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By Sue Curry Jones
Last Thursday Ava R-1 School Board members met to conduct the monthly business session of the board. During the evening, board members approved several school program reviews and evaluations, and adopted budget modifications for fiscal year 2013.
School financial obligations and student programs that were reviewed by the board and changed for the 2013 fall term are as follows:
• The Vo-Tech Program which is provided to students through travel to Mountain Grove, was eliminated in a 7-0 vote. The motion to discontinue the program was made by Larry Silvey, and supported by Pat Henry. The board’s decision was made with two stipulations –– the school will create an alternative program on the Ava campus for students, and students will have the opportunity to complete this area of study.
According to Dr. Brian Wilson, costs associated with the Vo-Tech classes, and the bus service to Mountain Grove requires an outlay of at least $25,700+ annually.
• The Gifted Program was scaled back to align with minimum standards for gifted education as required by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). At present, the Ava program offers more than the required number of minutes. The motion to modify program offerings was made by Pat Henry, and supported by Marsha Aborn. The vote was 7-0.
• Drivers’ Education was eliminated as a standard class offered during regular school hours. Starting in 2013, the class will only be offered during summer school or as a part of the Bear’s Den after school program. At present, Drivers Ed is a regular ½-day block class,
The justification for the change was to place the teacher back into the classroom, and gain savings on fuel consumption.
The motion was made by Marsha Aborn; seconded by Regina Porter. The vote was 7-0.
• The topic of block scheduling versus traditional period classes was eventually tabled at the request of Pat Henry, who asked to move the discussion and decision making process to closed session. However, prior to moving to closed, several pros and cons were discussed, which transpired as follows:
According to Dr. Brian Wilson, reverting to a traditional period of scheduling will allow for better use of teaching staff in the high school, and the change offers the potential for savings of nearly $200,000. Wilson’s reasons for endorsing the change noted the following:
–Period scheduling is 250 minutes of instruction a week, whereas block classes offer 225 minutes.
–Under block scheduling, lesson planning time allotted high school teachers is higher with about 172 more minutes than elementary teachers. Whereas, with a traditional format, lesson planning timeframes are aligned throughout grades K-12.
The negative consequences of changing to period scheduling was cited as: fewer courses offered at the upper level of study; would require a reduction in teaching staff; and the need to re-train teachers to a 50-minute instruction time.
Additional concerns voiced about making the change were given as: less time for student’s to complete homework assignments; student’s daily homework responsibility; teachers will have only 50 minutes of instruction time; limited advisory time; possible increase in class sizes; changes credit standards for graduation; and scheduling issues.
Wilson said 38 years of research, from 1972 to 2010, is documented on the performance levels of both classroom formats and the studies have concluded one format doesn’t excel over the other. Nonetheless, Ava’s performance under block scheduling has been good.
Noting reasons why the school opted to change to block, Larry Silvey explained that a previous high school principal had firmly believed in the block format and persuaded the board to adopt the format. The board had confidence in his recommendation.
In closed session, board members further discussed the ramifications of moving back to a traditional class structure and the impact the move will have on teachers and programs.
Nonetheless, in a 7-0 vote, the board opted to adopt the traditional period scheduling for the fall term beginning 2012-13. According to Supt. Brian Wilson, the switch will impact, or possibly eliminate, seven jobs. Consequently, it was important for the board to make a decision now so teachers and students are aware of the upcoming change and can make plans accordingly.
The board remained undecided on whether the school day will consist of 7 or 8 periods, and how much time to set aside for student advisory periods. These items will be determined at a later date.
Closed session also encompassed a discussion of student issues, and in a 7-0 vote, the board’s approval to extend an individual’s certification deadline, and postponing their target date until March 2012.
In other business, the Ava R-1 Board of Education approved Lacey Nicole Tucker as the Ava School nominee for the John T. Belcher Memorial Scholarship, a scholarship opportunity offered through the Missouri School Board Association.
Tucker was approved in a 6-0 vote, with an abstention by Marsha Aborn. The motion to approve the application was presented by Larry Silvey and supported by Pat Henry.
With board approval, Tucker will now proceed with the process and scholarship competition.
The Missouri School Board Association (MSBA) established the Memorial Scholarship in memory of Belcher, an administrator who was instrumental in establishing new programs geared to improve the learning environment of Missouri public school students. Belcher died in 1989 after a battle with cancer.
