The Calendar Committee presented two 2014-15 school year calendar options to the Manawa School Board at the school board meeting, Monday, Jan. 20.
Nick Hericks, a member of the Calendar Committee, told the board the first option is similar to last year’s schedule. He said the second option took into account a list of things teachers wanted the committee to address.
Changes that are reflected in the second option include parent/teacher conferences being one day in the first semester. Parent/teacher conferences in the second semester would be moved to the third quarter. The second option also included floating inservice days, as well as time off in March and a longer Easter break.
Hericks said the parent/teacher conferences were moved in the second semester in an attempt to get more parents to attend.
“Looking at the two options, though, by adding the two additional floating inservice days it appears that it’s a longer school year for the kids,” said Kurt Kreklow, school board president. “That’s one of my disappointments. [The] biggest disappointment between the two options here is that we’re not getting out in May.”
Becky Stouman, a member of the Calendar Committee, told the board the committee tried to keep the number of days in June to a minimum.
Paul Sturm, board treasurer, acknowledged that the calendar is one of the most contentious items the board deals with each year. He said his concerns revolved around student achievement and continuity. One concern was the fact the school year would start on Sept. 2, and there was already an early release day on Sept. 12. Another concern he had revolved around a scheduled spring break in the middle of March, with Easter break only two weeks later.
“I think every time we go out on break and come back regardless of everyone’s best efforts there’s a bit of getting back into the swing of things type of situation,” Sturm said. “Ultimately the calendar that I would be in favor of would maximize how our students can achieve.”
Stouman responded, “I think some breaks in the spring are important, not just for teachers, but also for the students needing [days] here and there because winter months get long and they are inside all day. I think the kids need a break also occasionally.”
Hericks asked why there is a push to have the school year done before June.
“I think kids just like to have a longer summer,” Kreklow said.
Sturm also said that high school kids that get out of school earlier have an advantage when looking for summer jobs.
Kreklow also expressed concern about the parent/teacher conferences in the second semester being pushed back to April.
“When you are looking out for the best interests of the students, I think they need a longer time period to be able to recover, if they need to recover and get a better grade,” Kreklow said.
The board was informed that 34 teachers voted for the second option, while 14 teachers voted for the first option.
Revisions will be made to the calendar before it is scheduled to go before the board for approval at its February meeting.
Two residents signed up to speak during the public comments portion of the meeting.
Troy Wiesner spoke about the morale in the school district.
“As a parent, there’s a lot of concern as teachers, staff members, principals, you name it, are choosing to leave,” Wiesner told the board. “That’s a huge concern for me. …I want my kids to go to school where we have long term teachers. I don’t want to see a brand new teacher, a brand new principal every other year.”
He then asked the board what it was doing to fix the issue. Kreklow said the board could not respond because the topic was not on the agenda.
Mary Eck also signed up to speak, but when it came time for her to speak, she informed the board she was opting to hold her comments until the upcoming Employee Relations Committee meeting.
Health training & concerns
In the board packet was a letter from Sarah Bortle to the school board. In the letter, Bortle expressed her concern with the “medical safety training as well as the medical protocol of our district.” Her concerns were raised after her son was stuck by another student’s used diabetic lancet, by that student in the third grade classroom.
Board member Dave Strebe asked District Administrator Ed Dombrowski how the situation was handled and how the district was going to proceed.
Dombrowski said the teachers are trained, and the issue “has been addressed and it has been taken care of.”
Board member Helene Pohl asked if Mrs. Bortle was satisfied with the outcome.
“I have not corresponded with Mrs. Bortle,” Dombrowski responded.
“Do you want my opinion? I’m sitting right here. I don’t know if I can speak though,” Bortle said from the audience.
No one said anything more on the matter, and the board moved on to the next topic.
The board unanimously approved a curriculum proposal for 2014-15. The specifics of the proposal were discussed when information was presented to the board about the recent Curriculum Committee meeting.
At that meeting, the curriculum director recommended hiring one fulltime junior high staff member with a math emphasis. In addition, four options were presented regarding the curriculum director position. The first option was to stay status quo. The second option was to extend the current curriculum director by putting in more duties. The third option was to hire a special education/curriculum director. The fourth option was to have the principal handle the curriculum.
“It was the recommendation of the curriculum director to expand the curriculum director to more of a fulltime position,” said Stephanie Flynn, board clerk and a member of the curriculum committee. “That person would also then be responsible for all the RTI, PBIS, assessment coordination, data analysis. It would create a fulltime position. It would be a support contract. It would not be an administration contract. It would not be a teaching contract.”
At the board meeting, Kreklow asked what the cost to the district would be if the curriculum director position was made fulltime.
“We haven’t really discussed that at this point,” Dombrowski said.
Dombrowski added that it was the inclination of the district that there would not be an increase in the contract. The teaching portion of the contract would be removed but the total salary would remain the same.
“I had met with the staff prior to the committee meeting and I had indicated to them that I didn’t think the budget would support adding a staff member. And I asked them to get creative and eventually find ways that we could address that need with the staff that we have,” said Dan Storch, business manager for the district.
4K early entrance request
The board considered a request by a parent to allow their child early enrollment into the district’s 4K program.
The child won’t be four years old until November. Board policy states children must reach the age of four by Sept. 1 to enter the program.
Dombrowski informed the board that the child is from the Dominican Republic and knows very little English. The parents wants the child to be immersed into an English area so that she can start to learn English.
Tammy Sjoberg, Manawa Elementary School principal, told the board she recommended to the father that the child be placed in daycare for English immersion. She also told him about other opportunities for the child to learn English.
Pohl said a screening tool should be used to determine if the board should let the child enroll early.
“I guess my feeling, though, is if we make an exception in this case, how many other exceptions will [we be] asked to be made because there’s one excuse or another, but the bottomline is maybe the parent doesn’t want to pay for daycare for one more year.”
Dombrowski said it was the administrations recommendation to stay with board policy.
“The problem you have is, if you are going to go against your policy, you better change your policy,” Dombrowski said.
Kreklow asked Dombrowski and Sjoberg, in their opinion, what is best for the child?
“I think putting the child in a situation where we’re not sure that she’s emotionally ready or has the maturity in this kind of setting, and not being able to offer the services she most likely would need would put her at more of a disadvantage than having the parent try to find other opportunities within the community or surrounding community to get this child exactly what she needs in the manner that she needs it,” Sjoberg said.
Kreklow eventually asked for a motion to approve the early entry. No board member made a motion. Kreklow asked one more time. This time Pohl made a motion to approve the early entry. Dave Strebe seconded the motion.
Board member Russell Hollman asked if it was possible to wait until the child goes through an assessment screening. Pohl and Strebe then withdrew her motion and the board voted unanimously to table the issue until after the child goes through a screening.
• The board unanimously approved hiring Kerry Steingraber for the high school health aide position.
• Tabled changing the language in the Employee Handbook regarding compensatory time.
• Tabled a math curriculum proposal of $25,000 for 2014-15.