TPSD School Board meeting 03.06.12

Only three board members are present, Rob Hudson, Eddie Prather and Beth Stone. Amy Heyer had a family issue and Lee Tucker is out of town. Three board members is a quorum.

The board selected its officers for the upcoming year. The one-year terms are always chosen in March by the TPSD board. Eddie Prather was elected as board president, with Beth Stone as vice president and Rob Hudson as secretary. That follows the normal rotation, where board members rotate from secretary to vice president to president.

Prather, Stone and Kenneth Griswald are now making a presentation about a visit they made to the Cullman, Ala., school district to look at technology there. Prather and Stone said they saw from that meeting that Tupelo is ahead of the curve on a lot of things.

Cullman also has a one-to-one laptop initiative. The distirct started its roll out in 2006 and has seen its test scores increase since then.

Culman phased-in its plan for 1-to-1….Started with teacher laptop with 7-8 th grade and added technology in classrooms….followed with students the next year….added one grade level each year.

They used leases. Classroom set for each grade level at the elementary school. The Middle School is most similar to Tupelo’s 1-to-1, but they have Dell PCs not Apple. At the high school, they started taking them home but then they decided to go to classroom sets.

Key factors:

Board support, they right people on the bus and making sure you have the right people on the bus.

The principal talked about the importance of community involvement and support. Also key were faculty buy-in and making sure there was equity in all facilities.

They had to consider wireless issues, what to do with textbooks, collection at the end of the year. Griswald said it is a lot of the same issues Tupelo has faced.

Griswald said there was a reduction in discipline incidents each year after the laptop roll-out.

One of Cullman’s bumps was stolen or damaged laptops. They had less than 10 stolen and not many with major damage, Griswald said. One reason, Griswald said, is they don’t send them home at the high school and at the middle school they gave them a case. Even when it is open on the desk, it remains in the case. The case keeps the lid of the laptop from opening too much, which was a problem that Tupelo has seen a lot.

The superintendent found Twitter to be a valuable cummincation tool during the tornado last year. This year, she has encouraged teachers to get professional Twitter accounts to communicate with parents in real-time, let them know what students are learning.

Rob Hudson asks about what Tupelo is doing to gather feedback of what is working and not working. Griswald said they have had surveys and that lines of communication are open. He said they have had meetings with groups of parents and teacher-advisory councils where these issues were discussed. Mary Ann Plascencia said there hadn’t been a formal process but they’ve piloted some things. For instance, they piloted a student-response system at the high school and they are getting honest feedback from the teachers. She said they have collected a lot informally from what they’ve heard from teachers and parents throughout the last two years. Griswald said there has also been an opportunity for teachers to give feeback on Haiku, and they’ve used that feeedback to guide future training.

Griswald said that a key takeaway was that each building was deciding what professional development was needed. Central office supported that, but the schools were empowered to determine what they needed.

Prather said that Tupelo Mayor Jack Reed Jr. also joined them on the trip and that he was really interested in hearing more about the community’s feelings about Cullman’s laptop initiatives.

Several principals will now make a presentation on visits they made to various Star and High Performing schools to study what they were doing.

Fred Hill said several groups have gone but that he has chosen these four groups to make presentations today. He said the groups were asked to look at things those schools were doing that helped them to become star and high performing schools. He said he wanted them to see districts whose students were more disadvantaged than Tupelo’s but who were performing better.

Eddie Prather asked about New Albany Elementary, which gives students assessments each week and uses those to guide instruction. He asks Parkway Principal Anna Guntharp and Lawhon Principal Christy Carrol, who visited NAES, if they are doing something similar. Guntharp said that Parkway and Thomas Street teachers have been getting together to write such assessments. Carrol said that Lawhon is also giving weekly assessments.

Beth Stone asked about Pontotoc Elementary, which had larger class sizes that Tupelo but uses a teacher and an assistant teacher in each classroom. Renee Price, a teacher at Carver who visited PES, said that the teachers there seem to like that and that Tupelo teacehrs would also like that. She said that having that extra body helps.

Prather asks about Clinton, which has similar demographics to Tupelo. Ken McGaha, assistant principal at Tupelo Middle who visited Clinton, said the biggest thing they noticed was the internal support in the buildings of a competitive environment. They were supportive of each other and competitive with each other, as well. He said there was a lot of community support. He said there wasn’t a lot of teachnology, it was just teaching. He said they made sure each teacher had what they needed and that teachers handled discipline issues in their classroom.

