September 10, 2013 Board Meeting Report

by Robin Allred

Community Comments: 1) General concern over Common Core from a patron new to the area who isn’t sure what she believes, but is leery of a loss of local control. 2) Comment regarding the need for an honor’s program at the middle school level to adequately prepare students wishing to take honor’s and AP coursework in high school.  The pressure to ramp up after grades already count towards college admissions and scholarships is intense.  A little practice in advance would be nice.  Currently gifted classes are offered, but there is no self-select honor’s program at the middle level.

Routine business was approved.  Student expulsion item was removed, due to pending appeal. Annexation was separated out, because it seemed less routine and warranted further discussion.  Annexation was also approved.  Property is being transferred to and from Provo in the process of cleaning up boundaries.  The district boards are required to pass resolutions regarding the annexation after which the county and state handle the money issues related to attached bonds and so forth.

Reappointment of Rob Smith, Business Administrator:  Rob received lots of accolades from everyone on the board.  Wendy thanked him for answering her many questions and explained that her “confidence” in him was “earned.”  Rob Smith is known for being conservative in spending and for letting the board know as they establish priorities that they can have virtually “anything [they] want, just not everything [they] want.”  The district has been able to make it through years of plenty and lean years by being cautious about what they spend.

Change in location for Oct 8 meeting:  The meeting is being moved to Westmore Elementary.  The dedication of the elementary is from 6-7.  The board meeting will follow at 7pm.  The study session should still be at 4pm.  Please check district website for confirmation.

Opening of School Report by Sam Jarman, Assistant Superintendent over K-12 education:

The opening of school was not perfect, but as smooth as it gets.  ASD is not only the largest district in the state in terms of population, but it is also very large geographically, taking in 14 municipalities.  Coordinating is no small feat.  Number of students is up 1,829 from last year, but down around 700 from projections (1%).  ASD has 7,292 employees.

Class size reduction is a priority of the board.  50.5 FTEs (full-time equivalent a.k.a. teachers) were added for targeted class size reduction where classes were especially large.  Reductions took classes down significantly.  Classes in one grade at a school were reduced from 36 to 28, 31-25 at another.  There were an additional 248 classrooms that were allocated 466 additional aide hours to help meet the needs of students.

Professional Development is a priority in ASD much summer training went on for teachers.  Training included training on the new core.

Extended year programs exist to help students.  At the high school level it is used 75% of the time for credit recovery and 25% of the time for acceleration.  At the elementary level STARS reading targets struggling readers in grades K-2 and SIMS helps those entering 7th grade who are below level.  The reading programs are funded by donations to the Alpine School District Foundation.

79% of schools in ASD received “A” or “B” grades on the new UCAS system.  Higher than most districts.

AFJH getting much needed new classrooms to accommodate their 1900 students.  They have more students than 5 of 8 district high schools.

Opening of School Report by Rob Smith, Business Administrator:  Rob says he is “delighted, but not satisfied” with all going on in Alpine School District.  Continuous improvement is the goal.  He talked in depth about efforts that are made to build buildings that are safe in earthquakes.  The seismic safety checks they perform are impressive.  Schools are essentially built on underground stilts with very strong, thick rebar which moves with the earth during quakes reducing the possibility of serious damage.

A new accounting system has been adopted.  Training is going on daily.  The hope is to integrate with existing systems to make payment systems more convenient for parents.

Rob Smith says that by following the money you can see the board’s priority.  Class size reduction is a great example of that.

Transportation brainstormed the idea of having a Kindergarten Specialist to help coordinate plans with schools for keeping kindergartners safe and in the right place.  A record low 5 kindergartners still ended up on the wrong buses, but drivers were able to coordinate and quickly get them home safely.  The transportation department covers over 3.6 million miles yearly.

ASD has received awards for their excellence from the ASBO and GFOA for the last 28 years straight.  Other districts look to them as an example.  They have a AA1 bond rating, only falling short of the AAA due to factors outside of their control, average household income, but were considered for a AAA rating this year, at a time when many large organizations are being downgraded.  This is helpful when borrowing is necessary.  They are looking at rates for the bond being around 2.9%, which is slightly up based on rising interest rates, but excellent for today’s rates.

Taxing entity committee:  Discussing RDA in American Fork, Egg Farm.  There is also a CDA under consideration along the Lindon/Pleasant Grove border.  They are considering providing incentives for businesses to build there.  Rob assured the board that their priorities and standards for tax break considerations have been communicated.

Brian Halladay email from parent regarding concerns about the book “The Bluest Eye,” by Toni Morrison:

A selection from this book is among the suggested reading materials to analyze in eleventh grade English under the new common core.  While the passage itself is not the more objectionable portion of the book.  The book itself has material that would be objectionable in this and most communities.  (My understanding was that the book contained a descriptive account of a child rape.)  No teacher or school in the district, to anyone’s knowledge, has recommended the book, but because it appears on the College Board’s (AP) recommendation list as a possible candidate for questions on the AP English examination there is great concern that it will be seen as recommended.  Wendy Hart explained that this situation is a prime example of the problems associated with a “loss of local control.”  We can’t control what appears on the AP exams therefore participation in such programs, and reading things from associated recommended reading lists is kind of enter at your own risk territory.

The board discussed adding some kind of disclaimer to reading lists that materials are not being recommended by the board or by teachers and that parents are responsible for the screening of reading materials that their students choose to read.  A caution will be given to English teachers in the district regarding the content of the above book.

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