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North Crawford School Board discusses school calendar
North Crawford

NORTH CRAWFORD - At the regularly scheduled meeting of the North Crawford School Board, the School Year Calendar for 2018-19 proposed by Superintendent Brandon Munson was sent back to the school administration for revision.

The most controversial thing in the calendar seemed to be the day of the week that early releases for staff professional development sessions would occur. Munson’s calendar called for switching the day for the early releases from Friday to Wednesday.

One parent spoke up about the proposed calendar change in the public input section of the agenda.

“To me, this just seems like it will result in two ‘manic Mondays,” the parent said. “The kids are more apt to have an athletic practice on a Wednesday, which means the parent will have to bring them back to school at the end of the day.”

The parent questioned Munson about how many parent complaints he had received about having the early releases on Friday.

“We discussed the early release schedule in the calendar committee, with input from staff,” Munson said. “The teachers think that having the early release on Friday makes it difficult for them to engage in instruction because the students are more apt to have a ‘vacation day mentality.”

Munson said that the primary debate at the committee meeting centered on whether to have two early releases per month versus one whole day.

“The staff was split on the question 50/50,” Munson said. “We debated the pros and cons, and found our middle ground on the issue.”

School board member Jesse Swenson expressed that she agreed with the parent who spoke, and made a motion to send the calendar back to the administration for revision. Munson also shared that he had not received parent complaints about the Friday early releases.

“You didn’t get any complaints about the Friday early releases,” Swenson said. “Now, you’ve just had two about the proposed Wednesday early releases.”

Munson shared that the results regarding the benefit of the early release/professional development session from the staff had come back very positive.

“And we intended to make them even more useful and more effective,” Munson said.

North Crawford District Business Manager Demetri Andrews told the group that the teachers had been divided on the twice-monthly versus one full day per month issue. He explained that the teachers had expressed the opinion that it is easier to maintain the momentum of the program to have twice-monthly sessions.

“And the district’s focus when making this recommendation was on what is best for students, and learning,” Andrews explained. “We weren’t only focusing on what is best for families’ schedules.”

Board member Jim Dworschack questioned whether offering instruction on a Friday with an early release is really an issue for the teaching staff.

“Are we trying to fix a problem that doesn’t exist,” Dworschack questioned. “Or are we trying to fix a problem that does exist with the wrong solution?”

The board voted unanimously in support of the resolution made by Swenson and seconded by Dworschack to send the calendar back to the school administration for revisions.

Learned anything?

North Crawford teacher Amy Allbaugh brought up the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida in the public input section of the agenda. She posed the question, “have we learned anything?”

Munson shared that the topic had been discussed at length at the recent district leadership meeting.

“There’s something to be learned each time a school shooting happens,” Munson said. “I don’t know all of the specifics of what happened in that school.”

Andrews reported that the district’s insurance company had sent out a summary. The report specified that the breaches in the Parkland, Florida school’s security had been with the pulling of the fire alarm, which prevented the school from going into lockdown mode.

“We’re going to go with the protocol we have in place for now,” Munson said. “At the same time, we are looking at what we can do to improve our plan for future school years, for instance we may consider ALICE training for the school.”

ALICE Training is a blended learning approach of e-learning and ALICE instructors to help schools implement a school security plan, provide security training drills and exercises, and certify the school.

In 2013, the US Department of Education spent considerable resources researching active shooting events. Their findings have resulted in a change in guidance from the lockdown protocols, which were the state of the art recommendation to schools previously.

ALICE Training protocols are used almost exclusively in all new guidance. Following current federal and state recommendations is a major step in limiting a school district’s liability by demonstrating they have met today’s standard of care.

Emotions and empathy

North Crawford Instructional Services Coordinator Holly Jones enthusiastically informed the board about the district’s intent to purchase and deploy the ‘Second Step’ curriculum recommended by guidance counselor Zoe Ellerbusch.

“The Second Step curriculum is designed to help kids understand emotions and empathy,” Jones explained. “It is a universal curriculum that works with the classroom teacher and creates a common language.”

Jones explained that the curriculum has four sections: academic, mindfulness, child protection, and bullying.

Business report

District business manager Demetri Andrews reported that the district would receive a $10,000 Title IV grant. The grant is being given to all schools in the state, and is intended to support academic and digital literacy, and access to a well-rounded education.

Andrews reported that the district will use the funds for the APEX curriculum, the Second Step curriculum, and possibly a school perception survey.

Andrews also informed the board that he is looking at multiple alternatives to “reset healthcare for the district,” which he explained constitutes 18-20 percent of the total district budget.

“I am pursuing three different underwriting processes prior to our July 1 renewal date,” Andrews said. “My goal is to get the district into a bigger risk pool, and lower premiums and deductibles.”

AGR report

North Crawford Elementary Principal Julie Kruizenga reported that she had prepared the Achievement Gap Reduction (AGR) report for presentation to the board. Previously, AGR was known as Student Achievement Guarantee in Education (SAGE). Unlike the AGR Report, SAGE reports were required to be submitted to the Department of Public Instruction (DPI).

AGR schools are required to report to the school board at the end of each semester on the school's success in attaining the performance objectives established in the AGR contract and which AGR strategies the school implemented.

Kruizenga reported that North Crawford had students at both ends of the Standard Growth Percentiles (SGP) shown in the report. SGP compares student growth to their academic peers nationwide on a 1-99 scale. She explained that if a student received a score of 90, it means that the student had shown more growth since they were last measured than 90 percent of their academic peers nationwide.

Teachers Amy Allbaugh and Amy Geary talked about the reasons they prefer the smaller class sizes allowed through participation in AGR.

“My students perform better in all classes, at all levels with smaller class sizes,” Allbaugh said. “I get more one-on-one time, create a more cohesive classroom culture which is less chaotic, and provide differentiated instruction and higher student achievement.”

Allbaugh said it is also a teacher retention tool, because if a teacher can get the same pay to teach a smaller class at a different district, then they’re less likely to stay.

“I have a group with a lot of needs,” Geary added. “I can’t imagine having a larger class size. With the smaller class size, I get better student focus and less chaos.”

Other business

In other business, the Board learned that:

• the district is exploring the scope of the project in replacing older flooring containing asbestos

• Harry Young has been hired as the new Route Two bus driver

• the Cross-Categorical Special Education teacher has resigned, and will be replaced for the remainder of the school year by Marcy Murray King

• Ryan Pedretti and Tyler Dornick will be the baseball coaches

• Angie Wall will be the softball coach, and an assistant coach is still being sought

• Mike Allbaugh will coach boys track, and no coach has yet been found for girls track

• Anna Davidson will coach middle school track, with Tanya Forkash as assistant coach

• the PBIS (Positive Behavioral Intervention) Team has been working on playground behavior, and has made a video, ‘The North Crawford Way,” for students to view;

• the January ‘Third Friday Count,’ showed 459 fulltime equivalent students, up from 453 in September;

• the district will participate in a school perception survey, starting with the teaching staff this school year.