Harrison BOE authorizes purchase of 20k testing tool

By Mary Kindig

Review Correspondent

After discussion at their last Board meeting, the Harrison Community Schools’ Board of Education voted at their Monday night meeting to purchase a new testing tool that would better show student progress than the current State-mandated MEAP test.

The NWEA testing tool costs $11.50 a student, with an additional $2.50 per student if the district purchases the science component, according to Superintendent Tom House.  The total cost would range from $16,000 to $20,000, with a one-time fee of $3,200 for training.

Hillside Elementary Principal Barb Elliott was asked if she and her staff had any opinion on the NWEA test.  “We’re all looking for a tool that measures growth in a fair and unbiased way,” Elliott said, adding, “What’s nice about this is it’s computer based and relatively quick.”  Superintendent House remarked, “The people I know in the area that have used it have been happy with it.”

Part of the reason given at the last meeting for purchasing the NWEA tests is that the State is requiring that evaluations now need to be based on measurable student growth.  The MEAP test only measures progress at certain grade levels, and is mostly useful to see where students excel or fall short in relation to statewide averages.  The NWEA tests can measure progress during and between each grade, but is limited to testing in math, reading, English Language Arts and science.

The Board also voted to have NEOLA write a new Board policy for the district.  It was estimated by President Marie Roth that it had been 20 years since the Board had written or updated its policies, and Superintendent House had indicated previously that the policy was too old and outdated to be resuscitated.  “Districts that have let their policies lapse – it’s not a good time to do that,” House told the Board.

There was some disagreement among Board members as to which groups of people within the district should be allowed to have input into the creation of new Board policy.  Trustee Therese Haley felt that the Board should set its own policies, while President Roth felt that teachers, administrators, and the community should also be involved.  After discussion, the Board voted, at Superintendent House’s recommendation, to authorize him to go forward with NEOLA and to see what they recommended for participation.

Also at Monday night’s meeting, the Board approved the hiring of several staff.  Janice Ranck was approved as the district’s new Business Manager.  Other hires included:  Kelly Pieprzyk (Middle School Boy’s Track), Amy Romanowski (High School Skiing), Lynda Crawford (3rd Grade at Hillside Elementary), retired teacher Cindy Yenkel (Middle School 31A Interventionist), and Jim Hoshield (8th Grade Boys Basketball).  As for the teachers and para-pros who had been laid off in the fall, nearly all have been recalled or have gotten other jobs.  “We have one remaining layoff,” House told the Board.

In other business, the Harrison Board of Education:

*passed a resolution requesting that Governor Snyder and Michigan legislators guarantee that all school funding lost by the possible repeal of personal property taxes be replaced in full.

*heard that the pupil count on October 5th showed that Harrison Community Schools had gained about 30 students from last fall’s count, bringing the number to approximately 1,581.

*heard an update from Superintendent House regarding pending legislation that would, if passed, affect school funding or operations.

*went into Closed Session to discuss HEA negotiations.