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Harrison BOE 9/12/11

At Monday night’s Board of Education meeting, Superintendent Tom House announced to the Harrison Board that all three of the teachers that were laid off had been called back to work.  One teacher had been called back immediately.  “We called [the second] one back who’s on the job today…and will begin with kids next Monday.  We posted the other one today because the other callback declined,” House said, adding, “So as of, I guess, right this minute, we have none [on layoff], and pretty soon I think we will have only two employees on layoff in support personnel. We think, within a week or so.”

House also reported that the search to replace Business Manager Jacob Sullivan – who took the Business Manager job at Farwell Area Schools — is underway.  House said, “We haven’t interviewed anybody yet.  We have some applicants.”

When the Board was making budget decisions for the 2011-2012 school year, they asked Athletic Director Jim Cooper to cut some transportation costs from the athletic budget.  Cooper submitted his proposed cuts for fall athletic transportation, which House and the Board reviewed.  House said Cooper anticipated eliminating five trips to Clare, four to Farwell, four to Gladwin, four to Houghton Lake, and will be cutting back to one bus to varsity football games.  “He hasn’t done the winter yet.  Spring, I can tell you there will be very few savings because we already don’t do much busing for baseball and softball, and I’m not sure what he’ll be doing about track,” House told the Board.

House reported that he showed the current Harrison School Board Policy to the Michigan Association of School Boards, which is one of two entities that updates and prepares Board Policies so that they are in compliance with State laws and regulations. “They said that your policy is so old, we can’t update it.  You have to start from scratch,” House told the Board.  Board members agreed that it would be too burdensome a job to try to do themselves, and will be considering whether to hire the MASB or NEOLA to prepare a new Board Policy.

Superintendent House spoke to the Board about the problems that have cropped up regarding teacher evaluations, due to the passage of new State regulations.  “Based on recent legislation, and the still ongoing interpretation of all that, we know this:  we know the tenure act is pretty much out the window – at least the parts of it we were familiar with.  And we also know that part of the school code, that evaluation is out the door.  There’s all kinds of new requirements.  One of the main requirements is that you have measures of student growth for teacher evaluations,” House said, adding, “The State’s own test [the MEAP] won’t work for the State’s requirement.”  As an alternative to MEAP testing, House said that many districts in the Upper Midwest – and about 200 districts in Michigan – have begun using the NWEA (North West Evaluation Association) testing program.   Testing is computer based and not timed, and may be stopped and started.  The base package tests up to four times a year on basic subjects, and can measure where students began, how they’ve improved, and where they need help.  House said the drawback of all testing is that it still has no way of tracking teacher performance in subjects like art, music or PE.  House estimated the cost of the NWEA testing to be about $15,000 to $20,000 per year.

In other business at Monday night’s BOE meeting, the Harrison Board:

*was informed that that Friday’s student count in the district was 1,582.

*received a rebate from SET/SEG, the insurer for property/casualty insurance for the district, of $13,374.

*was informed that the district has been approved for both free breakfasts and free lunches for all students this year, although a la carte items will still have to be paid for by the students.

*listened to possible millage options to help fund the CTE program.

*voted to accept the resignation of teacher Christina Fairbanks, who accepted a team teaching position in Ithaca.

*passed two resolutions honoring past Board Presidents Kenneth Haskell and Charles Ashcraft for their service to Harrison Community Schools.

*went into Closed Session to discuss negotiations.