Tupelo School Board Work Session 04.15.14

NOTE: WORK SESSION HAS ENDED. I will have a separate blog post from the Board meeting that will begin at noon. Read below for an update about the School Board Work Session.

The Tupelo School Board Work Session has begun. The board will hold its regular meeting today afterward. That meeting will begin at noon, at which time the board will discuss the agenda. They then will meet at 5 p.m. at Tupelo High School, at which time they will vote.

Four of the five board members are present. Joe Babb, an accountant, is busy at work on “tax day” and is not here.

Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon will now make a presentation about summer projects.

This year they will have some “not quite as big projects, but they are still meaningful projects.”

It includes video cameras for pre-K through 6th-grade schools. The district currently has cameras for 7th to 12th- grade schools. Dillon said it was a recommendation from the district’s external security audit performed during the fall. It helps with investigations and improving security. They met with principals to determine hot spots.

They also need to have the server space to save the footage.

Athletic Director Andy Schoggin will now speak about the track and blue turf project.

“Throughout the process, Coach Hammond and I have had the opportunity to speak with our community about being involved in this and we have had great response. Great community support.”

They set a target goal for sponsorships and are now at 80-percent of that goal.

“We’ve had a great response and I feel good about that 80 percent mark where we are…I feel the weight of such a large financial investment but I feel where we are means the community says they believe in what we are doing. I feel this is a very worthwhile project and initiative.”

Board President Rob Hudson asks about the timeline.

Schoggin said at the end of the month track will host its regional meet. They then would begin the demolition of the track and football surface so it would be completed by late July or early August.

“Our timeline is really urgent,” Schoggin said.

Hudson: “The 80 percent is strong. I really didn’t know what to expect. I knew our community support was strong, but I’m pleased with the 80 percent.”

Schoggin said strong school and strong community go hand in hand. He said he thinks that number will continue to grow and that they have a meeting tomorrow.

The board will discuss this more during its noon meeting. It will vote at 5 p.m. on whether or not to accept bids on the new track and field turf.

Dillon will make more presentations now about summer construction. They will do some pressure washing at several sites throughout the district. They also will wax floors in preparation of next school year.

They will update the entrance at the Early Childhood Education Center. There is not a true entrance there and you really don’t know where to go, he said. There are also issues with wheelchair accessibility that will be corrected.

They will add awnings at Thomas Street to help with when students are dropped off. The parking lot at Pierce Street is holding water and needs to be repaired. Teachers are having to walk around it after parking. Also, the Tupelo High School food floor gym needs some “TLC.” Freshen the grout, replace sinks, urinals and toilets in the bathrooms, repaint. They will paint the entire gym. Replace sponsor signs with a scrolling LED sign. “I think it will be a cleaner look and get the same thing accomplished.”

Tier 2 projects is a lot of painting. They are on a rotation. They got a wish list from principals, but those that got a lot of work done last summer won’t get as much done this year. A petition will be removed at Lawndale.

In process is the Cross County/ Soccer/ Track fieldhouse. Weather has extended the work longer than they would have liked but it is scheduled to be completed this summer. It also will include a concession stand, public bathrooms and a coach’s office.

10:09 a.m.

Tupelo Middle Assistant Principal Kristy Luse and Tupelo High Principal Jason Harris will now speak about curriculum updates at the secondary level. This is changes resulting from the switch to the Common Core State Standards.

Luse: 7th and 8th grade math will be Common Core offerings. In the 8th grade, the advanced math plus will be two instructional hours and will provide two credits. It will be both advanced math and algebra 1.

They will offer 8th grade students Mississippi Studies and Geography. Each will be a half credit.

The 8th-grade course will be pushed down to the 7th-grade course, and those students will get U.S. history.

Luse: They received new materials in September. A lot of them are Common Core based and contain a lot of language arts. That has enriched language arts, Luse said.

