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By Caroline Downs
Kenmare school board members narrowly approved a change in the semester test policy for high school students during their regular meeting held December 20th.
KHS principal Robert Thom offered a proposal to alter the current testing procedure. “I’ve incorporated this in the past, and it’s been pretty successful,” he said.
The proposal centered on a cumulative second semester test to be given to students in grades 7 through 12 on May 16th and 17th in each class.
Exemptions from the test could be earned in each class provided a student has earned a “B” or above average grade for the semester; a student has earned a “C” average grade and has three or fewer absences for the semester; and, a student meets one of the previous two criteria and has not received any in-school or out-of-school suspensions.
All students in grades 7 through 12 would take one mandatory semester test regardless of their exemption status. The mandatory tests for each grade include: 7th grade--math; 8th grade--earth science; freshmen--math; sophomores--biology; juniors--English; and seniors--Problems of Democracy.
If students were not testing, they would not be required to remain at the school. The regular attendance policy would still be followed, with appropriate permission granted by parents or guardians. Students who stayed at the school but did not test would be supervised, according to Thom.
“This is an effort to improve attendance,” he explained, “and I think it’s important that all students take some type of cumulative test. There’s validity in that as preparation for our college-bound students. I visited with Mr. Jordan and he told me there have been exemptions here in the past. I believe this will motivate kids.”
He also noted students who were exempt from a particular semester test with a “C” or “B” average could still take that test in an effort to improve their grade, if they desired.
Board members had several questions about the changes, especially regarding exempt students who would not be required to be at school during a testing period. The board asked about obtaining parent permission, procedures for students who ride a bus, students missing opportunities by not taking the test, and the percentage of students who could exempt themselves from most of the tests.
Some board members said they wanted more time to think about the proposal. Thom apologized for the relatively short notice and explained he wanted to hear some direction from the board in order to share the information with students when the second semester begins on January 9th.
Craig Ellsworth spoke in favor of the changes. “We want the students to do two things, which is to be in the classroom and to learn something while they’re there,” he said. “This is a way for kids to do both.”
In a roll call vote, Lars Christensen, Ellsworth, Roger Johnson and Jan Kostad voted in favor of the proposal on first reading. Michele Nelson, Lenny Rodin and Mike Zimmer voted against the proposal.
The proposal will be considered for second reading at the January board meeting.
Sub bus drivers to be
paid more for activity trips
Board members revisited a portion of the Activity Trips Policy, with Christensen proposing a pay increase for substitute bus drivers on activity trips. He noted the unusual step in changing pay in the middle of a budget year, but believed the action was justified. “We don’t have a lot of substitute bus drivers,” he said.
The pay was established at $50 per day, plus additional compensation based on trip mileage. Johnson offered a motion to revise the policy and make the substitute bus drivers’ pay for activity trips equivalent to that of a first year route driver, approximately $67 per day.
Nelson asked about comparisons with other school districts, and Thom responded his general impression was that districts west of Kenmare tended to pay higher, while districts east of Kenmare paid lower.
The board unanimously approved the policy change on first reading.
In other business:
• Board members approved minutes of the November regular meeting and a special meeting to complete the superintendent’s evaluation, as well as the district’s bills for payment as presented.
• Business manager Renae Murphy reported the district’s balance staying stable, around$500,000. She also reported the Fresh Fruits & Vegetables program was spending about $900 each month. “We’re still serving three times a week and things seem to be going well,” she said.
Nelson asked about the district applying for the federal FFV grant for the 2012-2013 school year, and Murphy said the district would apply. However, she could not promise Kenmare would receive the money, given that the grant award is partially based on the number of students in the Free & Reduced Lunch Program. She also mentioned that last year, several schools that would have qualified ahead of Kenmare did not apply for the grant, so Kenmare’s application was funded.
• Board members designated The Kenmare News as the district’s official newspaper.
• The board received the results of a survey offered through the school’s website. Fifteen parents responded to a single question asking about their awareness of their child’s reading curriculum standards. The student portion of the survey received 107 responses to seven questions primarily related to the learning environment. Nineteen staff members responded to the teacher survey, with questions related to effective practices, preparation, use of technology, professional development and growth, and administrative leadership. No discussion was held about the survey results.
• Christensen noted he had been approached by patrons about the donation of benches along the new walking trail built around the high school grounds. He recommended anyone interested in contributing toward benches should contact Kenmare Park Board member Rick Harris at State Bank & Trust of Kenmare.
• The board approved the revised School Year and Calendar Policy on second reading.
• Superintendent Mueller noted problems with tile buckling in the commons area and said he was working to find someone to determine the cause and make the necessary repairs. The areas have been marked with orange cones to alert students and the public to the problem.
• Mueller reported that 28 of the 33 schools participating in the technology consortium were approved for funds to upgrade ITV labs in their buildings, including Kenmare High School.
• Mueller advised the board the elementary and high schools would be conducting mandatory lockdown drills, to prepare for emergencies. “Before we do that, we will sit down with staff to discuss this, and the staff will sit down with the kids to explain why we do this,” he said. “And we’ll make sure the public knows we’re going to do one before we actually do it.” He noted that emergency personnel in the area would be notified when the school conducted these drills. According to Mueller, all classrooms in the district can now be locked if necessary for security reasons.
• Board members discussed the possibility of KHS basketball teams opting out of the Northwest Conference Fabulous 14 tournaments in December. “It used to be a lot of fun,” said Mike Zimmer. “Now, it’s just a scramble to get teams.” Both the Kenmare girls’ and boys’ teams happened to draw JV teams in the first round of the tournament this year.
Thom said he had received a message the Velva Invitational Tournament for boys’ teams had an opening for next year, and he responded that Kenmare would be interested.
• Nelson asked, on behalf of a patron, about contact hours at the school business office after classes end each day. Superintendent Mueller said secretary Kathy Mickelsen usually turns on the answering machine by 3:30 pm.
• Rodin noted that school activities should not be held on Sundays if possible, and that staff should be reminded any movies shown to students should have an educational purpose.
• The next regular meeting of the Kenmare School Board will be held Tuesday, January 17th, at 8 am at the high school. Bids for ceiling tile removal and replacement in the high school commons area will be opened at that time.