Board discusses technology equity

By Bryan Richardson

USD 383 principals and the school board discussed themes of equity and progress during site council reports Wednesday.

Wednesday’s reports were the second and final site council reports of the year, the first having been received in November. The reports give principals the opportunity to share their school’s accomplishments and needs with the school board.

Manhattan High principal Terry McCarty thanked the current and past boards, administration and school officials for their contributions to his time as principal. He is leaving at the end of the school year.

“I will finish my last couple of months being the best I possibly can be for the school,” he said. “I’m very, very grateful for what I’ve learned while I’ve been here. It will always be a special place.”

McCarty said he plans to take what he’s learned to an administrative role at another district. “I’m very much at peace with what I’m doing,” he said.

While McCarty used his final site council report to say goodbye, Woodrow Wilson Elementary principal Deb Nauerth used her first report to say hello.

Nauerth said she appreciates the family aspect of Woodrow Wilson. “It was this way long before me,” she said. “It truly does feel like a family.”

Looking out for her school, Nauerth mentioned technology as an area where she’d like to see more equality.

Nauerth expressed concern that Woodrow Wilson teachers received laptops for the first time this year, making them the last in the district to have them.

She said it’s important to make learning equitable around the district with technology and programs being implemented at all schools rather than on a school-by-school cycle.

The elementary principals also advocated more collaboration time for teachers, a topic that is currently being considered by the school board.

Board president Dave Colburn mentioned that some parents told him concerns about the number of early release days that would be added and what that would mean for child care.

A plan being considered by the board has eight early release days for teacher collaboration, up from the current five days.

Bluemont Elementary principal Kathy Stitt said parents can plan for it with the days being put on the calendar in advance to the school year.

Ogden Elementary principal Jim Armendariz said the benefits of collaboration outweigh the additional days of early release. “If we didn’t have options for kids after school, I would be concerned that we had so many early releases,” he said.

Board member Beth Tatarko said some schools have stronger programs than others due to grants, which she doesn’t want the district to rely on.

“If we want strong programs after school, we’re going to have to make sure they’re provided and we have to make sure we pay for it,” she said.

Bluemont’s 21st Century Community Learning Centers grant from the Department of Education began Feb. 18 to enhance the after-school opportunities for students. “We just started, but I’m really excited about the potential and what we can do,” Stitt said.

The principals brought up the common core standards being adopted and the No Child Left Behind waiver by the state that changed the measurements for state assessments.

Adequate yearly progress — the measurement of students meeting the assessments standards — stopped being a part of the assessment process this year. It was due to increase to 100 percent of students being proficient by 2014.

Colburn said the difficulty with AYP comes when a larger school has more subgroups that are considered due to having more students who fall under an economic, minority or disabled category.

“Your school can be doing phenomenally and have standards of excellence top to bottom, but not make AYP,” he said.

Anthony Middle School fell into this category in 2012. The school reached standards of excellence in reading and math for 7th grade, 8th grade and building-wide. However, it didn’t make AYP in reading for students with disabilities, math for students with disabilities and math for students with free and reduced lunch status.

Anthony principal Vickie Kline said she was pleased to see the process go away. “We’ve been working with that (special education) subgroup and looking individually at those kids and the fact that they did make gains from where they were at but it wasn’t enough to make the bar for AYP,” she said.

Kline said the school has been working to improve in those areas since receiving the preliminary assessment data in May.

Despite the stated downsides, Eisenhower Middle principal Greg Hoyt said AYP caused schools to take a deeper look on individual students. He also said the waiver allows for better opportunities to measure a school’s success.

“It does provide a more realistic opportunity for schools to gauge how it’s making progress,” Hoyt said.

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