Harris is speaking now, He said they school offers 24 advanced placement courses and it appears that 22 will make this year. That will be more than the 20 they are teaching this year. It looks like AP French and AP Computer Science will make, he said. They school has increased from 16 AP classes his first year.

Harris said students will get a weighted grade for their AP class. They also will get more credit for taking the AP exam – plus an exemption from the course exam – as an incentive to get more students to take the AP test. Tupelo has been looking for ways to get more students in AP classes to take the AP tests.

THS currently offers 14 dual enrollment courses, mostly taught by its staff. It is working to offer more and to work with other schools to increase its numbers, possibly an online hybrid model.

Harris: If a Tupelo High School teacher is an instructor for that class, need to have 7 students to make and student fee is $50. If an ICC teacher is instructor, need to have 20 students and student fee is $100. Online courses is 20, so they are trying to work with other schools to build a community and increase course offerings.

Harris excited they are trying to create an online hybrid community of courses. Look at two different classes of students. A student behind can use those to get caught up. Also, students who come and want to take everything they offer. If they take health online, for instance, it would free up the ability to enroll in another AP course or dual enrollment course.

They are looking at offering English courses as an online hybrid, also with THS staff. That might help lower class sizes. Plus, they would like to incorporate more writing and that would help with that.

Psychology, world religion, keyboarding…could offer some of those as hybrid online.

At THS, algebra 1 would be a full year course on the block. Students would take Common Core math in the first semester and algebra 1 during the second semester. That would help with the transition, he said.

Hudson asks about the portability of dual enrollment. Harris said ICC is SACS accredited and that credit will transfer, including out of state. However, certain schools have certain requirements. For instance, the honors college at Ole Miss – if you have credit for comp 1 and comp 2, you still have to take comp 2 there but that credit can count as an elective credit. Harris said he recommends people to check with their particular school, but sometimes you may not get that particular credit but it may transfer as an elective. Harris said in those cases, the students still benefit from having had that course in high school and from being able to get an elective credit for only $50.

Hudson said the perception is out there that it may not transfer out-of-state and the school should work to communicate that that isn’t correct.

On the students taking the AP exam, Harris said they will give them 2 points added to their grade, plus an exemption from the final exam on campus. Since the AP exam will be comprehensive.

Board member Sherry Davis notes there is a new state requirement for teaching CPR. She asks if the school has considered offering that online. Harris said they are looking at that and whether it can work.


Assistant Superintendent Matthew Dillon will present an update on the discipline committee meetings.

They have discussed having non negotiable issues with minimum punishments.

Non-negotiable issues include: Fighting, assault, alcohol, drugs, weapons, theft. First offense punishment and second offense if they commit the same act in a 12-month period, it is a more significant punishment. All non-negotiables will be reported to Tupelo Police Department and they can do what they like with it.

From the current step process, they looked a the overarching issues and what they need to do.

They minimized the steps on some issues. They also increased the autonomy for building principals based on the severity of the offense.

Met twice with discipline committee and multiple times with principals.

A big part of this will be getting the information out to parents, Dillon said. They will ask students to read their handbooks but also will work with PR team to get the information out.

Hudson said he’s comfortable with this step. Board member Ken Wheeler said he likes the process they took.

“I believe the intent will be to reach out children. This will be a culture that these things are not accepted and everyone will know that these are things you do not do in our school district.”

Wheeler mentions having the student media create something, maybe videos.

“I’m not saying it is not in our culture now, but these are things that hopefully our kids can reach their parents and let them know.”

Board member Eddie Prather asks about the hearing process.

Dillon said they will still continue with the same process if it needs to go to a hearing. But he remembers so many times the step process said go to step 7 through 11 and that led to confusion. Now, it would take out the step process and say the minimum is you engage in 45 days in the alternative school if you engage in this activity. That is the minimum and then you can request a hearing in addition.

Dillon said principals will emphasize reading the handbook. They also will have posters up with the non-negotiable issues and what the punishment will be.

