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School Board considers dropping block scheduling at GBHS
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The USD 428 School Board considered still more proposed fundamental changes to the way school is done in Great Bend at the BOE meeting on Monday, Sept. 10.  Whether to continue with block scheduling of the past 14 years at the high school, or to follow suit with many other districts and return to a seven-period day prompted several questions.  

GBHS Class Scheduling

GBHS Principal Tim Friess presented GBHS class scheduling information for the currently-used block schedule and for a seven-period-day format.

The current block schedule has been used since 1998.  Some of the anticipated benefits included: increased academic achievement, more uninterrupted class time, enhanced student and teacher relationships, increased effectiveness of lab classes, teachers could work with fewer students in a school day.  Fewer passing periods would mean less time monitoring halls and more time in the classroom. The plan was implemented at minimal cost to the district, and students were still able to choose just as many classes with the block system.

With more districts within the state choosing to switch back to a seven-period day, Friess said a committee of both core and non-core teachers was formed to study the pros and cons of following suit.  One key benefit to switching back is an increased amount of class time that would open up.  Vernon said the negotiated agreement with faculty states that a teacher shall have a planning period that is equal in length to a class period.  Classes will be 50 minutes long in a 7-period day compared to the 75 to 90 minute long class periods in a Block schedule.

“This amounts to 936 more minutes of instructional time in each class per year which is equivalent to 15 additional days of instructional time per year,” Friess said.

Another positive is more contact days for student and teacher relationships to develop.  With the current block schedule, non-core teachers meet with students every other day.  If a student misses class because of illness or activities, they may not meet with a teacher again for two to four days or more.

“An example is the girls golf team,” Friess said.  Golf meets were scheduled for Sept. 4, 6 and 10 which meant the students missed their R3 and R4 classes for three sessions in a row.    “They last met with these teachers on August 30, and did not meet with them again for two weeks.”

John Popp, Curriculum Director John Popp said as the district changes to Common Core, additional class time and teacher-student contact would be beneficial, however, less collaboration time for teachers during planning periods could be a challenge.

Superintendent Dr. Tom Vernon said board members should consider the information and discuss the options with their patrons.  Results of a survey given to parents at the high school open house recently show a split between those in favor of and those opposed to the switch.  Out of the 147 surveys returned, Freiss said 77 were in favor, while 70 were opposed.  Ironically, the reasons stated for either position are the same, he said.  

The board will need to make a decision by November, Dr. Vernon said, to give counselors time to prepare for spring registration.  He said the committee is prepared to recommend in favor of changing to a 7-period schedule.

Common Core Update
Curriculum Director John Popp gave an update about Common Core curriculum shifts already being implemented in English Language Arts and Mathematics.  In ELA, changes include adding more nonfiction to reading requirements, requiring students to answer test questions in essay form instead of multiple choice and requiring students to properly cite sources and use academic vocabulary in writing assignments.  In math, students are learning not only how to solve problems, but to understand why they can solve them, and how they can be applied to the real world.  

Teachers are continuing to go through mentoring and there is a wide range of familiarity with the new standards at this time, Popp said.

“Some teachers barely know it, and others are very knowledgeable,” he said. “It’s all part of the natural change process.”

Bender expressed surprise at the level of depth homework is already exhibiting and called for the district to consider ways to ease parents into the changes they will see.  Vernon said the district is planning ways to get the word out in the media.

Superintendent’s Report
Vernon asked the board to approve contributions from five organizations.  Wilmer “Wimpy” Sanders named Barton County Special Services as a recipient of memorial contributions of $510.  Walmart  contributed 20 $50 gift cards to Jefferson Elementary as part of the Teacher Rewards Program.  An anonymous donor contributed $3,000 to be shared equally among GBHS vocal music, volleyball, and cross country programs.  Finally, Great Bend Elks Lodge #1127 wishes to donate 12 soccer balls to the district, with two balls being provided to each of the elementary schools and to GBMS.  The board approved all four contributions and will send appropriate correspondence to thank donors.  

In addition, congratulations were extended to Eisenhower Elementary School for being chosen to receive a Dollar General Youth Literacy Grant for purchasing books and associated curriculum materials and two iPads with word-working apps worth $2,500.00.  Teachers Kelly Noland and Jenni McReynolds applied for the grant in May, with the approval of the USD 428 BOE.

The board approved acceptance of the contributions.

Assistant Superintendent Dan Brungardt announced that the district received  a Title VI B entitlement of $44,112.00 from the federal government.  This is the first time the district has ever received one.  Stipulations on how the money can be spent indicate it has to be for something the district is not currently funding.  The administration recommended using it to purchase additional technology for the middle and high school.  Board member Kevin Mauler inquired what else could be done.

“Receiving the entitlement for one year does not necessarily mean the district will receive these funds next year or in the future,” Brungardt said.    There are no other eligible programs where it would be more useful, he said.

The board approved a motion to accept the entitlement and to purchase a cart with 30 laptops for the middle school for $16,725; two carts with 20 laptops each for the high school for $11,421 each; and to use the additional $4,544 for professional development to train teachers how to use the new technology.  

Other items discussed and actions taken  include:

    · Dr. Vernon recommended the approval of Site Council Member candidates submitted by learning center principals for 2012-2013.

    · Board President Young presented a first reading of BOE policy updates.  The policies will be returned to the BOE at a future meeting for action.
    · The District Education Center carpeting project was begun on Sept. 4, and is half completed.  The installer is waiting for a roll of carpeting to finish the project, and baseboards will be arriving shortly.  

    · USD 428 Education Foundation hosted Great Bend Chamber of Commerce Coffee Thursday, Sept. 9.

    Brungardt said plan documents for the GBMS addition will be reviewed the week of Sept. 17, and bids will be released Oct. 12.  Bid opening will be on Nov. 8.

    Removal of the lower level gym seating at GBHS is scheduled for later this month.  Brungardt presented sketches to the board that show new seating will spell out GBHS  when installed.

    The GBHS press box signs , designed by Mark’s Custom Signs, is scheduled to occur later this month also.

    · Approved a yearly contract with M and F  for HVAC maintenance at $9,800.

    · Approved a motion to accept a check for $17,788.88 from the district’s insurance company for damage to eight district vehicles incurred during Great Bend’s hail storm in late-May of 2012.  The board agreed not to repair damage to the vehicles, and will deposit the reimbursement into the General Fund and will be considered part payment of new-vehicle purchases in the spring of 2013.

    · Approved a motion to purchase of a 2010 Chrysler Town and Country van from Marmie Motors for $16,900.00.  The value from NADA is $18,025.00.  The van has mileage of 64,799.0 and comes with the balance of a 5 year/100,000 mile warranty.  The uncertified vehicle, van 295, will be decommissioned and sold on the district web-site.  The new van will be used by Special Services to assist with student’s work-skills needs.