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February 20, 2014

Systematic improvement plan at Greater Clark

District looks to improve D schools

JEFFERSONVILLE — Shea Van Hoy 2/19/14 MUGS OF BOTORFF-PERKINS [MAY BE LISTED ONLY AS PERKINS], Melin, Tony Hall

Principals from the district’s four lowest graded schools presented their improvement plans to the Greater Clark County Schools board of trustees Tuesday during a public hearing, which led to some encouragement from board members and the superintendent.

But addressing concerns and frustrations of educators in the trenches caused Andrew Melin, superintendent, to plead teachers to have more faith in initiatives he’s implemented across the school system.

Bridgepoint Elementary School, Northaven Elementary School, Parkview Middle School and River Valley Middle School all received a D from the state’s A-F accountability measure for 2013. After presenting their strategies to make 2014’s grades better, board member Theresa Botorff-Perkins said she knew they’d work hard to improve.

“What I see in this group and what I saw in all the reports is a group of professional educators who are determined to turn this around, and you will do that,” Botorff-Perkins said. “I applaud the work of the central [office] getting in there and helping. It takes a village. You guys have taken the challenge and you’re ready to roll with it and I’m very proud of what you’ve done.”

She said she knows seeing those low grades can make teachers feel ineffective, but said she didn’t think they were.

Melin said he thought the work from administrators at the building and central office levels had helped form comprehensive plans to improve the grades. He said though he didn’t think the A-F model was the best tool to accurately measure the success of a school, they have no choice but to perform better under state guidelines.

“[Administrators have] really rallied to do what’s necessary to help,” Melin said. “That’s the goal — how can we be of help from our level. It’s not on any one individual’s shoulders, it’s on all of us.”

But once the hearing closed and their regular session began, Melin gave a presentation on how all the initiatives he’s started in the district come together as a system. He said he knows in the last year, it’s been a lot to ask teachers to adjust to, but they have to make all of those programs work together to help students achieve better on state tests.

Along with his IMPACT program — which looks at what kinds of interventions students need with academics or behavior based on a three-tiered system — implementing a 1:1 computer initiative and several others, he said they can’t act alone as silos, but have to come together as a system.

He said he knows it’s put stress on teachers, but they have to believe in that system.

“I’m not planning as your superintendent to add more things to the plate,” Melin said. “It’s all in. But now what we have to do is get better. Systems are sustainable. Programs can change. We’ll continue to refine and get better, but there are no other major initiatives that need to be put into place.”

He added that doesn’t mean some of the programs won’t see changes as time goes on. He said as long as the integrity of his system remains, it should all work together.

He said that flexibility to change parts of programs is important, especially as the state looks to alter some of their standards for districts. In April, changes could come from the state level as far as the performance expectations on state tests from students.

“These standards are going to be [federal] Common Core with a little bit of Indiana; they’re going to be this hybrid approach,” Melin said. “At least, that’s what it looks like right now. Frankly, I don’t care. You tell us what you expect of us as a federal government, as a state level government, you tell us what we need to do and our people will respond.”

Tony Hall, board member, said he understands putting all those pieces together, but he said teachers are more likely to buy into what Melin’s selling if they can see a working example of what he’s implementing.

“No coach ever invents a new offense, it’s already done, but it sure helps to go see it,” Hall said. “Go to a clinic, go watch a game and see it. Are we giving our teachers, our administrators a chance to go to other schools and if these strategies are successful, to see it first hand how it’s working? I think that really helps when you see something working besides being told it’s going to work.”

He said since the board has approved travel budgets for teachers and administrators to travel to several places across the country for training, it would be worth their while to send teachers to districts with initiatives similar to Melin’s.

Melin said he’d take the suggestion to heart, but he’s not sure anyone else is approaching education the same way as Greater Clark.

“We’ve had teachers and administrators go places to see models of different types of programs,” Melin said. “We’ve not had teams go to any particular school system and seeing all of this because I’ve not seen it. I’ve not see a school system that has tried to put all these things in place.”

ALSO AT THE MEETING

• The board approved a resolution opposing Gov. Mike Pence’s plan to eliminate the business personal property tax. Tom Dykiel, chief financial officer for the district, said Greater Clark could suffer a $4.6 million loss in revenue unless the governor replaces the tax with something else.

• An interlocal agreement with the Clark County Commissioners for salt and brine was approved. The district agreed to pay $4,244.50 for 65 tons of salt to use around Charlestown and New Washington in case of inclement weather. The agreement was passed unanimously.

• The board also approved a bid award for maintenance vehicles. The bid calls for the purchase of a 1-ton dump truck, five minivans, two 1-ton pickup trucks and two more trucks for a total of $239,668.74. Dykiel said the cost came in below the cost of the state bid. The vehicles were purchased from three local dealerships.

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