The Richmond Register

December 14, 2013

School board members 5-0 on every measure at meeting

By Crystal Wylie
Register News Writer

RICHMOND — Perhaps for the first time in recent history, the Madison County School Board voted unanimously on every action on the agenda during its Thursday meeting at Madison Central High School.

The string of agreements began with the 5-0 approval of amendments to the District Facility Plan, a comprehensive review and evaluation of the school district’s facilities.

A Local Planning Committee of 20, consisting of parents, teachers, administrators and other district stakeholders, is charged with developing the plan, said Kevin Hub, director of operations.

The changes will be presented to the state department at a hearing scheduled Dec. 18. Hub will return in January with a report on the hearing and the board will be asked to make a final vote on the amendments, he said.

The LPC deleted completed projects on the plan, such as Farristown Middle School or renovations at Madison Southern High School.

The LPC also amended the DFP school center list to reflect the capacity changes at elementary schools as well as the closing of Mayfield Elementary as a school and its reopening as a kindergarten academy when the district begins full-day kindergarten in August.

Because kindergarten students in the Richmond-area schools will attend the Mayfield academy next year and Silver Creek kindergarteners will attend the Shannon Johnson Elementary academy, each school will now have room to grow, Hub said.

Next year, each building will have spaces available, more than 100 at some schools, according to capacities formulated by the Kentucky Department of Education, Hub said. Estimates of student enrollment next year are based on the number of current kindergarten students through fourth-grade students.

“This is plenty of room for growth,” board member Becky Coyle said, which could eliminate the need to redistrict over the next couple years.

EXPLORE/PLAN three-year report

Thursday’s report on EXPLORE and PLAN, tests administered nationwide and part of the ACT series, revealed that Madison County scores are above national averages and the composite scores have steadily increased over the past three years. However, students still lag behind in math on PLAN.

This series of tests, known as EPAS (Educational Planning and Assessment System) are used to determined a student’s college-readiness, which is one component of the state’s new assessment and accountability system Unbridled Learning.

EXPLORE is administered to eighth-grade students and PLAN is administered to sophomores, both in September.

Although the district’s EXPLORE/PLAN scores are generally above national averages, the ACT scores fall below.

Gilliam said EXPLORE and PLAN are both formative types of assessments used to prepare students for the ACT and is administered to the whole school.

Kentucky now gives the ACT to all high school juniors, but for the most part, only college-bound students takes the ACT nationwide, Gilliam said. Additionally, the SAT is more popular in some places, such as the West Coast, “skewing” a national comparison of ACT scores, he said.

“But EXPLORE and PLAN are good comparisons to where we rank nationally,” Gilliam said.

The mathematics task force, an initiative Superintendent Elmer Thomas proposed this year to improve math achievement districtwide, will present a math improvement plan in February, he said.

Eighteen teachers, representing every grade level and every school in the district, make up the task force.

Online program Edgenuity replaces APEX

The board approved 5-0 the purchase of Edgenuity Courseware, a “flexible online curriculum,” Gilliam said.

Although “face-to-face” instruction is the preferred format of teaching, he said, some students’ schedules make it “impossible” for them to earn certain credits.

For example, students in the Advanced Placement scholars academy may have classes that conflict with the regular school day schedule. Or, some students may need to make up certain classes and the software can be used for credit recovery.

“(The software) hits both ends of the spectrum,” he said. “We feel it is superior to APEX and it meets our needs as a district.”

Considering a teacher’s salary and curriculum expenses, it costs the district between $450-500 per credit hour earned, Gilliam said. However, it costs around $175 per credit hour if done through Edgenuity.

The estimates are based on the 900 credits earned by roughly 300 students through the online program each year, he said. “This is a low-cost way for students to earn credit.”

Gilliam said a classroom teacher can deliver around 120 credits each year, after board chair Mona Isaacs asked about how many credits can be earned through face-to-face instruction.

The three-year contract with APEX, which ends in August, cost the district $209,000 (just under $70,000 a year), part of which was paid for through a grant.

Edgenuity will cost the district $59,000 for the first year, and $55,000 for each additional year.

There also is a clause in the Edgenuity contract that allows the district to opt-out if administrators and teachers are not satisfied with the program.

During his monthly report, Thomas announced he will give a “state of the district” address in April or May. As a “snapshot” of his upcoming address, Thomas reported on his first semester as superintendent and the partnerships he has made since stepping into the position.

Thomas said he had met with Eastern Kentucky University President Michael Benson, and the university and district are working to set corresponding dates for spring break.

In other business, the board:

• Approved the 2014 Comprehensive District Improvement Plan

• Approved an international trip to Italy for the Madison Middle Travel Club. The trip is scheduled March 27 to April 7.

• Approved the BG-1s, or project application forms for KDE, to complete major renovations to White Hall, Daniel Boone and Kit Carson elementary schools. Most or all of the major systems in portions of each school are more than 30 years old. The initial estimated cost for the three projects is just under $12 million. The anticipated completion date is August 2015.

• Voted 5-0 to revise hiring procedures to begin online job applications in January. The automated TalentED Recruit and Hire program also will streamline the process for retirement and vacancy notifications, said Dustin Brumbaugh, human resources director.

See Sunday’s Richmond Register for a story about the district’s use of jail trusties for work at the school bus garage.

Crystal Wylie can be reached at cwylie@richmondregister.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.