Spurlock Reads Board’s Grievance Policy; Wallace Defends Stance On Nepotism
By Sue Curry Jones
The Ava R-1 School Board met in regular session on Thursday, Sept. 18, with board member Jeff Davis absent from the meeting.
In closed session, the board voted to hire Joan Burkdoll to serve as the ‘before school’ childcare provider for youths in grades pre-school – 6th. According to Dr. Nancy Lawler, the motion to hire Burkdoll carried with five votes to hire, and an abstention from school board member Johnny Burkdoll.
During open session, Dr. Nancy Lawler, superintendent of schools, advised capital improvements are still of vital importance, and campus buildings and vehicles continue to need upgrades. Lawler said many campus buildings still use electricity rather than natural gas, and since natural gas costs less, a change over may need to be considered in future plans. The school also has aging Heating Ventilation Air Conditioning (HVAC) systems, many of which were installed in the 1990s, and those units will need to be replaced as well.
The handout noted a breakdown of school roofs and cited the type of material, warranty and date of installation. Lawler recommended the board start setting aside funds to cover upcoming expenses, and plan for future capital improvements. She advocated updating the capital projects list to include all needs and costs, and create a schedule or multi-year plan that implements the tasks, by priority.
Issues voted on during the public session of the meeting included the following board actions:
- In a 6-0 vote, the school board elected to spend $10,000 in support of the City of Ava’s sidewalk grant. The board acknowledged the money should be taken from the school’s capital project fund, as infrastructure expense.
Motions to donate school funds to the City of Ava were given by Ron Wallace and Dan Watson.
- The Professional Development Plan was approved in a 6-0 vote, with motions from Johnny Burkdoll and Ron Wallace. The Professional Development Plan (PDP) outlines the roles of the PDP committee, and cites goals, objectives and activities. The plan is 12 pages long, and was revised in July 2014.
- In a 6-0 vote, the board adopted a policy to allow sole proprietor bus contracts to be easily updated to reflect LLC status, without bringing the change to the board. The motions were by Ron Wallace and Johnny Burkdoll.
- The annual early retirement plan was also accepted in a 6-0 vote, with motions from Johnny Burkdoll and Ron Wallace. The policy outlines incentives for those submitting early and timely resignations. It also notes deterrents for tardy notification.
- Monthly bills and expenses totaling $184,626.75 were approved for payment in a 6-0 vote, with motions by Marsha Aborn and Ron Wallace.
- The Assessment Plan for 2014-15 was adopted in a 6-0 vote, with motions from Vernon Johnson and Johnny Burkdoll.
The District Assessment Plan is a 12-page outline that details formats for student testing procedures. The plan is presented annually and notes testing conditions, personnel duties, utilization of results, process for notifying parents of test dates and test results. Twenty testing tools are outlined in the Plan. The name of each test and a brief synopsis are given below:
– MAP testing in grades 3-8, and End of Course exams in high school evaluate student performance; evaluate curriculum and classroom instruction; assist in guidance and counseling; aid in screening and selecting kids for special programs.
– MAP-Alternate Assessment is for students with significant cognitive disabilities who meet grade level and eligibility criteria.
– Dynamic Learning Maps is for students with significant cognitive disabilities, as traditional multiple-choice testing does not allow students with disabilities to fully demonstrate their knowledge.
– Kindergarten screening with speech / language specialists.
– Curriculum Based Measurement (CBM) in grades K-2 is a method of student progress monitoring. CBM shows how students are doing in math, reading, writing and spelling. Testing is conducted three times per year.
– Denver Developmental Screening Test II, for 6-months to 3-years-old, aids in screening infants and toddlers in the Parents as Teachers Program. It evaluates a child’s performance and aids in screening for special program needs.
– High Schools That Work Assessment (grade 12) consists of tests on reading, mathematics and science, and provides a measure of readiness for the workplace and post secondary education.
– Career Pathways, grade 7, helps students learn about occupations through observation and studies. Apprises students of areas related to their interest. Helps students better understand requirements of various occupations, and traits needed for various jobs.
– Armed Services Vocational Aptitude Battery (ASVAB), grade 11 and as requested by grade 12, is a career exploration program that combines a multiple-aptitude test with interest self-assessment and career exploration tools.
– Technical Skills Assessment (TSA) is given to vocational high school students after they complete a program(s). TSA measures the level of skill aligned with industry recognized standards.
– Preliminary SAT / National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test, grade 11, measures critical reading, verbal reasoning, math problem solving and writing skills. Assesses skills in various courses, and in experiences outside the classroom.
– Plan (grade 10) / Explore (grade 8), allow planning and preparation for academic and career success.
– SAT Program, grades 10-12, measures scholastic aptitude for college admission and scholarship applications.
– American College Testing (ACT) for all grade 11 students, measures scholastic aptitude for college admission and scholarships.
– Missouri Comprehensive Student Needs Survey, grade 4-12, random sampling survey assisting in curriculum revisions, and guidance. Only given during MSIP years.
– WISC-IV / WAIS-III evaluates student abilities and helps screen for special programs.