The Ava High School Board Report provided by Principal Teresa Nash noted mandatory tutoring numbers have decreased during the first quarter of study, from 191 students to 178. The mandatory tutoring program is geared to assist students with a D or F in a course of study and need academic intervention to bring the grade up to an acceptable level.
Auditions for the high school drama department play entitled “Sleepy Hollow” will start soon.
Nash also reported the United States Department of Education now requires school districts nation-wide to report graduation rates based on a uniform formula. The new formula will reflect the percentage of students who graduate in four years; whereas, the current Missouri formula also includes students who graduate in more than four years. Consequently, Nash said future graduation numbers will most likely appear lower in comparison to previous school years. However, for the past four years, Ava High has ranked above the state graduation rate of 86.4–85.9 percent and the school’s numbers have been on the upswing. In 2008, the school recorded a graduation rate of 93.2 percent; in 2009 – 93.7 percent; in 2010 – 96.2 percent; and in 2011, 100 percent.
FBLA is sponsoring a coat/winter clothing drive to benefit youth in the community, Nash said. Coats will be collected throughout the school from Nov. 21- Dec. 9.
Ava Elementary Principal Diane Premer invited board members to attend the third-grade music concert Thursday, Dec. 8., in the Performing Arts Center, starting at 7 p.m. Students will perform holiday song on the hand bells.
Six elementary students, under the assistance of art teacher Tracy Griffith, recently entered artwork in the Southwest District Art Show in Springfield. Three student entries were recognized, they are: Mason Meyer, 1st-grader, 2nd place, 2-D mixed media; Cadence Williams, 2nd-grader, 3rd place, colored drawing; and Tristin Lucas, 4th-grader, 1st place, ceramics.
Elementary students recognized for displaying the character word Respect during October were given as: Gracie Fleetwood and Gavin Campbell, kindergarten; Corra Twyman and Josh Springer, 1st-grade; Madison Wade and Brady Koop, 2nd-grade; Grace Key and Kody Myers, 3rd grade; Fiona Wright, Jacob Gillies and Jacob Eastling, 4th grade.
Middle school Principal Cody Hirschi reported the following 7th – 8th grade students were selected to participate in Junior High District Honor Band: Ruby Kilgore, flute; Alexis Eggleston, clarinet; Kady Todd, bass clarinet; Shelden Lewis, tenor saxophone; Madalyn Barnes, French horn; Reece Goforth, tuba.
Hirschi noted the middle school basketball teams had started team practice in October. The 2011-12 season for the girls’ team will open with tournament play at Mountain Grove, and the boys’ team will open against West Plains.
An update on the 21st Century Community Learning Center, “The Bears Den”, was provided by the director of the program, Asst. High School Principal David Williams. In the report, student attendance to-date were: 153 elementary students; 57 middle school and 14 high school students. It was also noted students participating in the upcoming Bears Den ACT Prep course who beat the district average or their previous test score, will have their fee reimbursed by the Bears Den. The next ACT exam is Saturday, Dec. 10.
The school maintenance report noted high school locker room doors were replaced, and batting cage nets stored for winter. The athletic complex has been cleaned and winterized, and the brush is being cleared from around the field. Workers are now preparing to clean gutters and remove leaves off the campus grounds.
Dr. Wilson gave board members an updated accounting of the capital improvement plan. Wilson asked the board to review the information, and note proposed projects for next year. Wilson cautioned the board to consider implementing only those projects deemed necessary and needed. With the ensuing budget constraints, large improvements are not advised. However, if upgrades or improvements are recommended, these projects will be reviewed during budget assessment in May or June.
The Board Spotlight honored and recognized Dr. Angela Collins, of St. John’s Clinic, Ava, for assisting the school on health issues, and providing information to the health advisory committee. School board President Randy Spurlock presented Dr. Collins with a certificate of appreciation from the school board and administrators.
Reviews and evaluations of the following programs were approved in a 7-0 vote –– Preschool Program, as presented by elementary principal Diane Premer; Early Childhood Services, Parents As Teachers, by Diane Premer; and Alternative Education, by Principal Teresa Nash and Alternative School Director Don Yarger.
The Ava R-1 Board concluded the monthly meeting with a moment of silence to honor the memory of Dane Marshall Solomon, age 13, a student at Skyline R-2 School who recently passed away.
The next school board meeting is slated for Thursday, Dec. 15, 6:30 p.m. in the board room.