Today’s Tupelo School Board meeting is about to begin. Board members Sherry Davis, Ken Wheeler, Eddie Prather and Joe Babb all are present. Board President Rob Hudson is not yet here.
The board also will reconvene today at 5 p.m. for a public hearing on the district’s budget for next year. That hearing also will be here at the Hancock Leadership Center.
Among the items on the agenda today are reports on Common Core implementation, Tupelo High Advanced Placement results and the district’s Bring Your Own Device policy. That policy, which was used for sixth-graders last year, will be expanded to grades 6-12.
THS Principal Jason Harris and TMS Principal Kristy Luse also will report on how the state’s new 63-percent rule has impacted secondary attendance during exams. The district may consider making tweaks to its exemption policy because of the impact of that rule. (Students who are exempt are now considering absent and since average daily attendance determines funding, their absence can result in less funding).
Today’s meeting is the first meeting for new assistant superintendent Eddie Peasant.
The meeting has begun. Hudson will not be here because he is out of town for business. All four other Board members are present. Vice President Ken Wheeler will preside over the meeting.
Executive director of curriculum and instruction Leigh Mobley will make a presentation about Common Core implementation.
Mobley: We do have a lot of new things coming and there is a lot of worry about getting it all done, but there is a lot of excitement as well.
She will talk about summer curriculum work.
At K-2 level, focused on writing district assessments that aligned with the units they will be teaching this summer. They can give those assessments throughout the district to give teachers a good idea about how their students are doing with the new standards and what the expectations are. They also developed bell ringers to align with the CC standards.
They developed 10-15 day unit sample plan with a lot of teacher input, Mobley said, to help make sure the district is really changing instruction.
In grades 3 to 8, they did a lot of the same things. The difference is that K-2 doesn’t have any PARCC assessment, so they needed to develop their own test that would make sure those students would be prepared when they reached third grade.
In grades 3 to 8, they paid close attention to PARCC wording with the assessments they developed. Also worked on bell ringers, sample unit plans, graphic organizers and rubrics.
Every math teacher in the district will be trained on NISL by September, Mobley said.
“In order to make all of these things work, we will have to do a lot of professional development,” Mobley said.
They will use a program called MySidewalks this year. It is an intervention program to be used with Reading Street to help address students who score in the bottom 25 percent.
Other upcoming trainings include Write to Learn, Assessment writing, Common Core teaching strategies. CC training will help teachers get the needed rigor and incorporate more reading and more writing.
Training will begin on Monday when teachers report. Topics will include MAth NISL, Write to LEarn, Summer Curriculum Work updates, speech pathologist training, PLATO, Common Core updates, ABC mouse, Social Studies and Science NISL planning, arts integration, special education, Chrome book training, Google training, IE day, Star/AR updates, interventionist training and Classworks.
Wheeler asks Mobley about her vision for all of this training.
Mobley: My vision is we will blow anyone out of the water on any Common Core assessment they give us.
Also said she’d like to see teachers use new teaching strategies. She said it won’t be perfect, but they will work to address challenges.
The PD360 program the district has used is now called EDIVATION. It provides online training opportunities for teachers.
Now Mobley is talking about the assessments the district will give next year. It is a long list; she said most of them are required by the state. Others are ones the district uses to make sure students are prepared, she said.
State assessments include ACT, PARCC performance based assessment, PARCC MCT3, subject area tests at the high school, others.
They will use Classworks for their universal screener they are required to give.
The goal is to improve the instruction and improve the student’s achievement, Mobley said. It has been a busy summer, she said.
Board member Joe Babb asks about the 10-day mid-unit assessment.
Mobley said units are to be 20 days. She said the main goal of the summer work was to create an assessment at the end of the unit. But you don’t want to wait until the end to see if students are understanding the material. Where they had time, they also wrote some sample 10-day mid-units. Teachers and principals will determine what mid-unit assessments they will use and will write those.
Babb: In today’s climate we hear there are a lot of assessments. How do we balance assessing and teaching?
Mobley: That is the main reason we made those 20-day assessments to be able to be taken in a single class period.
She said they won’t be doing common assessments at exam time any more, said there will only be two big district-wide assessments. They will use the unit tests instead for grades K-2. She said they have been looking at ways to better protect instructional time. In instances where a unit test is near a big state test, they will make the unit test shorter.
Board member Sherry Davis, a former high school teacher and current community college teacher, said if you are looking to determine mastery, 10 days is a big window of time.
Mobley said these are just some ways to gather data. They aren’t the only ways teachers will determine whether students are understanding the material.
Superintendent Gearl Loden said a lot of the state mandates are overwhelming, especially with the required screeners at the lower grades. Now there is the third-grade gate too. And you can’t just give them the assessment, you have to prepare them for the format so they can do well.
