The Monett R-1 Board of Education heard reports on changes in state policy and progress on local programs during the April board meeting.
The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has proposed new accreditation standards for the fifth cycle of the Missouri School Improvement Program, which is renewed every five years. The latest round includes new standards derived with little input from educators. A roundtable of educators from around the state all asked to have the proposed standards removed from consideration.
Board members discussed a resolution to the situation. Superintendent Dr. John Jungmann said the roundtable's request was quite unusual. DESE agreed to withdraw the proposal and reconsider it after the summer.
"There were a lot of significant concerns," Jungmann told The Times. "They proposed a significant increase in state assessments at the high school level, which has a lot of people uneasy that career and technical education could be damaged. Creating more emphasis on core areas could potentially limit the ability of students to enroll in career programs."
Jungmann reported the Missouri Senate passed the supplemental appropriation bill allowing money from the federal jobs bill to flow through to local school districts. The move keeps critical funding in place for kindergarten through high school education at the same level for next year as in the current year.
Budget bills appeared to be moving through conference sessions without any major surprises. Jungmann said the Senate placed a $20 million increase in transportation to offset withholding last year. The boost would be represent more money than had been allocated last year, he said.
English language learners
Assistant Superintendent Julie Germann reported on the English language learners (ELL) program, which uses in-class and out-of-class opportunities plus translation to help students learn. The district's ELL coordinator, Daphne Hensley, works closely with Jennifer Shackles, the state ELL supervisor for the area, in addition to liaisons in the Hispanic Initiative program from Missouri Southern State University, Drury University and Missouri State University.
"This year we were able to exit several students from the program, meaning that their English language skills were at a level comparable to their caucasian peers," Germann wrote. "Our MAP [Missouri Achievement Program tests] data regarding student growth in our ELL subgroup has shown a 12.8 percent gain over three years in communication arts."
Parent involvement at meetings at the high school, which focuses on college and career opportunities, has remained high.
"Supervision site visits from DESE officials yield many positive comments about the services we have for students," Germann reported. "The addition of more services for Monett Middle School is another positive move. Including non-English speakers in our implementation of Rosetta Stone language software has been a plus as well."
Germann identified the two top needs in the ELL program as acquiring and implementing a new core instructional program and increasing technology use opportunities, such as Smartboards in ELL classrooms.
Germann also updated the board on the library/media services program. Three campuses have a library staffed by a certified librarian or library clerk, and the intermediate and middle school campuses share staff.
"With four certified media specialists, the district has a great group of forward thinking staff who are interested in taking the necessary steps to make their libraries better prepared for students through a digital platform," Germann said. "Circulation numbers continue to be strong at each campus."
Top needs include the possible addition of a clerk for the elementary libraries to speed up shelving and processing books. Germann also recommended a three to five-year funding plan for hardware and software for e-books, as well as for the e-books themselves.
Librarians are often asked to help fix computer problems. The elimination of the tech cadre position may add more work to librarians, especially as the expection remains that technology staff will still respond to problems.