School board considers changes in policy, software

ORIGINALLY WRITTEN BY JULIE ANDERSON
With the intention of improving current methods, the USD 410 Board of Education looked at a new procedure for staff reduction and a new software package at their Jan. 10 meeting.

The board was asked to define in detail the implementation of the staff reduction language in the master contract and recommend any changes in existing language to clarify the intent of the process.

The proposal identifies three areas to be reviewed when considering a reduction in staff, teacher certification, competence of teaching performance, and seniority.

To determine competence, two teacher evaluations must be used.

?It really gets sticky in trying to compare that,? said Gordon Mohn, superintendent.

To help define the process further, a set of guidelines was presented.

They guidelines say it would be up to the board to determine when a position should be eliminated. The reduction is to be made by attrition when possible.

Some of the things to be looked at are tenure; all those who could fill the position to be reduced must be considered.

If two or more teachers are on the list, a point value would be assigned according to a criteria that would be based on seniority, training and college hours, and ?unsatisfactory? and ?needs improvement? marks on evaluations.

?We think it?s better than we have,? Mohn said.

He said if there was a tenured person who has troubles, it would show up through the evaluation.

One element of the proposal the committee recommends is a recall clause that would make all employees eligible for recall by building and teaching level if the position were recreated.

Another item board members looked at was a new administrative software program called SASIxp.

The program would be used to keep student records, including attendance, grades, health records and lunch accounting.

Mohn said they have gone as far as they can with the current software, called ?Skyward.? It limits the records the schools are able to keep.

?It doesn?t meet expectations,? Mohn said.

Two other parts of the package are ABACUS and MCAD. ABACUS is a curriculum manager that will keep track of students? objectives and progress throughout the year.

Among other things, it offers the ability to scan in students? photos and providing a seating chart with photos for substitute teachers.

It also can provide a record of students? attendance, tardies, homework and grades for parents on-line.

The cost for the complete package is $95,736. To help offset the cost, Mohn recommended implementing it over a three-year period. Some of the training costs can also be taken from the current budget for teacher training.

?I think it?s one of the best around,? Mohn said. ?I have not seen any other curriculum like this one.?

Some concerns expressed by board members were about the cost and the need for the information.

Bob Watson, board member, asked how important it was to have the new software in light of the school?s tight finances.

Clara Frick, board member, said the school was small enough that the records of attendance and explanations for students? grades were not needed to be available for parents online. She did see advantages of some of the other aspects, though.

?We?re behind every school I know in administrative software,? said Glen Suppes, high school principal.

Hillsboro has had its current software for seven to eight years.

Before making a decision, board members asked for more information on the software and to hear how effective it has been in other schools.

No decision was made on either issue.

In other business, board members heard a report from Suppes on the TEEN courses offered at the high school.

According to a tentative schedule, Hillsboro would offer one course, ?AP American History.? This is the fewest courses Hillsboro has offered.

?It limits our own kids when we have to stay within the limits,? Suppes said.

He said it was hard for Hillsboro to offer classes over TEEN because of the number of students at Hillsboro interested in taking the classes.

Some of the other courses to be offered include German, calculus, history, civics, horticulture and probability and statistics.

Hillsboro has had the highest enrollment in the courses over the past few years.

?This year we are looking at the quality of students we are letting in,? Suppes said.

It also was suggested to talk to Tabor College and Butler County Community College about the possibility of them offering courses.

In other business the board:

— voted to extend Mohn?s contract as superintendent to 2003.

— was told there have been 15 inquiries, with six to seven completing the application process, about the opening for a band instructor. Applications will be accepted until Feb. 1 and interviews will be held between Feb. 1 and 15.

— will receive bids in the next few months for a 20-passenger bus and suburban.

— heard a report on food service finances. The school has lost about $13,000 this year. It is hoped the cost per meal will go down, with income remaining about the same.

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