By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
Vernon speaks out on reading scores and school funding
Placeholder Image

The nation’s report card
Advanced = A+
Proficient = A or B
Basic = C
Below Basic = 25 % to 30%

At the USD 428 Board of Education meeting Monday night, Superintendent Tom Vernon prepared board members for some of the questions they will likely receive from patrons.  He also addressed recent developments with the Gannon Decision concerning school funding by the state.

On Jan. 5, Kansas Governor Sam Brownback said in a press conference that one of his major goals during his administration is to boost reading scores statewide, Vernon said.  

“He said 64 percent of Kansas fourth graders read below proficient on the National Assessment of Educational Progress,” he said.  “The thing is, on the Kansas State Assessment, the non-proficiency rate in reading among fourth graders was 16.6 percent.  So, I ask you, what does this statement mean to you?”

Board members remained silent as they considered.  

“Well, that is what I’m afraid of,” he said.  “The thing is, Kansas does not have 64 percent of its fourth graders who cannot read proficiently.  To give the Governor his due, I’m not sure he knows about proficiency levels.  I’m afraid he’s going to scare our community by saying this.”

Vernon went on to explain that several governmental and national organizations say proficiency levels measured by the NAEP are fundamentally flawed because they are politically motivated.

“The NAEP is the nation’s report card,” Vernon said.  “There is no grade level.  There are only four performance levels.”  
Vernon warned board members the Governor’s agenda may include implementing a policy of holding non-proficient readers back in the third or fourth grades as 14 other states have already done.  These 14 states are also “red” states, Vernon said.

“I would guess we’ll see some form of legislation presented to have a mandatory retention in third or fourth grade,” he said.  “The question is, is this a good solution?  Is it the only solution?”

He said retention has negative affects on academic achievement, socio-emotional adjustment and school completion.  

“I’ve seen students who have been held back, and most of the time they drop out,” board member Kevin Mauler said.  “It’s pretty hard-hitting for the kids.”

However, Vernon said, it may be a motivating factor for students and parents, causing some to work harder to avoid retention.

“The decision to retain is a very personal one and should be between a principal, teachers and parents working together for the best interest of the student,”  he said.   “The decision should not be a state mandated decision.  Our kids don’t need another high-stakes test.”

Gannon decision
Last week, the Kansas Supreme Court found current funding of Kansas schools unconstitutional and ordered the state to increase the base state aid per pupil to $4492 from $3838 for the 2013-2014 school year.  It will also tie funding to the inflation rate, and require to state to “evaluate and compensate for new costs to the K-12 school system  because of the waiver or the “Common Core Standards” or both”.

This raise in the base will increase the district’s budget an estimated $2.9 million, Vernon said.  This increase will likely be delayed until sometime this summer, however, as the State Attorney General has filed an appeal on behalf of the legislature.

When the funding is reinstated, Vernon said the district will look at replacing teachers, teaching assistants, and several programs that have been cut in recent years.  Keeping teachers salaries competitive and providing for staff development are also important considerations.  

“We can also judiciously increase spending on technology,” he added.

Brownback will give his State of the State speech on Tuesday, and a better picture of his agenda should be apparent should emerge, Vernon said.  Schools for Fair Funding, the coalition of school districts that sued the state to reinstate funding to 2008 levels, will meets on Friday, Jan. 18, he said.  

Construction and improvement update
Assistant Superintendent Dan Brungardt gave a construction update on the GBMS Gym Addition.  Demolition work has been completed, and on Monday, workers began backing and leveling the dirt so next week they can begin drilling and setting piers for the gymnasium.  They will also be setting extra-long piers for the tornado safe room that will adjoin the existing auditorium.  

“The teachers have lost their parking lot, so the parking spots are pretty full,” Brungardt said.  “Luckily, there are very few students who drive to school, so it hasn’t been a problem.”

Compton Construction, the company the district has contracted with for the build, will hold a construction meeting Tuesday morning where they will give a time line up to the completion date of Sept. 1.  

Brungardt also gave an update on winter projects throughout the district.  The carpeting project at the Central Kitchen office area has been completed, and the  plan for rearranging and maximizing storage at the District Education Center is nearing completion.

The quotes have been received for installation of windows in the technology portion of the District Education Center were reasonable, Brungardt said,  though the expense of the project has been reviewed.  

“The plan is on hold, and consideration will be given later to an in-house window project fulfilled by district maintenance staff,” he said.  The costs were higher, though reasonable, were higher than expected because of extra work that would need to be done because of how the building is constructed, he said.  
In other business, the board:

* Asked board members to offer suggestions and provide input received from patrons concerning the 2013-2014 calendar that will be the focus of the calendar committee for the next two months.
* Approved a request by John Settle of Hi Neighbor newspaper to use the GBHS auditorium and Commons Area on March 18 for a Taste of Home Cooking School, with the district’s standard usage fees.
Discussed plans to expand the wellness initiative beyond district employees to various groups in the community.
 * Approved a request by the insurance committee to reopen the opportunity for registered members of the district’s insurance plan to have a no-cost blood analysis done if they did not take part last year.  
* Tabled a recommendation to have newly prescribed drugs costing $1,000 or more per month to be studied by the Prescription Network of Kansas, the plans precertification site, before being filled to determine if there are more reasonably priced generic drugs with the same effectiveness that could be substituted.  Board member Larry Kutina said he was concerned that doctors might not be able to freely prescribe drugs that are needed.   ““I don’t like the idea of a network saying a drug that the doctor prescribes can’t be used.”   The board will study the issue further and address it at the February meeting.
* Approved a proposal for an Eagle Scout project, which would include building a swing set for wheelchair bound students, two soccer goals and painting the bike racks at Eisenhower elementary school.
* Accepted a donation from Insurance Planning, Inc. of $500 for the purchase of an iPad to be utilized in             the Special Services ED classroom.
* Accepted a donation on behalf of the Family and Consumer Science at GB High School of 11 car seats     @ $70 and 11 car-seat detector kits @ $15, a total value of $935  The Great Bend Pilot Club sees an opportunity to assist Family and Consumer Science classes in regard to the students’ hands-on experience of being totally responsible for an infant and to support the program which gives students an understanding of the enormity of parenthood.  
* Accepted a donation of $1,000 from an anonymous donor for the GBHS Vocal Music budget line.
* Appointed Certified Teacher Mr. Ryan Pinkall, as Teacher of Science at GB High School.
* Appointed Mrs. Sarah Schartz, Family Support Worker at Eisenhower Elementary School.
* Approved the retirements of Mrs. Crystal Cross, Teacher of English at GB High School and Mrs. Janet Thurow, Special Education Teacher at GB High School, both effective at the end of the contract year.
Voted in favor of using Charlesworth and Associates to market the district’s insurance for another three-year cycle beginning July 1.
* Approved fundraiser requests for 2013-2014.
* Reminded board members that the deadline for filing for election is noon, January 22.