnesotans over age 18, fit that description. Wow! This interesting statistic could be telling us that the old white guys who run the show don't communicate well with the people of color who are going to be running the show one day soon. Click on the link below for more info on this.


Other interesting items on the Minnesota education front is that one of the outlying rural districts, the Lake Superior School District, has finally gotten approval to go to a 4 day week to save money on busing and on-site energy costs. I enclose the link below, but to see the whole article, you have to pay $2.95. From what I read, Minnesota has different legislative regulations on hours and days of attendance than Wisconsin, which is why outlying Wisconsin districts don't try to do this. I may be wrong about that, but if this is true, Wisconsin legislators should think about this for our more sparsely populated districts. We went looking for the town of "Cotton" north of our cabin last week. It is less a city than Cookesville, 45 minutes away from any population center. Those kids still have to go to school. The busing costs must be astronomical in those sparse areas. This should be an option. Less days, more hours per day. I know that the parents are going to have a conniption fit because of they have to find and pay to put their kids in reliable day care for one day a week, but something has to give.


Finally, my time with the loons (both family and avian variety) on Lake Dodo has reinvigorated me. We missed seeing our niece Kaleigh, who was busy earning money for her senior year at UM (go Gophers!) and also had hockey cheer practice the entire month of August. We did see Bill's brother and sister-in-law as well as his mom. A nice visit in a peaceful place. Now I'm ready to take on the world at large.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

August 9th School Board Business Action Item Meeting

Click on the post to view the agenda for August 9th at 5:30 in the High School Media Room!

I notice that the Fund 80 establishment is slated for both discussion and as an Action Item. This would be to bring it forward to the Annual Meeting to be established, I imagine. I don't know what the motion will be, but I'll ask my sources to let me know what transpires.

Vision Process: August 2 Meeting

I got to the meeting late, after going to exercise class. My first impression was that this was a great turnout! Dennis Hatfield gave me the specifics of the invitational list, which had 30-40 district and administrative folk, 7 board members and only 5 members of the general public represented. When I arrived, they were on the last round of an iterative process which Mrs. Landers facilitated. She kept everyone focused on the task at hand. I chose the table dealing with excellence to join. It was a pretty lonely table with Deb Miller, Karla Sendelbach, Lou Havlik and Jenny Kalson from the district. Most of the other six tables had 7-8 participants. These are the statements generated by the eight tables:

**(when combined with #6 below) 1). Create a positive learning environment
-Foster Lifelong learning
-Engage students in real world application
-Meet needs of ALL students

13 votes

**2). Facilitate the development of character traits that promote respect, tolerance, compassion and understanding in order to intrinsically respond to the environment (do the right thing).

27 votes

3). Having the materials, resources, people and technology available to truly meet the needs of all students and staff.

10 votes.

4). Build and cultivate consistant and respectful partnerships among students and their families, the community and district employees.

22 votes

5). Foster a community pride and investment in creating a culture of excellence in which all students achieve their own potential and enjoy the pursuit.

18 votes

**6)=1). Nurture a community of lifelong learners regardless of abilities or grade level with a focus on engaging students in real world application and instilling a love and joy for learning.

36 votes

**7). Support a culture that develops high quality and enthusiastic staff who are student centered and demonstrate life-long learning.

Forgot to record the number of votes.

The top (3) vote getting statements are starred. Number 1 and 6 both had the same assignment. These draft statements will go to the board for their consideration as they develop a vision statement.

Mrs. Landers polled everyone for what they thought was missing. The participants said:

1). Arts, co-curriculars and intangibles that were prominently included in earlier iterations of the process have been "distilled out." That was a pretty descriptive way to put it.
2). There was no student input. What would the kids say?
3). At least three people were not happy that so little in the way of student expectations was included in the statements, especially regarding excellence.
4). There was no reference to student achievement.

This info will go to the board for their next board developement meeting. They should have enough input to come up with something now.

As an aside, the second highest vote getter, with 27 votes, was basically character education. Just behind the 36 votes for making school practically useful while instilling a joy for learning. How much joy is in learning if one must always check it for practical application? Who's idea of practical are you going to employ? Who will provide the "practicality check?" The devil is in the details here.

I won't be at the Aug. 9 meeting. I'll post the agenda so people can check if they want to attend. Notice the location is planned for the High School Media Room! The Annual Meeting has been postponed, according to Heidi last Monday. I'll post that as soon as it's made public.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Annual Meeting Postponed: Hot off the Presses

ECSD's Deb Olsen is under the weather. Every July-August, she must work with the auditors to finalize the prior year's books and she must look forward and publish the next year's budgets for the Annual Meeting at least a week prior to the meeting. For that reason, Heidi told me they have postponed the Annual Meeting for a month. The August 9th meeting should be business as usual. Deb told me that she wouldn't update the budget until she published the Annual Meeting documents, which would have been the week of the 16th. I don't know for sure, but look for it to be rescheduled to the fourth Monday in September, in the middle of the committees of the whole meeting. At least by then, they will know the 3rd Friday count, even if it will be too soon to have it factored into the budget by then. Once I know the exact date, I'll let everyone know.