Board OKs reading, seminar proposals

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The McCook Public Schools board retained the senior high seminar period and approved the elementary reading program during its monthly meeting Monday evening.

The votes were unanimous on both issues.

Superintendent David Schley recommended to board members that they retain the seminar period, but refine it to make it work better.

The period, which was originally designed to create a bond between teachers and students and interaction between students of different grade levels, will be reduced from 30 minutes to 15 minutes.

To address the issue of students leaving the school campus and/or wandering through the halls, new guidelines state that students may not leave without a hall pass. If a student is going to another teacher's room, he/she must report to seminar first. "Seminar teachers and their assigned students are responsible for any rule violations. There will be consequences for any violations," board president Greg Larson read from a list of guidelines. "Students must be accounted for at all times."

The guidelines indicate the seminar period will be used daily for attendance, saying "The Pledge of Allegiance," announcement, club and organization meeting time and quiet time/study hall.

The overall intent of the seminar period, said board member Tom Bredvick, is still to develop relationships between teacher and student and among students -- following "a homeroom philosophy," he said.

Following the unanimous approval of the new Houghton-Mifflin elementary reading program, board member Mike Gonzales said he wants a progress report to the board after the first semester.

Parents will be informed of the new reading program at the beginning-of-school open house, in newsletters sent home with students and at grade-level parent meetings. Parents will be contacted after assessments, advised of interventions, if they are needed, and required to sign off on interventions.

In other action:

* The board approved implementing its authority relating to exceeding the basic allowable growth rate of 3.675 percent and accessing the applicable growth rate of 4.675 percent.

Schley called the annual action, "somewhat of a no-brainer," and "a have-to-do function" that allows school districts to exceed their basic allowable growth rates, certified by the state department of education each year in February, by 1 percent.

"Allowable growth rate" is the percentage that a school district is allowed to increase its general fund budget of expenditures over the previous year's general fund budget of expenditures, (other than expenditures for special education). Bredvick described it as, "spending allowed to be spent if it is needed."

This action allows the board to spend, as examples, additional grant money, donations or funding not otherwise brought in by tax revenues.

Schley, who said he highly recommends that the board approve the action, said it would require a super majority vote of the board to access the additional funds. Because the board has approved its authority to exceeds the growth rate does not automatically mean that it will.

Larry Shields was the lone board member who voted against approving the authority to exceed the basic allowable growth rate.

* The board approved a resolution that creates a cooperative swim team with Southwest Public Schools for the next two school years. Board president Greg Larson said there is one SW student who wants to swim. Southwest will provide transportation to practice; McCook will provide transportation to swim meets.

The resolution will be forwarded to the Nebraska School Activities Association for its approval.

* The board approved the hiring of Leila Koetter for special education, the approval of local substitute teacher certificates and the appointment of Schley to sign for federal and state grants and funds.

* During public forum, administration and/or board comment periods, PTO president Laurie Brenning handed out "time ticket" booklets -- encouraging parents' involvement and volunteerism -- to board members; Central Elementary teacher Mary Dueland said she supports K-3 teachers' recommendation of an elementary reading program; McCook Elementary Principal Lynda Baumbach said she still needs several paraprofessionals; maintenance supervisor Chris Wallace said new digital locks have been installed at most school buildings; Shields thanked Dennis Berry for filling in as short-term superintendent; financial director Rick Haney said that the school will have to replace nine student-transportation vans over the next three years; and Bredvick said he appreciates the time and dedication of negotiating committee members.

Schley said, "There is nothing more exciting than the beginning of school each year."

Schley did not promise a year of no controversy. "It's okay to disagree once in a while," he said, saying the world would be boring without differences among people. "I'm not here to please any one group," he said. "We're all here for the kids."

Schley encouraged everyone to "have a normal, great school year. Don't introduce anything new for a while."

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