Hudson said the PR campaign and communication will be important. He said they would like students talking to one another so they are certain about what will happen.

10:46 a.m.

THS Principal Jason Harris will speak about seniors at risk of not graduating.

Harris: We are working with 43 students, myself and the administrative team and the counselors, trying to get them to pass either a subject area test or a credit.

At 2012 they had 53 students at this time and at 2013, they had 52 at this time.

Harris said before he came, they would have about 40 students who would not graduate. He and his staff has taken that challenge to be the parent or guardian during to day to help those students walk across the stage.

They are currently looking at about 470 students waking across the stage.

Last year’s graduating class started with a cohort of 609 students. This cohort was around the same size and the numbers are getting better, Harris said.

Harris said 15 of those 43 are special education students. When you are looking at trend data, they have a larger number of special education students earn diplomas. They usually have about 15 earn diplomas and this year they will have at least 45.

Harris said with the new accountability model, they are seeing some success with students who have used ACT scores instead of subject area test. They’ve probably had about 20 students who have been able to use ACT score to replace a subject area test and they’re excited about that. Three students might be able to use the Work Keys test for that. The State Board recently approved allowing students to replace a subject area test with ACT or Work Keys.

They are offering tutoring through their GEAR Up grant.

The state will offer special testing on April 28 and 29 for students who still need to pass a state test. The school will offer all-day tutoring on April 25 and 26, I believe.

Harris said they those 15 special education students are pursuing a traditional diploma. They school has about 8 pursuing an occupational diploma. He notes the new state model only gives credit for traditional diploma.

Sherry Davis asks what the school will do when the GEAR UP grant leaves next year. Harris said they are looking at that. They still will offer tutorials.

Loden notes that before Harris, THS used to have test pass rates before the state average. Now that is much higher so more students are passing the test the first time and fewer are needing tutoring to re-test.

10:57 a.m.

Assistant Superintendent Diana Ezell will provide an update from the legislative session.

The Mississippi Youth Concussion Law requires school districts to adopt a return to play policy, she said that is much needed and they’ve been working on that.

HB 432requires CPR and AED training in PE classes in grades 9 to 12.

The district will have to add some things to the school wellness plan as the result of the bill.

HB 928is the pay scale and how those determine the cost of having public records copy. The district has addressed that.

A Senate Bill provides they can take certain actions for students with asthma. Can get EpiPens donated to the school and train staff.

SB 2571 changed the start date so the district has control.

HB 72 requires all school buses to have signage and Ezell said Tupelo is in good shape.

Another house bill allows the district to transport students in vehicles other than school buses. Ezell said that will be helpful. Only if 10 or fewer students.

HB 1132, date by which school districts have to have alternate assessment in.

SB 2507 inspecting and copying public records, gives MS Ethics Commission authority to oversee those records.

Ezell said all of this will go into play by July 1.

Loden said Ezell will be working with MSBA and Jim Keith in developing model policies.


11:02 a.m.

Executive Director of Curriculum Leigh Mobley will speak about the May institute.

It will be the Tuesday through Friday after Memorial Day. Those dates have changed due to weather days, she said.

They will have about 75 unique sessions, several of which will be offered more than once.

They created a request for proposals and any teacher that was interested in proposing filled out one for planning purposes. They accepted all of those.

They will have four full days of professional development and teachers will be asked to attend 10 hours. They they will have a couple of hours to work on their rooms and there will be an end of year celebration.

Teachers will be able to get 1 CEU for those 10 hours. Or they can attend more sessions to get up to 2.4 CEUs, more than half of what they need to renew their license. Mobley said teachers can get all they need without having to leave the district.

About 50 to 60 teachers from the district will present. Also have outside presenters. Technology training on ChromeBooks….early literacy training, math training, training on new website, planning for Common Core, etc. The Elvis Presley birthplace has created videos for third-grade students and will introduce those to teachers.