Mobley: Even though the calendar looks scary, we’ve cut it down as much as we can.
Babb: Can you take a standard and tell us how it gets from the standard to what is in the classroom.
Mobley: Area. You learned area length times width. There is still a standard where you need to know that. Now they put up a picture of a guy’s farm with several shapes. He gets his tax bill, which is based on the area of the farm. He thinks he has been overcharged and you need to see if he is right.
Now you need to know how to apply the formula and apply it to real life, she said. It is not just the answer, it is your thought process on how you get there, Mobley said. In a training on that problem, teachers got to the answer in different ways.
The actual standard probably says apply formulas for five or six different things, including area.
Loden said there will be gaps until they really know what the assessments are measuring. In the first couple of years, there will be gaps, he said. As we understand more what they are measuring, we will be better.
Loden said one of the biggest issues districts will have is the flexibility. Core is very broad he says and if someone interprets it differently than what is being tested, there will be problems.
Mobley said there was another problem were someone had 500 baseball cards, some in good condition, in mint condition and in excellent condition. You knew you had so-many times more cards in one condition than another and you needed to write a formula for that equation.
Mobley: It is conceptual learning, real-life application. Think it through and tell me how you got that answer.
Davis asks about what standards will be used for the NAEP. Loden said it will align with the Core.
THS Principal Jason Harris will now speak about Advanced Placement results at the school.
Harris has broken it down into each course. They had 72 total AP students take tests for a total of 99 exams taken. 3-5s, 14-4s, 36-3s, 25-2s and 11-1s. 53 students tested eligible for college credit. He also has the data broken down by subject.
THS had a mean of 2.63, compared to 2.25 for the state, 2.87 for the U.S. and 2.89 for global.
Harris said the school is working to increase the scores but also is working to increase the number of students who take the exam, so it will be interesting to see what happens to the scores.
They had 4 AP scholars this year and also had one student qualify for AP Scholar With Honor and AP Scholar with Distinction.
Hopefully as we continue to increase our students sitting for exams, we will continue to increase our scholar designation, Harris said.
They will add an Advanced Studies diploma where you need a certain GPA (I didn’t catch it) and to have taken four AP courses.
Harris said they are raising the fees for AP tests but they can get a grant through Toyota to help with that.
Board member Eddie Prather asks about the plan to increase students taking AP exams.
Harris: For this year, they have 35 sections, 650 seats taken up for AP classes. They look at AP potential based on PSAT score and try to recruit students to take AP classes based on that score.
They have data meetings with subject-area teachers and will look at AP teachers. About 75 percent are trained on the new courses.
Babb: How do we get those students to sit for the exam?
Harris: Give them incentives, like if you sit for the exam, you get two points added to your final average. Advanced studies diploma. It will still be the same diploma but it will mean you took four advanced placement courses to get that distinguished diploma. We’ve had positive feedback on that.
AP scores will be used in high school state rankings, beginning in 2015-16, Harris said.
Davis asks about Harris’s goals and AP compared to International Baccalaureate.
Harris said they are in conversations with colleges. Some of them accept AP courses differently, may count as an elective rather than as the actual course. Mentions a student who went to Harvard and scored a 4, they bumped him up a course, he said.
Harris said that to go to medical school and be successful, you need those courses.
Prather asks how Tupelo’s AP enrollment compares to other schools.
Harris said enrollment is close. He talked to Eddie Peasant (used to be principal at Clinton) and the principal at Madison Central. Said enrollment is close but they are not getting as many students to sit for the course. He’s trying to make parents understand the money they can save, if the student tests out of a course and doesn’t need to take it in college. THS had six teachers at the national AP conference.
Assistant superintendent Kim Britton will speak about the Bring Your Own Device initiative. They will expand it to Tupelo Middle and Tupelo High. It is optional. Any parent who wants to purchase the device and have their student bring it to the school is welcome to. That device will be able to connect to the district’s network. They will not be able to use cell phones on the district networks and tablets will not be good because students won’t be able to work on them at the same pace.
She recommends devices with a keyboard, Abode Flash compatible and able to open multiple windows at one time,
Students will be responsible for their own devices, keeping them fully charged and making sure maintenance is up to date, Britton said,
If student doesn’t want to bring their own device, they can use one of the many laptops the district owns. They are aging, however, so students may want to bring their own, she said.
Essentially, this is part of the district’s 1-to-1 initiative. Students can choose to use one of the district’s devices or they can use their own.
Prather asks about lessons from the pilot at Milam last year. Britton said very few parents chose to participate last year, most opted to use the district-supplied computers instead.
Finance director Linda Pannell will speak about ad valorem collections. Through May, the district had collected most of its taxes, she said.
Now Pannell will speak about the budget that will be presented at tonight’s hearing.
