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School Board: Yellow Springs teachers coach PBL

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Yellow Springs Schools superintendent Mario Basora recently reported that five project-based learning, or PBL, coaches and two administrators traveled to Nashville for a PBL coach training seminar. The seminar gave “lots of ideas” for professional development and assessment techniques, Basora said. The trip was 100 percent funded by the Yellow Springs Public School Fund, a private fund, he said at the school district’s April 14 meeting.

The seminar was especially relevant to the Yellow Springs school district, which, as part of its strategic 2020 plan, is developing a teacher-training program. Yellow Springs staff members will use their experience with PBL to teach teachers and administrators from other schools.

The training center will also be able to potentially monetize the school’s PBL momentum, Basora said in an interview this week. The district will have hosted over 100 visitors by the end of the school year, and visiting teachers will take part in training at Yellow Springs over the summer. Basora said the district will “probably” start charging for visits and professional development training. Proceeds would fund PBL-related projects.

Teachers and administrators develop programs for the training center and teach the classes, which is why Basora and the board discussed compensating teachers for the work they put into teacher training, and at rates competitive with other districts.

“It’s ethically the right thing to do,” he said, when teachers are doing work on top of their regular work for the school.

The board also discussed the intellectual property concerns of such presentations, as it is unclear whether the teacher or the district would retain the rights to curricula developed for the training center.

The school doesn’t have anybody on staff who knows how to navigate these concerns, said board member Steven Conn, and the board agreed to explore the issue further.

And lastly, because of its PBL experience, the district was invited to speak at a three-day Ohio PBL symposium. Teachers and students will sit on the panel, which will provide an overview of the district’s “PBL journey.” The conference is the last weekend in July.

In other school board business:

• Sixteen students and three teachers recently returned from a school-sponsored trip to France and Italy, the first of its kind since 1989. Students and teachers presented highlights of their trip and made the case for a future trip two years hence.

The idea behind the trips is to support PBL with “individualized, passion driven, student-designed projects,” according to a fact sheet handed out at the meeting. The students developed an individualized research project before they left, and the trip functioned as a kind of working adventure.

A similar trip is being planned for the spring of 2018, with a tentative destination of Peru. That trip is projected to cost between $3,000–3,800 per student. However, like the trip to Europe, parents have the option of making monthly payments towards the fee.

The group of returned students will present their research sometime in May.

• Mills Lawn Principal Matt Housh highlighted students’ recent Starbase trip, a day of STEM activities hosted by Wright-Patt Air Force Base that happens yearly. He also deemed last month’s Peace Week march a success and noted that students recently completed a health education class presented by educators from Planned Parenthood.

• After a long interview process, the Yellow Springs school board extended their welcome to new teacher Jamie Adoff, who is replacing Aurelia Blake as an English teacher at McKinney Middle School when she retires at the end of the year. Adolf is a graduate of YSHS and taught for three years at Springfield High School. He said he is happy to be working with hometown kids, and in a school with such a strong PBL program.

“It’s great to get folks of his caliber,” said board member Evan Scott.

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