Prather asks Milam Principal Travis Beard, who visited Tunica, about discipline there. Beard said they didn’t see problems there. Prather asks how they handle it at Milam. Beard said that they use a step-by-step process where they start handling discipline closest to where the issue occurs. He said teachers handle it first and work with the parents before going to the office. He said the biggest problem is when things happen in the hallways. He said that Tunica uses a similar process.

Travis Beard said that several of the schools have added Study Island program as a result of these visits.

He said another strategy Milam began using was UNRAVEL, which can be used in math and reading. They saw it in Tunica.

Beard: “I think we will see from the visits, there have been changes in our schools this year.”

Prather: We are building the budget and if some of those programs need to be put in the budget, we need to know soon.

Diana Ezell is making a presentation about the digital transition plan. She said they are working to go from paper to digital resources. One thing is they are working to get a smart board/promethean board or some sort of document projector in every classroom. They if they want to add different online programs, they will need ways for students to be able to get on line, possibly adding iPads. The area that is most barren is third- to fifth-grade and Mr. Meadows is working to get resources to those grades, Ezell said.

She said they will also have to begin replacing some equipment. The first student laptops (senior class of 2009-10) will be three years old in Decemeber. Also, lightbulbs on the smart boards will need to be replaced soon.

They have also added bandwidth.

Key will be to make sure that teaching and learning is driving technology and not the other way around, she said.

Ezell said 60 classrooms at the high school don’t have interactive boards and 57 don’t have them at 3-5. Milam, Middle School, K-2 and pre-K are all fully equipped with interactive boards.

Rob Hudson asks for more detailied information about projected costs for replacing technology. Ezell said the cost will be higher for August 2013 when the computers first given to sixth- to 11 th -grade students become three years old.

Ezell said they are working to wake the roll-out more efficient. She said they are going to need to get the laptops to students more quickly, especially if they are going to online textbooks.

Prather: When we got to digital texts, a lot of parents will want their children to come home with a textbook and we will need to educate our parents about that.

Finance director Linda Pannell is presenting a chart on assessed valuation and ad valorem collection through the years. She said that assessed valuation was growing in the early 2000s but has really levelled out in 2009 and hasn’t increased since then. The school distirct has requested the maximum 55 mils, so it can’t request any more. “We are really living on a fixed income,” she said. Personal property has shown a small decline since then. Public utilities has declined every year since 2006 and 2007 with a small exception in 2009 and 2010. Automobiles has declined since 2008 and 2009.

The collection history goes back to 2004-05. Ad valorem collections for operations. For February of 2012, collections were over $13 million, that will be largest month and it will taper from there. Collections grew a little in January, then February and March and then gegan to taper down. She said that through the years, January and February and March tend to be the months when they get most revenue from local sources. It fluctuates which of those three months in which most of the collection comes.

The next presentation is about tutoring at Tupelo High School and the Decemeber subject area test re-test. Lea Johnson said it is looking at data of students who retook the test in September and those who did so in December. In September, 31 percent who were tutored passed the test, compared to 10 percent who weren’t tutored. Out of the others who didn’t pass it, 37 percent of the tutored students got through in December versus eight percent who were not tutored. She said she thinks the tutoring is helping and helping a lot for students who need to re-test. The question, she said, is what do we do for students who are at-risk who are in the classroom now. She said we are working on that, but we need to but a lot more emphasis on that.

Prather said the emphasis needs to be on getting students to pass the test the first time, and Johnson said she agrees. Meadows notes THS Principal Jason Harris’ change in the way counseling is structured so that students keep the same counselors each year instead of getting a new one in every grade.

Stone asks about efforts being made to reach those studnets who are not currently being tutored to get them to use the tutoring services.

Johnson said there is also a large need for parents to help proctor during the upcoming state tests. She said that 800 parents are needed.

Griswald is now making a presentation about the summer curriculum writing project. He said last year’s project was very helpful and they want to build on it again this year. He said they have been gathering feedback about what worked and didn’t work from this past project. This year’s project will also need to focus on common core, he said.

Griswald said they will soon meet with a core group to shape how this year’s project will look. There will be a full-day presentation on May 29 with training from leaders. “We want to make sure the time is well spent and the product is the best product we can use.” Goal will be to finish by the end of July so that teachers and principals will have more time to look at them.

They will revise all pacing guides and curriculum guides in state tested areas and K-2 english and math from last year. They will also revise pacing guides to address gaps.

