News Tip

Notes and Links from the November 16 School Board Meeting

This post expresses the views and opinions of the author(s) and not necessarily that of The Sun Times News management or staff.

These are my personal notes from Monday's board meeting along with useful links that were shared. The official minutes will be on the district website before the next board meeting. As always, please check out the district's video recording for a complete playback of the evening's events and discussion.

NWEA spring and fall 2020 scores in math (1st to 7th) and reading (1st to 8th) were shared by the superintendent. Overall scores indicate appropriate growth from spring to fall. High school testing (PSAT and SAT) was optional this fall, and scores are not in yet. So high school proficiency is only assessed through mid-semester grades at this point.

The audit report was accepted, and only two irregularities were noted at the finance committee meeting earlier in the afternoon. They were not included in the audit or as part of the board meeting presentation, but they seem to indicate that board policies and protocols could be attended to more carefully in a couple of places. Overall, the budget is in very good shape.

Although the superintendent shared that DCS lost about 250 students from the prior October count and that the state also reduced per pupil funding; those students could return when in-person school fully resumes, and per pupil funding had a net increase through adjusted state funding guidelines (75% from the 2019 count) and federal support. See the slideshow for details.

[If you are interested in the finance committee discussion, the committee went more in depth than the board meeting presentation.…]

A big topic for the evening was the timeline for returning to classrooms. Individual board members expressed opinions ranging from keeping to the timeline we have to delaying the return to classrooms further. At least one board member indicated he did not feel qualified to make that decision at this time, choosing to defer to the administration instead.

I believe we should follow the new state guidelines and return Y5 to 8th to classrooms on December 2 as planned and 9-12th on December 9th after the lockdown ends. Presumably, after a three week lockdown, the covid numbers will stabilize and begin declining. Transmission has not occurred at DCS, and our protocols have been 100% effective. We have already empowered the committee to re-evaluate the risk and make recommendations to the board should the situation change. But I would still plan for the return in case it is possible.

I also pointed out that high school students taking college level classes have less than two hours of instruction (technically 1.5 total which some teachers have been willing to extend a bit) for what is designed to be five hours in the classroom. They probably need more time in class. If we are not planning to return to school in a hybrid model any time soon, we may no longer need the “deep clean” Wednesdays or shortened school days at DHS (9:30 to 1:45) and could leverage that into more instructional time.

Boilerplate policies from NEOLA and Trun law firm were moved forward without much discussion, and the resolution giving carte blanche powers to the supt so DCS can comply with state requirements and also granting him unlimited spending for that purpose was approved. He would report back to the board after the fact with the details.

Board comments were brief. I made a comment about community access to meetings and noted that committee meetings were no longer available by zoom after November 3 [although more than ten people were in attendance at one of them] and that not everyone is comfortable attending in person. [Also, it occurs to me that anyone with covid symptoms would be barred from entry, which runs contrary to the OMA.]

I hope the district would expand the live-streaming feature to all board and committee meetings soon! I think people would appreciate that.

Have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

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