By MATT KOESTERS
After three years of debate, research and more debate, the Clarksville Community School Corporation Board of Trustees unanimously voted to bring the New Tech model of education to Clarksville.
“I commend our board. Our community should be very proud of them,” CCSC Superintendent Kimberly Knott said. “They have been good stewards of taxpayer dollars. They’ve done their homework on this. They have worked with our redevelopment commission and our town, and I truly believe this is going to be a win-win, as Mr. Wilson said, for the school and our community.”
The New Tech model is a problem-based, project-based learning model that focuses on student engagement. The students’ input is taken into account in everything from the projects they work on to the rules they follow in the classroom.
The agreement between CCSC and the New Tech Network is for five years at a one-time cost of $463,500. Knott said the school will likely pay the cost — which gives CCSC access to the NTN curriculum, technology portal resources, learning platform, coaching, consulting services and access to annual conferences — out of the school corporations’ capital projects fund or rainy day fund. Each fund has about $2 million currently, Knott said.
“I’ve seen the results of New Tech schools. I’ve seen the enthusiasm of the kids, and I’m a firm believer that if we continue to do what we’ve always done, we’re going to get what we always got,” said CCSC board member Mike Kane. “We need to move on and try new tools and new paths to bring these kids up to the technological age that we’re in. The kids are changing, and we’ve got to change with them.”
The New Tech model is set to be implemented at Clarksville in August, 2014, Knott said. New Tech will begin with a freshman class of about 100 students and five to seven teachers, she said.
A site for the New Tech school has not yet been selected, with the old Value City property along Eastern Boulevard, Clarksville Middle School and the Colgate Property along South Clark Boulevard being considered. NTN Regional Director Paul Buck favors the Value City property, according to a CCSC press release.
“The Value City building is a large, open space that would require minimal renovation given the context of New Tech High,” the release reads. “Buck and New Tech Network believe the Value City building would allow for optimal space utilization conducive to student collaboration, large open working areas and program transparency, all requisites of New Tech High.”
Members of CCSC will collaborate with the Clarksville Redevelopment Commission and the Clarksville Town Council before a determination on the site of the New Tech school is made, Knott said.
“We just have to sit down and have that conversation with all of the stakeholders, the town and our board, and our constituents, and make a decision on which way we’re going to move forward,” Knott said.
The vote to enter the agreement with New Tech was unanimous.
“I’m very pleased, obviously, and to get a 5-0 vote — I think we’ve gone through this for three years now,” said Bill Wilson, board president. “We’ve done our due diligence, we’ve looked at everything, and as with any venture, business or otherwise, there’s risk. But you have to weigh the advantages with the risk, and I think the board sent that message, we’re ready to move forward and bring something that can be very exciting to Clarksville and Southern Indiana.”
The existing programs in the school corporation will continue to receive the support of the board, but providing a new learning model will allow Clarksville to remain competitive, Wilson said. Wilson saw the difference between traditional students and New Tech students during visits to school board conferences and New Tech schools in other communities.
“They’re not a cadre of elite people. They’re not special,” Wilson said. “And yet, when you see the engagement of those students and what they can do ... here’s what went through my mind: ‘We’re going to be competing with those students? There’s no competition.’ We’re going to be preparing these students in another fashion that would serve us. It’s not for everybody, but it’s an option that can benefit us and Southern Indiana.”
STIPENDS FOR STAFF APPROVED
The board voted 4-0 to approve stipends of at least $2,500 for teachers, full-time classified employees and administrators. Board member Andy Bramer abstained.
CCSC employees have not received a raise in several years, and Wilson said he was pleased the board was able to finally give staff members something extra, and at the right time.
Teachers who achieve in the school’s TAP program, which evaluates student achievement, teacher effectiveness and accountability, could receive stipends of up to $7,000.
The program will cost the school corporation about $350,000 and will be supplemented by state grants, Knott said.
OUTSTANDING ATHLETIC, ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENTS
The board recognized the Clarksville High School football team, which posted a 6-5 record, defeated Providence in the City Championship and won a game in the sectional tournament during the 2012 campaign.
Additionally, the board honored the Clarksville Elementary School Spelling Bowl team, which placed second in the area.