McCook junior and senior high students with failing grades can make up missing credit hours at summer school this summer.
McCook Public Schools board of education members Tuesday evening unanimously approved the start of summer school classes and the implementation of a computer software credit recovery curriculum called "A+."
The A+ curriculum can also be used at the school district's alternative education center (LIFT) and ultimately for independent study and in preparation of ACT college entrance exams, curriculum director Gayle Sharkey told board members at their April board meeting. However, its initial use in McCook will be during the district's new summer school for students in sixth grade through 12th grade struggling to get passing grades.
Parents will be notified of students' failing grades in letters from junior high principal Dennis Berry and senior high principal Jerry Smith.
A student must be referred by a teacher and/or counselor, and an application to attend summer school must be returned to the school. Applications will be reviewed by members of the program's steering committee.
The student and parent(s) will sign a contract that outlines details of the course, expectations and consequences. An assessment test will be given at the beginning of each session to determine the student's current level of mastery of the subject material.
Summer school will be split into two four-week sessions: From Tuesday, June 2 through Thursday, June 25, and from Monday, July 6 through Wednesday, July 29, from 8:30 a.m. until 11:30 a.m., four days a week Monday through Thursday.
Summer school will be limited to 25 students per session; additional sessions may be added if needed.
Each course will cost the student $50, however, that fee is reimbursed with successful completion of the computer-assisted instruction. It is forfeited, though, if the student misses more than two class sessions (three tardies count as one absence), and the student is dismissed from the program. Financial assistance is available.
Each student may take one course per session, although a student who successfully completes a course may continue to another if time allows and only at the discretion of the program's screening committee.
Summer school will be staffed with two teachers and one paraprofessional per session, at an estimated cost of $6,140 for salaries ($20-25 per hour) for June and July.
The A+ program offers 60 titles for sixth graders through seniors in math (including pre-algebra, geometry, calculus); science (biology, chemistry, physics); social studies (civics, history, geography, economics, government); English (reading, vocabulary, literature); and high school electives (including anthropology, health, psychology, Spanish).
At the February board meeting, board learned that the initial purchase of 60 titles of A+ Learning will be $33,813.95. Training of McCook's teachers will cost $2,625. The annual fee, which guarantees access to an average of 200 yearly updates, will cost $3,500. The total for the first year of the A+ system -- $39,938.95 -- and annual updates will be paid with about $63,000 left over from the $188,000 budgeted for new math books and with about $6,000 in a federal government TeamMates mentoring grant.
Sharkey told board members at the February board meeting and again during the April meeting that the A+ program is difficult course work. "It's not an easy way out," she said Tuesday evening. "It's going to be a challenge." The rules and expectations -- and the writing module of the English class -- are non-negotiable, she and English teacher Pam Wolford said.
Guidelines for the independent study and ACT prep course portions of A+ within the McCook school system still need some "tweaking," Sharkey said, and will be refined and may be offered during the 2009-2010 school year.
In other action:
* The board accepted the resignation of Marc Kaminski, senior high physical education, after one year in the McCook system; and the retirements of Bob Saf, special education director, after eight years; and Mary Jane Mires, first grade teacher at McCook Elementary, after 281⁄2 years.
Mires is eligible for the retirement incentive in the McCook Education Association's negotiated agreement. Board members Tom Bredvick and Larry Shields said that Mires would be sincerely missed.
* During "Curriculum Updates," Superintendent Dave Schley said that administrators are looking at the possibility of cooperating with Educational Service Unit No. 15 to fill Saf's position. The directorship would be located in McCook, Schley said, but responsibilities would be area-wide.
Schley asked for patience as staffing vacancies are filled, as junior high principal Dennis Berry recovers from cancer treatment and returns to school, and as the district prepares for a new superintendent in July. Schley said the district has received two applications for an art position created in February, eight applications for Saf's position and "several" applications for the senior high physical education vacancy. "We're asking for patience," Schley said. "Hang in there."
He also said that "lots of things" are happening on the state level, as educators anticipate the passage of LB 545, which details changes in the state aid to schools formula and gives McCook "a whoppin' gain" of $921. "But, we're not losing state aid," Schley said.
Federal stimulus funds in the amount of about $700,000 are to be spent only for special education, he said, and not for projects and/or staffing that would continue beyond the two years of the federal stimulus package.
Another payment of federal stimulus money funneled through the state is anticipated to be about $150,000 to $180,000, Schley said.
Schley is gloomy about the school district's tax valuation, which, he said, is not likely to go up.
Schley said, however, "We have an adequate reserve to protect ourselves," in an iffy economy. "I want everyone to know that we're in relatively good shape now."
* School board member Diane Lyons said that the school district may need to hire two to three new reading teachers as concerns about reading mastery develop. She said the board's programs committee recommends that the new superintendent, Grant Norgaard, who starts July 1, work on a K-12 reading curriculum.
* Proposed changes to the sixth grade intramural sports program will require input from the McCook Education Association, as teachers' involvement and salaries are items negotiated by the MEA and the school district.
Junior high teacher and intramural program director Gene Weedin told board members that the changes will provide more flexibility among offerings and spell out his responsibilities as director and the teacher/coaches' pay scale.
The proposals will come before the board at another board meeting.
The program now offers boys and girls basketball, volleyball and football.
* McCook artist Jan Blank told board members that she and members of the McCook Art Guild are unhappy with the board's decision to hire an art teacher for junior and senior high classes, "mainly because it leaves out elementary students, our main focus."
Blank said that although the teacher will teach the after-school elementary art classes, those classes are for high-ability learners only, and aren't available to all students.
Blank wondered if, at the elementary schools, a co-teaching situation with music might not be an option. "It's something to think about ... " she said.
Schley invited Blank to come to his office "to share a cup of coffee" and discuss the situation.