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New Teacher Evaluation Tools This Year; High School Graduation Date Approved

By Sue Curry Jones

Ava R-1 board members met last Thursday evening for the September business session.  With unanimous votes, the board adopted the professional development program for 2013-14, the testing schedule as presented in the 2013-14 district assessment plan, and policy guidelines for professional staff resignations.

The board also accepted Principal Teresa Nash’s advice to schedule high school graduation on Friday, May 16, 7:00 p.m.  According to Nash, the date selection was the result of a survey answered by parents, staff and students.  Motions to accept the recommendation were given by Ron Wallace and Johnny Burkdoll, with a 7-0 vote.

According to Dr. Nancy Lawler, the district assessment plan for 2013-14 is the same format as last year, the only change is the testing schedule.  The plan, which outlines duties and conditions for testing, provides a unified approach for achieving student success.  The document also recommends periodic vision and hearing screenings for students, as well as health checks during the year.

The school resignation policy adopted by the board encourages staff members to give prompt notice on pending contract resignations or cancelations. The policy stipulates teachers and administrators who fail to provide adequate and proper notice will be assessed damages, based on the following schedule:  June 1-30, $500; July 1–31, $1,000; Aug. 1 or later, $2000.  In contrast, early or timely resignations will be met with incentives:  $400, if notice is received by Dec. 1;  $300, if by Jan. 1; and $200, by Feb. 1.

During the meeting, Dr. Brian Wilson provided a breakdown of expenses associated with the recent $2 million athletic field capital improvement project.  Wilson said it appears the project will close with $125,000 in the fund account after all expenses are paid.  The money may be used at the discretion of the board, as long as elected expenses fall within the rules of the original loan agreement.

In addition to the financial update, Wilson also provided a year-by-year breakdown of capital improvement projects completed over a four-year period.

Wilson announced the five-year partnership with Missouri Foundation for Health kicks off on Sept. 25, at 9:15 a.m. at the middle school playground.  He explained the grant provides funding and technical assistance to create healthier environments for youths attending Ava schools.

According to program details, research data shows that students who participate in regular activities and physical fitness plans are more likely to attain higher levels of academic performance. Findings also reveal schools in low income areas, such as Ava, are prone to have higher obesity rates, and students have more chronic diseases, such as asthma, diabetes, and tooth decay.

The plan promotes healthy eating, physical activity, and helps students recognize positive lifestyle choices. The program also engages parents and community members.

The initiative targets students in K-8, in a high-need school district.  [High need is defined as schools with a free and reduced priced lunch rate of 60% or higher, and childhood obesity rate higher than 17.1%.]

The program is called Healthy Schools Healthy Communities.

The Board Spotlight recognized Coach Liz Kyger for mentoring and serving students as a leader, coach and teacher in the district.  Principal Teresa Nash cited many student-focused activities that have been facilitated by Kyger, including the Friday feast backpack program, school leadership classes, and cross country sports program.   Kyger was awarded a certificate of appreciation from the board.

Principal Clint Hall reported elementary students participated in a flagpole ceremony to honor and remember those lost on Sept. 11, 2001.  Members of law enforcement and other local agencies were in attendance and part of the gathering.

Hall said 3rd and 4th grade students finished acuity testing Sept. 3 – 6.  This was the first of four acuity tests for those grade levels; test materials covered English Language Arts and math.

Principal Mike Henry states middle school enrollment totals 389 students with attendance levels near 97%.  In the report, Henry noted football and volleyball are underway in the middle school, with students showing a high level of interest and participation this year.

Principal Teresa Nash reported high school enrollment numbers total 421 students.

Nash also noted several upcoming events:  “Fields of Faith”, Oct. 9 by FCA;  Donna Cox Memorial Walk, Sept. 27, FBLA;  Sept 28, Band Booster Moto Show, Performing Arts Center;  Homecoming week, Oct. 7-11; and Oct. 12, Ozarko Marching Band festival.

Nash said the first quarter ends on October 18.

Connie Lee, special ed director, reported kindergarten students were screened for speech issues and needs are being assessed.  Lee said her office is coordinating and setting up testing and therapy sessions, and at present, five new evaluations and four re-evaluations are in progress.

The Bears Den report provided by Diana Premer notes 438 students are presently enrolled and participating in the afterschool program.  At the start, elementary programs averaged 199 students per evening; middle school, 30; and high school, 11.

The program served a total of 2,200 meals to students in August, feeding 1,419 elementary youths; 687 middle school and 94 high school kids.  Premer noted the meal count also includes adults.

This year the Bears Den program offers the following:  kindergarten and pre-school, nursery rhymes;  first-grade: crafts, cooking games and circle dancing;  second-grade: Dr. Martin Luther King, science & ice cream, and grandparents;  third-grade: unusual facts about states, and brain games;  fourth-graders: robotics, archery and news crew.

In middle school, students may participate in: Caring Kids, archery, cooking, robotics, spelling bee and open computer lab.  Fifth and sixth-graders also have drama club and quiz bowl.

High school students have aviation, tutoring, open library, and The Bistro.

Premer said at a later date the Bears Den would offer additional activities that will include parental involvement.

Dr. Nancy Lawler reported plans for the Monday, Sept. 30, in-house professional development meeting are almost complete.  Activities will include acuity training, technology  exercises, and CPR training.

Lawler advised that Parent Link, a communication application between parents and staff, is scheduled to be in use by upcoming parent-teacher conferences.

Dr. Lawler provided an overview of the new teacher evaluation tools being implemented this year.  She explained four evaluation standards were selected by the Ava committee, and classroom teaching skills to be measured are:  1) classroom management; 2) developing and meeting curriculum requirements in conjunction with Missouri Learning Standards; 3) instructional plans and strategies that encourage critical thinking, problem solving and skills; and 4) the ability to actively engage students in learning.

Under the plan, teachers will be assessed within a classroom setting four different times during the 2013-14 term. Student progress will be assessed through testing measures, which will occur at the beginning and end the year.

Lawler noted the system provides more local control.

Superintendent Wilson noted the initiative to override House Bill 253 failed.  However, he cautioned the effort has not been quelled, and those behind the push will try again.  He recommended board members take a watchful approach, and cited several names and organizations to follow for information.

In closed session, the board hired Melissa Bryan, of Ava, to teach middle school art.

Board members attending were Pat Henry, Jeff Davis, Johnny Burkdoll, Randy Spurlock, Ron Wallace, Marsha Aborn and Dan Watson.

The next Ava R-1 meeting will be held on Thursday, Oct. 24, at 6:30 p.m. in the board meeting room.