Tuesday, June 17, 2008

What now? School board discusses failed referendum; Repairs completed on leaks at Viking

The Baldwin-Woodville Board of Education pondered their next move following the failed building referendum of June 3. The referendum, which was for a new intermediate school and swimming pool, was defeated by a three to one margin.

Superintendent Rusty Helland said the need for more space is still here and he doesn't see it going away. "We need to step back and think about where we go from here," he said.

Board member Deb Rasmussen started the discussion, complimenting the advisory committee on its work, suggesting that next time, progress reports from the committee every now and then might make the public more aware of the situation before a vote is taken.

"The committee did a great job," commented board member Tom Schumacher. "When we formed the committee we asked for volunteers, and maybe that inhibited a mix of all constituencies," he said. Schumacher said we need to have representation from the whole community. "Get the nay sayers on board and deal with those opinions.

"I wish people would take a longer view of things," Schumacher continued. "I'm willing to bet two steak dinners that when this thing does pass, we will get a lot less for more money."

"Just like the auditorium," commented board member Mike Bondarenko, referring to the substantial cost increase after a referendum including the auditorium passed on a second try.

"What I heard from people was, 'What's wrong with 30 kids in a classroom? We survived.'and 'What if lots of people move back to the cities?'" said board member Todd Graf.

Schumacher asked other board members if there was any interest in temporary classrooms.

"We should find out all the costs involved," said board president Jeff Campbell, "including electrical, plumbing, etc. to show people what it would cost."

"I think they (temporary classrooms) are a money pit," said Graf.

Supt. Helland said he would not recommend temporary classrooms to the board, since they are paid for up front and are worthless in the end. "But we can get the figures."

Helland said that until something is done, class sizes will continue to rise.

Bondarenko suggested the board schedule a special meeting, possibly with the advisory committee, devoted to the district's long range facility needs. The board agreed to wait until after the school year begins in September to have such a meeting.

Title I teacher Randi Hoffman gave the board a presentation on Balanced Literacy. She explained that this past year a committee was formed to study Balanced Literacy, before new textbooks were adopted. Seventeen staff members visited other schools' reading programs including guided reading programs.

Balanced Literacy has eight components, including modeled reading and writing in which the teacher reads and writes in front of the class; shared reading and writing in which teacher and students read aloud together and the teacher records students' ideas; independent reading and
writing; and guided reading and writing in which the teacher works with small groups of similar abilities.

"Research has shown that higher level readers read three times the minutes during the school day compared to lower level readers," Hoffman said. The guided reading approach allows for teachers to differentiate students' abilities and provide appropriate materials so all level readers
will read more she said.

Currently, each grade level has a basal reader, or textbook, in which all students in the classroom read the same story, have the same spelling words, and do the same worksheets. Many lower level readers spend so much time decoding words that their comprehension suffers, said Hoffman. With guided reading, students read books they can comprehend and will spend more time reading.

"Less worksheets, more reading, better comprehension," said Hoffman.

Hoffman said after reviewing the committee's information and experience and some soul searching, she decided not to order a new basal reading series and instead pursue Balanced Literacy throughout the district. She has developed a budget to purchase more guided reading books for the library and for classroom libraries. She figures it will take five years to implement the program for K-12. The first year will be devoted to staff development, benchmark assessments and purchase of books.

"Our goal is to have a large mixture of different leveled books to get kids to read," Hoffman said.

"Already, 18 teachers have voluntarily taken a two-credit course on comprehension improvement through guided reading," said Hoffman. "There is a lot of support from staff, even though change can be hard."

District bookkeeper Pam Rose presented the tentative budget for the 2008-09 school year. She stressed the point that the numbers are preliminary and show a 9.53% increase in the levy.
"That's a worst case scenario," she said.

"We are conservative on our preliminary budget figures because of what we don't know," Rose said. "We don't know our per pupil aid, our equalized aid, or our equalized valuation figures yet."

Final numbers will be available in October she said.

Greenfield Elementary Principal Gary Hoffman reported over 400 students are enrolled in summer school. He also said the new playground equipment is being installed this week. Viking Middle School Principal Hank Dupuis reported the good news that with all the rain we've been experiencing, there have been no leaks since the flashing and blocks were repaired.

Transportation Director Wade Labecki reported he recently attended a accident planning workshop. He informed participants that B-W already has an accident plan and shared it with them.

At the end of the meeting, district IT (Information Technician) Bryan Jones delivered laptop computers to each board member and gave a brief lesson in operating the machines.

"You will now receive all district correspondence electronically," said Supt. Helland. "We will use them at meetings as well," he said.