They will pace for Common Core in grades 3-8 and will develop pacing guides for science and social studies for all grades K-8.

They will also revise the pacing guides for tested subjects at THS to fit the new block schedule.

They will incorporate technology and arts integration in all of their work.

There will be 75-100 certified staff. It will include project leads (curriculum department), curriculum team leaders (lead teachers; 20-25 certified staff paid $21 an hour), curriculum team writers (50-60 certified staff, pay of $18 an hour), curriculum team editors (10-15 certified staff, paid $18 an hour).

Applications were sent to all certified staff for team leaders. Received great candidates and they have been notified. Their work beings tomorrow. Applications will soon be sent for curriculum team writers and edtiors.

No one person will work more than 120 hours. Griswald said the project will probably take less time than last year because it will build on that work.

Estimated cost for staff will be $215,000. Materials and supplies will be $1,000 and printing cost will be $25,000. Total cost is estimated at $241,000.

Work will be done at Church Street and Parkway schools.

Stone said she likes the emphasis on building guides for social stuides and science. Griswald said that was based on feedback. Stone said she also likes the integration of technology and the arts.

Griswald said he hopes they have established the culture that this kind of feedback is valued.

The board is now considering the consent agenda. It includes some contracts, overnight and out of state field trips, grants. The board approves the consent agenda.

Board accepts the student transfer report, made by Pamela Traylor. They also approve the readmission of a student.

Jim Turner makes personnel report. It includes two new temporary staff positions. On classified section, there are seven new individuals. Several were added to substitute pool, brings pool to 193. Turner said the recruitment circuit has started. They have visited Memphis and Delta State Universities in order to try to select highly-qualified teachers earlier. They are forwarding information of those who have expressed interest in the district to all principals so they can begin the process early.

Board approves personnel report.

Linda Pannell presents the financial report and board accepts it. Board accepts the claims docket. The board also accepts the cash flow statements. Pannell said that although the fund balance is high now, the district will need it to get through the lean months until this time next year.

Fred Hill will present a second-reading of policy IHDB-E for GED programs. It would bring the district’s policy in line with the state’s policy. Students no longer have to be two years behind cohorts, but only one year behind when they reach ninth grade. The student must be approved by the superintendent to be in the GED program. The student also must be able to read at the eighth-grade level. Students would participate in a second ceremony for completion near the time of the district’s normal graduation.

The board accepts the changes to the policy.

Pamela Traylor requests the board to ratify an administrative recommendation on a student discipline issue. The board accepts the reccomendation.

Under new business, several things must be approved for the first March meeting.

The board must reappoint legal counsel for the school board. Meadows recommends they reappoint Mitchell McNutt and Sams. The board approves the recommendation, appointing Mitchell, McNutt and Sams as legal counsel.

Meadows recommends that the board approves that Central Office remains the place to post special board meetings and meeting changes. The Hancock Center is a secondary location. Patrice Tate is designated as the person responsible for doing that. Board approves.

Meadows recommends that the board approves Tate to serve as recording secretary. Board approves.

The board also approves the process for authorization of district signatures, for district financial accounts. The board reaffirmed its existing policy.

The board appoints Beth Stone and Rob Hudson to a committee to study the 2011-12 audit.

On future agenda topics, Meadows said that Rob Hudson has requested an update on security cameras. He said they are preparing to bring an update soon. Meadows asks the board to consider, early in the year the district operated on the plan Moving Forward Together. It had four components: safe schools, recongizing teachers and principals as instructional leaders, improve academic performance and develop an avenue for community to address concerns. Meadows said he has identified things from those sessions. He asks that the board allows the superintendent to identify the common themes from the meetings with the community and that Meadows would present a plan to formalize those listening sessions and present them to a larger audience.

Perhaps they would be called “Councils of Excellence.” They would allow students, teachers, parents and community members to give feedback. Meadows said that new superintendent Gearl Loden has expressed an interest in this.

Meadows said this would put the fourth-component of “Moving Forward Together” into action. He said that if the board approves the individual school processes, to formalize the sessions, it would be helpful.

Hudson said that the listening sessions have been a good first step and he’s gotten a lot of feedback that said thanks for reaching out, but what is next.

Prather said that it should be reflected in the minutes that the board moved forward with this process.

Board votes to direct Meadows to begin the process of moving forward with the process of collecting information from those sessions and determing a plan for buidling upon that.

Hudson asks for an update on block scheduling and what will happen with sports teams.

Meeting is adjourned at 2:33 p.m.

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