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!