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YS teachers to train other districts

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Yellow Springs High School will deliver project-based learning (PBL) training to two northeastern Ohio school districts on Oct. 22 and 23. The two days of professional development will demonstrate to teachers what learning in a PBL environment is like and teach teachers how to support student teams in developing their projects. The program is a partnership with Cleveland’s renowned MC2 STEM School, but Yellow Springs will take the lead in the conference because of its PBL experience.

“It’s an impressive feather in the cap of our kids and teachers,” said District Superintendent Mario Basora.

Approximately 10 students from Yellow Springs will attend to provide their perspective, possibly earning half a credit in the process. A grant through the Martha Holden Jennings Foundation will fund Yellow Springs’ participation.

“Districts are starting to recognize that they can conceive of education differently,” YSHS and McKinney Principal Tim Krier said. “Yellow Springs’ PBL program is still growing, but its achievements have impressed visiting administrators and teachers. It’s incredible to see how much PBL has grown in the past three years.”

In a related effort to make YS a center of PBL learning and teaching, Basora recommended that the district not go with competency-based grants, as they “distract from the [PBL-oriented] mission” of the district, and suggested that the district apply instead for grants from the state’s Straight A Fund to fund a PBL teacher-training center. The district is considering subcontracting grant writers to apply for these funds.

In other school board business:
• Superintendent Basora reported that the contracts of several administrators are up for renewal, including Principals Tim Krier and Matt Housh, and Athletic Director Nate Baker. Basora said it is a “classy move” to start working on these contracts in October versus the end of the year, as devoting more attention is a way for school board members “to show they care.” He suggested a salary comparison study with districts similar to Yellow Springs so the contracts better represents the “work we do in Yellow Springs and the people working in the district.”

Board Member Sean Creighton said that it is smart to do a salary study but that the board should commission it. He said it is difficult to obtain comparative contract data because all contracts are so different, so they would “need to find someone who asks the right questions.” The board will look into commissioning this study and will report the findings at next month’s meeting.

• YSHS and McKinney students participated in a TEDxYouth@Dayton event on Sept. 25. Students gave talks to the entire group of participants. Principal Krier said that the participants were “truly fearless thinkers speaking to their colleagues.” One speaker from the conference will be invited to present at the Dayton TEDx conference on Oct. 15.

• Special Education Director Donna First reported that the district will need to apply for a waiver from ODE for being slightly out of compliance with the age range of students receiving special education services. As students receiving these services are often in classes together, the age range between the oldest and youngest student shouldn’t be more than 60 months. In some of the classes this year, the age disparity between the youngest and oldest students was 62 months.

However, the district received an Annual State Special Education rating of 4 by the Ohio Department of Education, which indicates that the performance of the special education programs in the district meets all the requirements for ‘local education agencies’ that receive Individuals with Disabilities Education Improvement Act (IDEA).

• First also reported that the school acquired 155 new Chromebooks — small laptop-like devices that run apps — and 24 Chromeboxes to set up a new classroom lab at McKinney Middle School. Rather than purchasing Chromebook carts, the district is looking for creative alternatives, which First said could possibly be a PBL project.

• The school district received real estate tax collections and the semi-annual casino payments, according to a report furnished by Treasurer Dawn Weller. The casino payments are supposed to take the place of reduced state funding but have been lower than expected. The $18,154 the district received is the most recent payment in the two-and–a-half-year history of casino payments. The amount of money a district receives is based on the number of students in the district.

• Weller also went over the following grants and how they were implemented: the Kindergarten Play Project received a grant for $792 to make signs for the playground. The metal signs were created by the kindergarteners to instruct the community on how to respect the playground. The money was also used to purchase four tons of sand. YSEE provided $2,300 for music stands, and YSEE and Martha Holden Jennings Foundation provided $8,353 for the Food for Thought PBL project.

• Board member Steven Conn commented on making public the amount of money being spent by the district on legal fees over the past 15 months, as he noted that the fees this year are larger than last year’s. Fees include legal counsel for standard district needs like contract negotiations, insurance, and last year’s lightning strike on Mills Lawn, for example. The fees are “unavoidable expenses” and a matter of public record, he said, but broader public attention to items on the budget would be useful. First said that she already has a spreadsheet with this information and just needs to update it.

• Basora recommended that the board adopt a resolution not to provide career-technical education for students in seventh grade for the 2015–16 school year. Though the district offers a career education class in eighth grade, the PBL foundations class implemented in seventh grade as part of a middle school mandate does not meet the requirements. Basora said that CT licenses can be difficult to obtain for traditionally-trained teachers, and as the mandate is unfunded, the “only option is a waiver,” which would exempt the school from these requirements, as it is now too late to add a CT program in seventh grade.

•YSHS and McKinney principal Tim Krier reported that the floors of the gym were resurfaced and restained. The longtime mural of a “ferocious bulldog charging mascots from other teams that are no longer in our league” was painted over, with banners of teams in the league hung in its stead. Padding along the wall will be replaced this month by maintenance staff.

• The Board approved the following new employees: Lindsley Mitchell, one-year limited contract as JV cheerleader advisor ($1246); Jennifer Lyman and Susan Harrison, one-year limited contracts as substitutes ($80/day, $40/half); Ted Wasserman and Paul Meyers, custodians ($10/hr.); Ted Wasserman, aide ($10/hr.); Keith Hamer, bus driver ($13.43/hr.).

• The Board also extended condolences to the family of Dr. Angela Wright, a school board member for 20 years who passed away in August.


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