Mobley said they may offer fewer sessions on Tuesday, in case a teacher goes on a trip for Memorial Day.

Mobley said there are sessions for administrators too. Joanne MaloneĀ  and James Mason from MDE will do a presentation on the new accountability model. Principals also will be using that time to close out their buildings from the school year.

Board member Sherry Davis said she plans to attend some sessions. She also said the Tupelo School District has a history of providing the best professional development and she commends Mobley for continuing that tradition.

Loden notes teachers need 10 CEUs to renew their license or college credit. In addition to May institute, teachers also get up to 2 CEUs each year from PD360. So they can get all the CEUs they need without leaving the district, he said.

One of the trainings will be on speed reading, Loden said.

Mobley said they will give teachers time to work on pacing guides and covering gaps in transitioning to common core. It will provide a leg up on summer curriculum work, she said.

11:16 a.m.

Eddie Moorefrom the curriculum department will provide an update on district focus groups.

They will be represented by Mobley and members of the curriculum team. They will be facilitators and coordinators. The overall purpose is to improve communication, he said.

It is a great advantage to have interaction with teachers and and administrators, Moore said. Will keep everyone on the same page.

There will be 13 district focus groups and 207 total members. It is a lot of input from a lot of areas and a lot of communication going back to the schools.

They schedule three meetings each semester. Usually 3:45 or later at Church Street but have also had meetings at the high school or wherever is best for teachers. Have had meetings during planning periods.

Focus groups are subject specific, history, technology, etc.

Each group comes up with specific goals.

Impact includes: Common Core training; National Institute for School Leadership training (want to train every teacher in a core subject on NISL); ELA group provided professional development; history group did research on the curriculum changes; etc.

Future plans for 14-15 include: adding a new technology focus group, school counselor focus group; special education and challenge focus groups.

They have 207 members and they are going to look at ways of offering CEUs for those teachers.

11:24 a.m.

Next item will be to discuss the agenda for the board’s summer retreat.

Hudson: It has covered two days. His experience over the last couple of days is they are getting better at this. Last year, they were able to launch more into their strategic plan.

He said they will look at being closer. It would be at Tombigebee, rather than at Pickwick Landing, where it was the past two years.

They are considering the afternoon of June 26 and the day of June 27.

Talking about agenda now. Loden said they would like to look at new things coming out that they still don’t have answers on. One is new evaluation model. MDE was going to use MSTAR but the person over it retired and MDE may make changes, he said.

They can talk about the new principal evaluation they will pilot, new online assessments, new curriculum, the new state accountability (which, Loden said, will hopefully be approved) and the safety plan. Loden said those will be some of the district level things to focus on. They also can talk about goals for the district.

Hudson said last year they spent a lot of times on goals and measurements. He thinks that was a big learning experience and he doesn’t expect they will need to spend as much time on that this year – they can polish it.

Sherry Davis is talking about some science and math training that Tupelo can learn from. She said she would like to go on some site visits to schools that are using those – in Huntsville, Ala.

Loden said the district is glad to do site visits to learn from others. They are working on a couple of others – one on a 3rd to 5th grade school with a one-to-one computer initiative. They also want to look at an assessment on Common Core used by a school district in Tuscaloosa, Ala.

Prather said he’d like to talk about growth in the Early Childhood Education center.

Wheeler said he’d like more information on the district’s career-prep programs. Loden said even though Common Core talks about college and career, a lot of the emphasis is on college and that piece often is missing.

Prather notes Mississippi’s accountability model emphasizes giving credit for students earning college credit.

Loden said Tupelo offers just about every career-based curriculum offered by the MDE.

Wheeler notes the need for construction engineers.

Davis said a lot of perceptions need to change. A lot of vocations, you can get a two-year degree and start at a higher salary than you can with a 4-year degree.

Work session has adjourned. The regular board meeting will begin at noon, here at the Hancock Learning Center.