– Screening Procedures evaluate classroom performance, formative testing, diagnostic teaching; from parent / teacher referrals in grades K-12, and helps provide information on speech and language, behavior, health, performance and cognition for special programs.
– Missouri Connections Career Plan is an online assessment of students’ interests, skills and work values. Students build a career plan and view college and career options.
– Advanced Placement test enables students to pursue college-level studies while in high school.
– Fitnessgram, K-12 students are screened quarterly for fitness level. Results are sent home with students.
The assessment plan also details the testing calendar for the year. The cycle starts in August with kindergarten screening.
Assistant Superintendent Mike Henry reported the school’s annual performance report (APR) showed marked improvements. Henry referenced a comparison of scores for the last two years, which shows in 2013, Ava attained 127.5 points on a scale of 140 possible points. In percentages, the total was 91.1%.
In 2014, however, Ava tallied 135.5 out of 140 points, showing a positive uptake of 96.8%.
The 2014 APR shows Ava tallied the highest possible points in academic and subgroup achievement with 56 and 14, respectively. Ava also achieved 100% in the attendance and graduation categories, but missed the perfect mark in the college and career ready category, where they earned 25.5 points out of a possible 30, or 85%.
According to Henry, the school’s 2014 APR scores categorize Ava in the No. 1 position district wide.
Dr. Lawler noted that during the Missouri School Board Association annual conference Sept. 25-28 Ava is presenting two programs. Ava’s preschool program is vying for the MSBA Future Builders Early Childhood Education Program of the Year Award, and high school administrators will also present a segment with Drury University on “College and Career Ready.”
During the public comment segment, three citizens read statements on Constitutional Amendment 3.
First, Peggy Charchol thanked the board for reviewing Common Core materials given out at the prior meeting.
Second, as a member of the National Republican Committee, Charchol stated that the Republican Committee was against Amendment 3. She briefly highlighted several concerns: it significantly changes teacher evaluations from being a useful tool; language in the proposed initiative is discriminatory; it diminishes control of the local school board, and further allows the state to usurp local power by withholding funds; and diminishes the standards of certified staff.
In conclusion, Charchol provided each board member with a written analysis detailing specific concerns associated with the initiative.
Douglas County resident Ross McElvain also presented opposition to Amendment 3, and added support to Charchol’s statements. McElvain urged school board members to oppose the ballot initiative and keep educational decisions at the local level. He asked the board to take a stand to defeat the proposal.
Douglas County resident Wayne William Cipriano voiced reasons for backing the plan, advising support for Amendment 3. Cipriano felt the initiative espoused objective standards and higher expectations, noting today we do not expect enough. He acknowledged the amendment was overreaching and far from perfect, but said it was a good plan, as the components are valuable to educating our students.
The public comment segment of the board meeting was concluded by school board member Ron Wallace, who imparted an off-the-cuff tirade and personal defense to a recent complaint of nepotism levied against him and the board. Wallace began his remarks with “Can I speak now?”
Wallace directed his comments to the audience and spoke in a sequence of heated explanations and defenses that dealt solely with self-absolution. In addition, he emphasized the school board had not done anything wrong, and the nepotism issue was a moot point.
The alleged incident took place during a special school board meeting held August 11, 2014, when Wallace voted in favor of selecting family member Vernon Johnson to fill a vacated slot on the school board. The validity of the vote was questioned, and is presently being scrutinized by the Douglas County Prosecuting Attorney.
In the district spotlight, Sheila Rieken, middle school special education teacher, was recognized for outstanding conduct in assisting an ill Ava student. Rieken, who recently traveled to St. Louis to visit the student in the hospital, also helped the youth’s friends keep in touch by telephone. Principal Aaron Dalton commended Rieken for exceptional acts of kindness and compassion.
In the board’s community spotlight, elementary special education teacher Ginger Gastineau was recognized as a hard working facilitator of the Ava Bear Booster Club. In the presentation, Gastineau and fellow club members were acknowledged for dedication to school athletic programs. The Club’s success was attributed to good leadership, hard work and strong commitments.
At the onset of the meeting, and at the boards’ behest, Randy Spurlock read the board’s policy on public communications and exchange of information. The policy cites four venues as options for reaching the board with “information, ideas and/or opinions.” The venues are listed under Grievances, and noted as: written correspondence; agenda items; public hearings; and public comment.
The policy states to have an item placed on the agenda, a request must be submitted in writing to the superintendent (or designee) five (5) business days prior to the scheduled meeting. And, the board reserves the right to restrict, reschedule or refuse the request.
Policy for speaking at a meeting cites the following rules: no individual will be permitted to speak more than once during the period; the board limits each speaker to three (3) minutes; only items on the posted agenda may be discussed; and citizens must work through problems at an administrative or building level before approaching the board.
Spurlock commented the policy was being read in conjunction with recent issues, and for clarification due to an email being passed around the community.
Due to a conflict in scheduling, the board changed the next meeting to Tuesday, Oct. 21, 6:30 p.m. The meetings are held in the Board of Education room, situated on the north side of the Decker Library. Sessions are open to the public.