|SSISD board eyeing plan that would reward students who pass the TAKS test with a shorter school year|
|Faith Huffman | News-Telegram News Editor|
Nov. 15, 2005 -- Some junior high and high school students could, in the near future, see their school year shortened by as many as 10 days, while the remaining one-third of Sulphur Springs teens would be required to attend special classes those extra days at the end of the school year.
The idea for an "optional flexible year program" was discussed during Monday night's regular school board meeting, and board officials have asked administrators to continue researching the subject, then present a proposal during a future board meeting.
The district will have until Jan. 31, 2006, to decide on the optional flexible year program, authorized by Senate bill 346. The plan is being pitched as an "incentive" for students to do well on the Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test, and as a means to provide more hands-on, one-on-one attention to students who are struggling in one or more areas of the TAKS exam.
Administrators discussed applying for the waivers allowed under SB 346 for those sixth through 12th grade students who pass all sections of the TAKS to attend up to 10 full days fewer of classes, likely at the end of the school year. Those not passing would remain in classes those 10 days at the end of the year to attend specialized classes, which would incorporate all middle school and high school faculty in the extra TAKS preparation process. Students would attend classes for all four core areas tested on the TAKS, not just areas in which they are having difficulty.
Attendance in the class for those students failing one or more sections of the TAKS would be mandatory, as the class days waiver would affect only those students who passed. If the designated students do not report to class, they could face grade retention due to excessive absences, according to school officials.
Another option related to that program would feature a school year or days which would incorporate the TAKS prep classes at another time during the school year, likely closer to the actual date of TAKS testing, according to Superintendent Patsy Bolton.
"The biggest hurdle we face is getting the community to understand that TAKS is an accurate level of what we're about. If [students] master all sections of the test, they have met all areas of [curriculum]," Assistant Superintendent Randy Reed said in reply to board members' questions regarding the public's perception that all too often teachers have to "teach to the test" instead of meeting curriculum needs.
Also Monday, the board approved a proposal amending the Code of Conduct, eliminating administrator "discretion" but mandating expulsion for certain offenses.
"If an offense is an expulsable offense, then the result is expulsion whether it be a terroristic threat, a bomb threat, drugs or guns on campus, or others acts," Reed said. "If they commit the act they will be expelled."
Reed said that provision had previously been in the Code of Conduct. "We put it back in the Code of Conduct as it was last year," he said. "There was an error in printing. We put it back in to be fair and consistent with students."
Included among the offenses resulting in expulsion are bringing within 300 feet of school property, or to a school event or school related activity on or off school campus, a firearm or weapon as defined in Texas Penal Code, or committing felony behaviors or offenses. The policy is effective immediately.
Employees of Sulphur Springs Independent School District will also be subject to new provisions regarding local leave and extended sick leave beginning in fiscal year 2006-2007. The revisions include the local leave policy, under which all employees earn two workdays of local leave each school year. Substitute pay will be deducted from the employee's pay regardless whether a sub is employed for those two local leave days. Local leave is noncumulative and is subject to the same terms and conditions as state personal leave days.
Another revision defines prolonged absence for extended local sick leave as a minimum of five consecutive days up to 30 days per year, after all earned sick and personal leave days are exhausted. The daily rate for sub pay will be deducted from the employee's pay whether or not one is employed to take their place.
A third change eliminates a second request for 30 days from the board. Before, the policy allowed employees to request up to 30 days extended leave from the superintendent, then go to the school board for an additional 30 days after that for a total of 60 extended sick leave days. The new policy provides for only 30 days of extended local sick leave.
The board approved a contract with Schwartz & Eichelbaum PC which would provide the district with free 24-hour access via telephone to legal advice, provided the question requires no research and only one call is made per question. The service is offered free, with board approval, through the district's membership in the Mid Size Schools Association. Any further legal services would be provided at a rate of $195 per hour. Bolton noted that should a question require additional legal work beyond the free service, school officials would utilize other resources to avoid paying the fee.
Also approved Monday night was a two-part contract with Sulphur Springs Country Club for use of facilities by the golf team; a resolution which would allow the district to pay for any expenses incurred in association with the bond improvement project before the funds are received to be reimbursed using those funds; a contract with Southwest Securities which will allow Dan Almon to continue acting as financial advisor on the bond improvement project; and the district improvement plan.
The Country Club contract, which included two options, was amended to have the $2,220 equipment fee to be paid out of athletic funds instead of requiring the golf team to raise money to cover the fees.
In other business, Robert Van Winkle Sr. was once again selected to represent SSISD on the Hopkins County Appraisal District Board of Directors for the term beginning Jan. 1, 2006, and ending Dec. 31, 2007. Board Vice President Judy Gillem was named as Head Start liaison for the 2005-2006 school year, while Director of Support Services Judy Tipping agreed to once again represent the school on the Hopkins County Regional Civic Center Board of Directors for the term January 2006-December 2008.