Enrollment last year, 2013-14, showed a decrease in enrollment. Average daily attendance also went down. For several years enrollment remained level and then it started to increase, but this year it dropped. The state uses average daily attendance to determine amount of funding districts receive.
Joyner, Piece Street and Thomas Street had increased enrollments, while others saw declines.
Pannell: With funding cuts taking place and with not being fully funded by the state, the district has had to reduce some of its teaching staff and other personnel.
The district is down 40 full-time units from last year to this year. Pannell said it is a moving target but they tried to get it as close as they could, leaving room to hire additional teachers if enrollment grows. They also have non-certified positions that are not being renewed.
District has taken pretty heavy cuts in state funding over about the last 10 years, Pannell said. It was tough then but it is getting even tougher, because we have to teach the students, she said. They are making it hard on business managers and superintendents to figure out how we are going to do that and maintain our buildings, she said.
Prather asks if there is a correlation between the enrollment decline and the more stringent residency checks that the district began doing two years ago. Loden said he believes they are connected.
Director of student services Pam Traylor said they’ve now gone through all of that so those numbers should level out now.
Loden notes Tupelo and (I think he said Biloxi) are the only districts that accept tuition students. So he said those who don’t live in the district can still pay tuition and come.
Pannell notes that the new teacher pay raise wasn’t fully funded by the state. When the state doesn’t provide the funding for that mandate, the district has to look for other places from which to pay for it.
Pannell: Major budget areas include teacher technology tools, testing, professional development, textbooks, structure day program, department of curriculum and instruction, transportation, food services.
Loden said that all state required tests, test supplies, must be paid for by the district. To have virtual calculators they must use is $55,000. Loden notes there is a pad in the budget because there are a lot of unknowns about the transition from paper-and-pencil tests to digital.
Prather said it isn’t fair that the state doesn’t provide money for the tests it requires. Loden said the testing company will provide the calculator for free when you take the test, but they want students to be familiar with the technology before the test.
The district’s total millage, operational plus debt, has declined slightly, because of some debt being paid off. I can’t see the amount. They have been capped at 55 mills for operation since 2008-09.
Pannell: That puts us at pretty much a fixed income, unless assessment goes up.
Assessed valuation did increase this year, Pannell said, probably in the area of the mall where they have had some new growth that came on the books in January 2013.
Debt for the district, in 2015-16, last payment will be made on one of the bonds. In 16-17, the last payment will be made on the other bond.
Pannell: They have refinanced them to get better rates, with both the 2005 issue and the 1998 one.
Purchase indebetedness, this year paid off the second round of Apples. In 14-15, 15-16, 16-17, that indebtedness will also roll off.
Short-term note includes all three qualified school construction bonds. One will roll off not next year but the next. The others are the new qualified school construction bonds will go out later. Pannell said they were advertised as interest free. It hasn’t exactly been that way but they are paying very little interest, certainly much less than they would have through other methods.
Loden said several groups will look at what elementary and high schools of the future will look at, what a Green School will look like, in case they want to seek a small bond re-issuance when those bonds roll off next year. They also will look at other repair needs, AC needs, how to be more efficient, green, lighting.
I think she said state and local revenue are about the same percentage (I didn’t catch the number). About 10 percent of the budget will be from federal sources.
Pannell, they also budget fund balance into expenses because if don’t predict what we need, we can’t spend it.
We are very conservative with our spending, Dr. Loden requires we watch it closely, and we probably won’t spend all of that, Pannell said. They have a construction reserve account of about $8 million for an emergency, like a tornado, Pannell said.
Fund balance, at this time last year, predicted they would end the year with $16.79 million. Instead, it looks like they will end with $27 million. Pannell: That shows how we budget with expenses because we don’t know what will happen.
Expenditures include about 60 percent on instruction costs – costs going into the classroom and areas like guidance counselors.
District has 618.5 licensed educator sports. Average salary of $46,612. That is a AA with 12 years experience. There are 99 National Board Certified teachers.
District will review the consent agenda, includes contractual agreements, donations, single source purchases, permission to submit a grant, permission to accept a grant, permission to remove 33 assets from the TPSD asset list, permission to advertise for bids and the awarding of advertised bids.
Also includes student transfer report, IDEA preschool application, the challenge instructional management plan and the district-wide school safety and crisis management plan.
Board approves consent agenda.
Board approves the docket of claims.
Pannell will now present some state required reports, the reconciled bank statements, cash flow statement for district maintenance fund, combined balance sheet for all general and special revenue funds and month financial statement.
Babb asks how the fund balance will jump so much. Pannell said a lot of it is a timing thing. It is still projected until the books are closed in October.
Board approves the finance report.
Pannell is making a request to amend the 2013-14 school year budget to reflect actual expenditures and to transfer between accounts in the 2014-15 budget. Both are technicalities. Board approves.
