Is Cyber School in Clare’s future? Board hears proposal

July 26, 2019

By Pat Maurer

If the Board of Education agrees to become an “authorizer,” Clare could authorize a “Cyber School,” enabling students from other areas, who don’t even live in the district to use offsite learning to get their diploma through the Clare district and even be connected through the program to find a job.
Dallas Bell gave a presentation to the board about the program, saying it would cost the district nothing and it could bring funds into the district and could even be a center for the program. “We can give youngsters, who wouldn’t otherwise have it, a chance at a better future,” he said.

He added that he could help the district set up the program and assist them with obtaining state funding as an “authorized district.”

Students are recruited for the cyber learning program through posts on internet sites that they commonly use. The charter school program uses “certified teachers and relationship managers” and would be under the oversite of the school district that authorizes the program. He said local teachers could also be involved.

Bell said the program was originally developed as “Success Virtual Learning Centers” at Greenville Public Schools with just 12 students. The district had no funding for an alternative education program.

When Vestaberg became an authorizer, in just three years 1,300 students were enrolled through their district with “no district cost,” he said.

He said there are now 3,000 students involved across the state through 12 school districts and ten centers established for the programs.

Clare could even become a “cyber school center,” Bell added.
In another matter at the regular board meeting, held one week later than normal, the BOE heard an objection to the elimination of the Library/Media Center teaching position with the layoff of Dawn Morris, Media Specialist “The biggest thing I do relates to social media and safety. The students need it.”

Later, Superintendent Jim Walter noted that the library will remain open. The resolution gave reasons for Walter’s recommendation: “Anticipated staffing requirements for the 2019-2020 program year, including the retention of teachers who are certified and qualified to instruct the planned educational program; and elimination of the Library/Media Center position.”

She was one of two positions slated, and approved for layoff.

Another approved layoff does not mean that teacher will be leaving the district. Sean Theisen’s position as the school social worker was eliminated, but he will be rehired for the “Student Support” position this fall.
The BOE also approved hiring three new people for the coming year. Cathy Wirth was approved for the position of Director of State & Federal Programs/Instructional Coach; Kapre Filhart was hired as an elementary teacher and Bill Nowak was also hired to teach an elementary class. Walter noted that the new teachers were hired because of an increased number of students at the Primary.

New instructional materials for the Middle School Social Studies program was approved by the board. In his report MS Principal Steve Newkirk said, “Current materials for 6th grade and 7th grade are from 2001. The content in our current books is outdated and many books are in poor condition after many years of use…it is becoming increasingly difficult to use the resources that we have effectively.” He added at the meeting, “The books are falling apart and have become difficult to replace with a high cost.
He said the cost of the upgrade would be under $25,000.

Newkirk also reported about two new proposed programs which could be added to the MS curriculum.

The first would be a Life Skill/Behavior Skills/ College and Career prep class for sixth grade students to replace the Spanish class. The second new program will be drafting for all 7th grade students, a first for the district. As an elective class, students would take the class for 12 weeks for all students unless they are in band. “We have the ability to bring shop class to CMS at the 8th grade level, and will also offer a shop class to 6th graders as an elective this year. Drafting in 7th grade will fit nicely between those two elective classes and help student gain a foundation of wood working and drafting before high school.”

A new course has also been proposed at the high school level. A small Engines class will introduce students to the operation and basic repair of two stroke and four stroke engines similar to those found on must household equipment. Total cost for the new class is $1,900.

Other business at the meeting Monday evening included:

*Approval of student handbook changes.

*Approval of a RFP (Request for Proposal) for outsourcing secretarial/clerical services (for one vacant position).

*Approval of the purchase of a new 2019 school bus from Midwest Transit through the Michigan Bus Purchasing program at a previously budgeted cost of $88,092.

*Approval of bills payable for June totaling $257,228.85 and bills payable for July totaling $113,168.38 and gross payroll for June totaling a net amount of $542,242.12.

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