West Carroll Music & Drama Department Concerned Over New Scheduling
By MICHAEL MILLER | For The Prairie Advocate News
THOMSON – Members of the West Carroll High School Music and Drama Departments addressed the Board on Wednesday, February 20th at the Thomson Intermediate School, expressing concern that the proposed new scheduling, which would allow students to take seven courses and take one study period, might adversely affect not only their department but the students’ willingness to take elective classes, and moreover, their overall educational experience.
The meeting was attended by Board members Mike Highland (President), Tim Atherton, Beverly Kilpatrick, John Brigham, Jerry Anderson, Dawn Rath and Mark Klein. Also present were Superintendent Craig Mathers, High School Principal Bob Lamb, Middle School Principal Julie Katzenberger, Primary/Intermediate School Principal Jeannette Ashby, Technology Director Brad Field, and Recording Secretary/Business Office Manager Sandra Aude.
Scott Mattison, of the High School Choir and Drama Departments, addressed the Board during Public Comments, with concerns that requiring students to take only seven classes could potentially spell “the demise of electives”. He said the fear was the the average student would figure out that they would be able to get an extra hour of free time and may not elect to take some of the electives available, such as music, drama, etc. Matteson also was concerned that if the district offers an early bird class (which has been proposed) this may crowd out the early morning Jazz Band and Madrigal rehearsals which currently take place at that time.
“We can’t go after school,” Matteson explained, “because athletics take precedence over everything.”
He also spoke to what he saw as the benefits of taking electives. “Research will show you that the kids that do take our classes do better. We have a huge program, and we’re going to survive for a while,” he added. “But down the road, kids are going to figure it out.”
Emily Bressler of the Music Department added her voice to the concerns, noting that if the new scheduling was approved, fully eight elective classes might be lost out of the schedule, due to staffing study halls. She was also concerned that parents who might potentially be moving into the district would be discouraged by the low number of electives that might result.
Mark Bressler, Middle School music instructor, added that he sees a potential “cascading effect” down to the Primary level from these moves, due to his experience as a college instructor at SaukValley. He noted that other area schools who have gone to a mandatory study hall have seen drastic reductions in the amount of students participating in electives.
“This could be a marketing coup for us, or a marketing disaster,” Bressler said.
Highland said that their comments would be considered as the Board moved forward.
Lamb announced that the High School Prom will be held on Saturday, April 27th at Maxson’s in Oregon. He noted some student achievements, as well, with Zach Hartman and Jacob Klein both qualifying for the State Wrestling Tournament, and Cameron Ehlers, Mason Van Hook, Tom Watson and Nick Hughes garnering “Student of the Month” honors.
Mathers subbed for the missing Pam Delp with the Preschool/Special Education report. He noted that West Carroll was notified by the Illinois State Board of Education that despite the district having “disproportionality”, this is not the result of inappropriate identification. The district may now move ahead with it’s improvement activities described in the Action Plan.
He also reported that CPI (Non-Violent Crisis Intervention Training) will be held for the staff in February, March, and April. This is instruction in how to “de-escalate” conflict situations, with physical restraints used only as a last resort.
Mathers’ report was highlighted by comments from Lamb, who is heading up the Evaluation Committee, which seeks to help the district define teacher evaluation standards in light of the new PERA law and Senate Bill #7. Lamb reported that the committee had made progress on agreeing to adopt the Danielson model of evaluation, as well as defining the four status categories of evaluation; they are Distinguished, Proficient, Basic, and Unsatisfactory.
The superintendent also updated the Board on the latest news regarding appropriation of funds for the much anticipated opening of the Thomson Correctional Center. He’s written a letter to Senator Dick Durbin asking for clarification of comments he’d heard a on local television news broadcast indicating that funding to open the prison this year is unlikely. He said that the response was that continued attempts are being made to put money into the federal budget to achieve this.
Mathers also referred to a letter from the Illinois Association of School Administrators which reported a mandate to include a Certified Nurse in each school district. This was an unfunded mandate from the State of Illinois.
Mr. Mathers also reported on the most recent Transportation Committee Meeting, during which the committee elected to all of the districts 2012 and 2013 71 passenger buses for 2014 models, all at the same price. He noted that this is like “trading in a 2 year old car and getting the same price for it.” Everything will still be under warranty and the district will still “get maximized reimbursement”, Mathers said. The board fully approved this recommendation.
Laurie Miller of Miller, Buettner and Parrot, addressed the Board regarding the district’s health insurance coverage. She opened by saying that Blue Cross/Blue Shield (the district’s provider) had a very good year, then went on to address how the new Obamacare mandates will affect the district’s healthcare costs and coverage. She said under this mandate, the minimum amount of weekly hours worked to be considered “full time” is 30, and under the mandate every citizen is required to have health care coverage.
The Board briefly reviewed the 2013-2014 School Calendar, with Mathers noting that there was much discussion regarding the new law that requires 5 hours of attendance during the final day of school, a day that previously was defined by merely handing out report cards and sending the students home. This calendar addresses that issue by reversing the previous process; it now allows for the 23rd of May being the final day of school, with the 27th being an “in service” day.
Another change would allow for Parent/Teacher Conferences to be held late on November 6th and November 7th. The district has also planned for potentially using a paperless report card, and taking final exams before Christmas break.
The Board approved the first reading of the new calendar. The second reading should be dealt with in next month’s regularly scheduled meeting.
A new group, the “100 Mile Club” has been formed by seven Middle School officials, and now is asking for official approval and recognition from the Board. This group would seek to offer various times and lengths for walks and runs, during which students are encouraged to participate.
Some of the advantages of being in the Club are listed as: “learning to set goals, boosting self-esteem, developing life-long positive health habits, learning to help and encourage others, and developing a sense of belonging”. The walk/runs will be offered 3 to 5 times a week and will be between 1 and 3 miles apiece.
The Board approved the formation of this group, with no “nay” votes.
After their closed session, the Board approved several resignations, with regret. This included Christy Fritz, as Fifth Grade teacher, retirement effective June of this 2013, Christie Grim, as Middle School Secretary, effective June 15th of 2015, and Sandra Aude, retirement effective June 15th of 2015.
The Board also approved the administrative recommendations for Melissa Biederman and Dawn Cole, as volunteer assistant girl’s softball coaches, and for April Miller and Logan Baisden, track.