Requests for early graduations (graduating mid-term) came up for discussion at Dec. 18th's meeting of the Marcus-Meriden-Cleghorn School Board. Three such requests were submitted to the board.
Supt. Jan Brandhorst had the board review the policy for mid-term graduation which requires students to make the request in June for the following January. The other key requirement for granting early graduation is that the student must complete all of the required credits and have passing grades.
The board granted the request of one student who just moved into the district in the fall and had all his classes completed in good standing. The other two students did not have all the required number of classes completed. The board took time to review all of the possible scenarios and in the end, denied the other two students early graduation. They felt there was a standard that should be maintained.
It was also noted that 16 students have already completed required course work and 17 others only have one class requirement. MMC has increased student requirements and it has paid off with good standings in student testing.
Guidance counselor Renea Ogren shared numerous test scores with the board. She is finding that most students want to take the ACT test to indicate their preparedness for college work. Presently 80 percent take the test, In most parts of the test, the MMC students are doing better than state average.
On the data of the Iowa Tests, Ogren admits that the competition is getting better but she still proclaimed that the MMC students stay above the average. She brought in the scores for the last four years showing that MMC remains strong. The scores keep rising on individual tests as well as their composite scores.
The one segment of the student population that is an exception to this rule is in the special education area. The number of low performers in this category is more than the school administration would like.
Special education instructor Teresa Hanson pointed out to the board that MMC has more students in special education classes due to the influx of new students. Her schedule does not lend itself to the benefit of the students she is to serve.
"The traveling back and forth from the buildings with each having a different time period does not let me divide the time fairly. Therefore, my schedule calls for me to be every-other week steadily in one building and then the other. So when I return after a week away, it takes me two days to get them to realize who I am and what I have been trying to get them to learn. These students' needs are higher than in the past. It would be so much better to see them every day. We need a second instructor," said Hanson.
She continues, "The board can't assume that with all my years of experience in this field with a master's degree in special education, that a para-educator can be handed plans and think it would be done the same as a professional. We are selling these kids short. There were special education funds left over last year. So there is money there. Eventually, in two years, your money will come back to you but we need to do better by these students and be the "Best of the Best" which is what this district claims to be."
It is generally known that MMC has had several new students move into the district with special needs to be met. Brandhorst asked the board for permission to advertise and see if there is anyone out there who has special education certification.
Brandhorst also brought up the need to discuss and approve an Instructional Support Levy for the district. The present support levy runs out at the end of this school year. It brings in $257, 342 to the district. Brandhorst recommended that it be written up the same as in the past with the bulk of it raised through income surtax. Just about every district in the state has such a levy. It has become necessary to keep the district financially solvent.
The board was made aware that the minimum wage will change as of Jan. 1. Therefore, the board voted to raise wages of aides from $6.50 to $7.25; cooks' wages will go from $7 to $7.50; custodians will go from $7.75 to $8; and secretaries will go from $7.40 to $7.75.
The board heard a request from bus drivers as the substitute drivers have not had a raise in 10 years, Ron Schmillen read a letter prepared by the drivers noting that whether full or part-time, all drivers have to have the same requirements to get the job done.
The board heard a lengthy report on the construction progress and although some items came in above the estimate, a few have been under. Much of the plumbing and pipes have been laid in and rerouted. During the water leak under the building, the crew found many patches had been made to the old water lines. It was a good time to install new valves, which will be good insurance against a water leak. The skylights are in; much of the floor has been poured. Brandhorst noted how well the different crews are working together, which is a big plus.
The board approved the first reading of an employee travel compensation policy. Brandhorst said the only person responsible for making motel reservations for students and staff is Becky Sand. He wants everyone to stay within a financial limit set by the district. Any staff member who doesn't work through the office may be responsible for their bill.
A couple parents were present to remind the board to look at the "Switching Sports" policy to better guide what students and staff should do in various situations. Board member Jeff Gross felt the policy was unfair when one student was granted and the other not. He felt that the student needed to talk to the coach of the sport he wanted to quit before going to the coach of the sport he wanted to change to.
Rather than rush through changes, he felt they should wait until June before the next handbook comes out and review the policy then. The board agreed.
Elementary Principal Kathy Tritz-Rhodes noted the difficult problem of dealing with young students arriving at school by 7 a.m. to make sure they get the seat they want on the shuttle bus. It has resulted in some bullying by those who do not want students seated next to them. Therefore, Tritz-Rhodes will be assigning each student a seat to try to eliminate the problem. She noted many are unhappy with this idea but something has to be done by the school to take control of the situation. She and the board would like parents to work with the school on this problem. The students are coming too early.
There was discussion about an alternative school making use of a downtown building. The staff is working a proposal up with no idea about cost as of yet. They do feel that Northwest Iowa Community College at Sheldon may offer some help in the planning.