Personnel director Jim Turner will speak about licensed staff recommendations.
Starts with an addendum, three licensed staff and one summer reading worker. When add those to personnel report, it is 32 new personnel. It includes two positions for transfers, one new English language arts teacher at the middle school, 5 change of status, several transfers and 12 resignations.
For classified section, elimination of three positions, a couple of payscale changes in the food services department, 5 changes of status, several transfers, 3 summer workers, 21st century grant bus driver and tutor, extended day teachers at ECEC, summer workers at Parkway, 11 resignations, 1 retirement, 1 termination, etc.
To date, district has 45 degreed substitutes and 19 classified.
Turner, that is a very long personnel report. I’m hoping that is the longest you will see for this school year.
Loden mentions some special education positions the state gave the district. I didn’t catch the details.
Turner: district has one speech pathologist it is looking to fill. Only position district is now trying to fill. Positions for a PT has been filled and an OT is almost filled. May have to add an OT assistant in the future.
Board approves personnel report.
Assistant superintendent Diana Ezell will now speak about proposed new policies. She is bringing 6 for first reading: teleconference or video board meeting, re-employment after retirement, using copyrighted material, conduct/ student restraint, activity fund management and I didn’t catch the other.
There will be no action on those since it is a first reading.
There are 11 policies for which language is being cleaned up. Also one policy to be eliminated because it duplicates another policy. Deals with revenues from non-tax sources.
Babb asks for an explanation on a policy dealing with education enhancement funds.
Pannell: Education Enhancement Funds don’t come from the district any more (they now are loaded on a card from the state that is given to the teachers). The changes in that policy are related to that.
Board approves policy changes.
Loden said the district has a master calendar where all policies are reviewed every two years. They will be reviewed more quickly if needed to because of changes to state law.
Ezell speaks about training that administrators are undergoing this week. Training started Monday. Tomorrow, someone will work with them on common and formative assessments. Thursday, Buckley School of Speaking will work with them on speaking from a power point, from an outline, working with media and speaking off the cuff. On Friday, they will review policies and procedures for the year, reminders for administrators as they go through the year.
Athletic director Andy Schoggin will provide an update on the blue turf at THS. He said they have been monitoring the progress closely, said Halas Construction has been great to work with.
Estimated completion was July 28. As is typical with outdoor construction projects, they have had slight delays due to weather, especially rain, he said.
They have been applying the subsurface that goes underneath the turf, should be done by tomorrow. Then an asphalt company will come in and pave the track surface. A delivery of blue turf should come in during next few days and will be put in by Halas. Soft date for completion is now second week of August.
They have a sense of urgency and will do what they can within limits of protecting their own workers. I feel good about what I see.
First football game is August 29. They will have a community-wide tailgate as part of it.
Executive director of operations Andy Cantrell presented an update on the progress of summer construction projects, including the renovations at Joyner Elementary.
For the THS gym, fire marshal recommended occupancy of 1,400. They will put up signs noting that now. He said he doesn’t believe they have exceeded that in the past. Schoggin said for the Shannon basketball game last year, they cut off selling tickets at 1,200.
THS Principal Jason Harris and TMS Principal Kristy Luse will speak about attendance during examinations in light of the new 63-percent rule. She said that attendance stunk during exams this year, with a lot of exemptions and parents having scheduled vacations. Also hurt for snow days put at the end of the year.
Luse said at the middle school, they will compress exams to a block schedule to encourage attendance. For those days they will go to a period of 2-hour blocks. Three full periods of exams so students could take exams and meet the 63-percent rule.
For students who are exempt, they will bring back into school for activities – maybe a field day. Incentives and activities, popcorn.
Luse: It is a really good time for our teachers to maybe have a relationship with students who need help at the end of the year or to hep finish closing some skills.
Harris: For the high school, they will look at incentives at the end to increase attendance. They have compressed their exams to two days at the end.
Prather: So we are expecting an increase in attendance the last month?
Luse: That is the expectation because most of the projects will be right to the end of the year.
High school exemptions are at the end of each semester. At the middle school, only at the end of the year, in the spring.
Davis asks about comprehensive tests.
Harris said anything that is a pre-cursor to a subject area test is required to take a comprehensive test. Harris said they are considering an incentive where students who take an AP exam don’t have to sit for the exam for that course.
Loden noting a few upcoming dates. Staff reports to work on Monday (July 28) and district wide training will begin then.
On July 31, they will have district-wide open houses from 11 to 6 p.m. Teachers can visit their child’s teachers from 10 to 11.
August 4 is first day of school. THS open house is Aug. 14 and Meet the Wave is that night.
Future agenda topics include several updates, Loden said.
Board will go into executive session for a parent request to address the board and an employee hearing.