School board talks school improvement, Learning Jet
By VICTORIA CALDERON
• Leader & Times
At the Board of Education meeting Monday evening, a board member who will be resigning was recognized.
Crystal Clemens, who was on the board for a year, will be moving to Texas with her family.
“I have loved working with all of you and learning a great deal,” Clemens told the board.
In order to fill her spot, the board conducted interviews for a new member. Matt Durler was chosen to take her place.
Other business discussed, aside from the new board vacancies left by Clemens and Tammy Sutherland-Abbott, included the bond issue and resolution, the School Improvement Team and the Liberal Learning Jet.
The resolution to fund the new schools was passed 7 to 0. The bonds for the project have all been sold - $127,856,000 worth of them. This is the estimated cost for the entire project. The bonds were not only offered to major investors like Edward Jones, but to local brokers as well.
The School Improvement Team consists of several teachers from Liberal High School. Michelle Bremenkamp, the spokesperson for the group, presented the board with a plan to boost consistency and teacher accountability at the high school.
“Our concern was to better focus on what our students are learning and how do we accurately reflect that to parents, other teachers, so on and so forth,” Bremenkamp said.
In order to achieve this, their plan included holding teachers accountable for how they put grades into PowerSchool, the online system where teachers can input their students’s grades and parents can track these grades. Currently, the descriptions behind certain assignments are vague, and according to the team, that makes it difficult for the students to understand what they aren’t doing correctly or how they can improve.
“Sometimes it was't very descriptive information for parents to know, ‘What is my child not doing well?’” Bremenkamp said. “If a teacher just has Formative 1, Formative 2, Summative 3, nobody knows what that means.
“We need assignment names to be descriptive and specific in PowerSchool... and it must be based on academic learning goals.”
Timeliness was also discussed. A few of the board members agreed that sometimes their students’ grades are not posted quickly enough, with weeks passing before a teacher updates PowerSchool. The team included in their plan that teachers should post a new grade at least once a week.
To go along with the theme of consistency, they also stipulated that final exams should be the same within a course for every teacher. For example, all Algebra II teachers should give the same final to their Algebra II classes. However, teachers will have more discretion when it comes to their grading system and make-up work policy.
With more power to choose these details comes more responsibility, however. The team also wants to require teachers to create a syllabus detailing their policies on grading, retaking failed tests, etc.
A few of these plans have been implemented this past school year.
“This semester, we put the three circles into play, but it was optional. And we decided that really isn't good enough. We want our teachers to be held accountable,” Bremenkamp said.
So next year, with the help of the administrators, the team hopes to implement these policies for teacher accountability and consistency to improve the high school.
Another item that was taken action on was the Liberal Learning Jet, a collaboration with the Mid America Air Museum.
Dr. Janese Thatcher, Seward County Community College /Area Technical School Dean of Career and Technical Education and member of the Mid America Air Museum Foundation, presented the idea to the board.
“The idea for the Liberal Learning Jet is to help students succeed in school, mobilize future talent, and cultivate a workforce that's prepared to meet the technical career challenges of the future,” Dr. Thatcher said.
FedEx recently donated a Boeing 727 to the MAAM Foundation for the cause. The Foundation will be collaborating with USD 480 and SCCC/ATS to incorporate learning outside of the classroom, in less traditional settings.
The Learning Jet will provide “real world” activities to correlate with lessons being taught to a class. Dr. Thatcher gave the board an example: if a class is learning about positive and negative numbers, then a teacher can call and schedule a time for his/her class to make a visit to the jet. The class can learn about positive and negative numbers through the weight and balance screens on the plane, and they can do activity sheets to solidify the lesson.
The Jet will also allow students to check out the engines and other parts of the plane most people never get to see.
The Boeing 727 will be landing at 9 a.m. on Thursday, June 5, at the Liberal airport.
“The objectives of the project are to provide students with learning experiences that connects STEM subjects to real world applications, to foster the development of confidence in students' ability to succeed in STEM subjects, and also to introduce them to the many different careers available in the technical industries, with special emphasis on providing women and minority role models,” Dr. Thatcher said.
The decision to collaborate with the MAAM Foundation on the Learning Jet was passed by the board, 7 to 0.