The USD 428 Board of Education met Monday evening with an agenda that seemed uneventful. But for those that stuck around for action following the first executive session, a glimpse into two equally compelling sides of a debate over quantity versus quality ensued.
The board first offered congratulations to students and teachers. Official recognition of the Great Bend High School Wrestling team’s accomplishments at the 5A state Championship. Chris Burley took first in his weight class, followed by his brother, Greg Burley, who placed fourth, Kade Sander, fourth place, Bryce Hofmeister, fifth place and Darion Yager, sixth place in their respective weight classes. Other state qualifiers included Jacob Crane, Justin Henry, Cody Liles, and Joe Lindenberger. Coach Norbert Muth and Assistant Coaches Mike Schridde and Justin Schwartz were recognized also.
Marla Davidson, Kindergarten teacher at Lincoln School, recently learned she was chosen to represent USD 428 at the 2013-2014 Kansas Teacher of the Year program by the nominating committee. She received a plaque and $500.
“I just want to say I’m so thankful...$500 is like $5,000 in teacher dollars,” Davidson said. She also offered thanks and appreciation in memory of former Lincoln Elementary principal Alvena Spangenberg for the support she offered over the years.
Writing Coach presentation
English teachers Kim Heath and Julie Buzard introduced a new curriculum under consideration for grades seven through 12 that will make the transition to the increased writing requirements of the Common Core curriculum manageable for teachers and beneficial for students.
The program, Writing Coach, allows teachers to instruct the program to focus on different areas of student’s writing, and the program in turn will prompt students to go back and self edit. Students receive immediate feedback, and teachers are better able to keep up with the already exhaustive job of checking and grading papers, Buzard said.
Heath requested the board to set aside some of the money saved from using an online text to be used to purchase more computers, ensuring every student and teacher has the technology needed to get the most out of the program. Board member Joyce Carter requested Curriculum Director John Popp look into the cost of purchasing an additional cart of computers.
Approval of grants
Three grants were approved which will help to enrich student’s education. Park Elementary School vocal music teacher Malia Divilbiss learned the school was awarded a WalMart Foundation grant of a $500 collection set of Character Education CDs and DVDs to be used in K-6 music instruction.
Special Service instructor Melody Johnston received an award through Midwest Energy Community Fund of $500 to be used for elementary math instruction. Resources purchased with the grant will improve student’s learning of financial concepts that will help with personal and real-life skills.
The board also approved a request by Blyth Porter, a reading specialist teacher at Eisenhower Elementary, to apply for a Dollar General Literacy Foundation Youth Literacy grant to benefit students in grades one through six. The application is for $3,000 which will purchase five iPads, a phonemic awareness and phonics kit and an early intervention phonics program and applications for the iPads.
Assistant Superintendent Dan Brungardt updated the board on progress at the GBMS gymnasium build site. He offered photographs of trenches filled with rebar posts in preparation for concrete to be poured for piers and stem walls.
“They have quite a few people working over there right now,” he said. “It’s a pretty busy place.”
The prefabricated building should be ready May 3. The goal is to start putting it up on May 15, he said.
Longer vs more
The board, minus president Dwight Young, absent, met in two executive sessions. The first, to discuss negotiations, was followed by a discussion between board members and representatives from Great Bend’s National Education Alliance, the local teacher’s union. GBNEA members requested a discussion about lengthening the school day by 20 minutes, which would shorten the school year from 188 to 180.
In March, members of the GBNEA answered an informal survey asking their opinion of the benefits of more contact days with students versus longer class periods and fewer contact days with students, according to GBNEA representative Judy Johnson, school counselor at GBMS.
“Recent research has shown that quality, not quantity, is the driving force in student success,” Johnson said. She recalled longer school days at the beginning of her career, before a push to increase the number of teacher contract days with students.
Superintendent Tom Vernon prefers a higher number of days in the school year, and he’s not alone. BOE member Joyce Carter pointed to recent district test scores.
“We aren’t getting any less “at risk” than we were before,” she said. “Our test scores have not done well for the past three years.” She went on to admit she was undecided if students would get what they need from more days or longer days.
For GBNEA representative Dan Heath, drama teacher at GBHS, said he supports the 20-minute longer day initiative because the change from the block schedule to the seven-period day will be a drastic adjustment for many teachers.
“The longer period of time means we won’t have to cut out things we were going to do,” he said. “When you teach bell to bell, even a few extra minutes matters.”
BOE member Cheryl Rugan opined that a closer look at the proposal was worthwhile. The transitions to Common Core standards and the seven period day are major changes, she said.
“We’re in a time where we need to look at everything,” she said. “This should not be a discussion about a few extra minutes leading to throwing out x number of days. We need to think about “what benefit are we getting,” from each proposal.”
Vernon asked to discuss the topic further in an Interest Based Bargaining meeting between the district and members of the GBNEA.
The second executive session was for the discussion of nonelected personnel. When the board returned to regular session, they voted unanimously to nonrenew the contract of McKinley Phillips, a nontenured teacher at Jefferson Elementary.
Other items of business included:
* Approved the 2013-2014 student, teacher and activities handbooks for all grade levels. Language referring to the instructional league for seventh and eighth grade athletics was deleted, with the understanding that the leagues will be considered if there is sufficient participation.
* Approved the adoption of a new Health textbook for GBHS, as recommended by the District Healthy Living Committee, the District Curriculum Steering Committee and the District Principals team.
* Accepted the resignation of Ms. April Burns, math teacher at GBHS.
* Approved long-term maternity leave for Mrs. Dina Hiss, fourth grade teacher at Park Elementary School.
* Approved appointment of two certified teachers, Mrs. Gwen McDonald, second grade teacher at Eisenhower Elementary and Ms. Monica Reza, math teacher at GBMS.
* Accepted a contribution from Kastle Investments, LLC Jake Klima of $750 to be used to purchase golf bags for the GBHS golf team.
* Accepted a contribution from Mr. and Mrs. Kip Spray of $1,000 to be spent on girls’ swim warm-ups for the GBHS swim team.
* Instructed the district to begin advertising for a new Special Education Assistant Director.
* Heard a first reading of the 7-12 English Language Arts resource adoption.
* Discussed the agenda for Curriculum Day, scheduled for April 22.
* Introduced a proposal for a plaque for Great Bend Middle School, and the question of what to call the new gymnasium.
* Brungardt outlined summer projects for the computer department.
* Joyce Carter, Dr. Larry Kutina and Kevin Mauler were re-elected for an additional four-year term each at the April 2 election, and were offered congratulations and appreciation for their efforts by the rest of the board.
* GBHS Principal Tim Friess gave an update on preparations for the all school Community Service Day.
The board will meet on Tuesday, April 23 at Eisenhower Elementary for a noon meeting. The next regular meeting of the USD 428 BOE is scheduled for May 13.