"But if it is believed that these elementary schools will be better managed by...any other general authority of the government, than by the parents within each ward [district], it is a belief against all experience." --Thomas Jefferson

Friday, December 23, 2011

Bond, Emergency Procedures and More: Nov/Dec 2011 Board Meetings

Alpine School District is Officially the largest school district in Utah
The State Office of Education has received all the Oct. 1 enrollment data across the state.  ASD is now the largest school district in the state.  There are just under 1400 public school districts in the US.  The average size is somewhere between 2500 and 5000 students.  Last Spring, Alpine was around 64th in size in the nation. 

Nov 3/9: Common Core Meetings:
I will do a separate post on this topic.  (Otherwise, this blog would be soooo long, you could use it to cure insomnia.) I do want to thank all those who attended both meetings.  The Nov. 3 meeting had more than 30 attendees.  I have heard, now other schools are requesting a similar presentation.  Additionally, there will be a math committee.  I have no details on it, yet. However, stay tuned.  I will let you know how to be involved in that discussion.

Nov 8 Board Meeting:
Everything You Ever Wanted to Know About Alpine School District: The CAFR
We discussed accept the Comprehensive Annual Financial Report (CAFR).  This report is created by the Superintendent and the Business Administrator and is an annual accounting and summary of the fiscal state of the school district.  It is reviewed by the district's external auditors, and they found no inconsistencies between their audits and the assertions made in the report.  I was amazed by the detail and information available in that report.  When you hear comments about how much is spent per child ($5145, p. 109) or how much teachers make (p.119), all that information is available in the CAFR report on the district website.  Most of the really interesting stuff is listed toward the end of the report.  We also have how much ASD spends on instruction (71%) vs administration (p.108), property tax amounts for the past 10 years (p.96).  By the way, ASD has the lowest administrative costs, per capita, in the state, and the highest instructional--teacher/books--expenses in the state, as per the Utah Taxpayers Association.  So, we spend more on teachers, and less on administration.  I'm good with that.

New Directions: Alternative School, et. al.
Some new alternative education ideas that would lead to higher graduation rates were discussed.  Some of these are as follows.
1. Online Classes
2.Credit Recovery: additional help for students who need to make up credits in order to graduate
3. Extended Year High School (Summer): Some of the high schools are open during the summer for students who need to catch up and for those who want to accelerate.
4. Summer Packets: Packets of work for classes that student can use to make up additional credits
5. Alternative School: Students who are Juniors and Seniors in High School and who are not in a position to graduate may transfer to East Shore High School.  Currently, most coursework is done via packets and some online courses.  The students have to come to East Shore to take tests and do any labs associated with their coursework.  Students who graduate from East Shore (or this new proposed alternative option) will only need 24 credit hours, the state graduation minimum.  ASD requires 28 of our other high schools. Some of our administrators have visited other alternative high schools in the state.  They found higher graduation rates from some of these programs that require much stricter attendance, but they had greater "attachment" to the school.  It is proposed that we follow these other districts in creating stricter attendance for an alternative high school. 

Additional programs discussed were:
1. More language immersion in the north and west areas (Chinese and Portuguese)
2. Gifted and Talented magnet classes: If a student scored in at least the 93rd percentile on the standardized tests (used for this purpose), they would be invited to attend a magnet school where more challenging work would be provided to accommodate them.  This would be in addition to the ALL classes.

There would be additional expense for these programs.  We will have a price tag that is firm by January, but the numbers being bounced around are in the range of $500,000 to start up these programs. 

Nov. 22 Board Meeting:
The Bond Results
• Total number of votes cast: 31,340

• Total number of affirmative votes: 17,934

• Total number of negative votes: 13,406

• Total number of challenged voters: 111

• Total number of challenged voters issued provisional ballots: 111

• Total number of provisional ballots issued: 642

• Total number of provisional ballots counted: 486
New Policies
Also discussed were head-injury and service animal policies.  These policies were later approved at the Dec. 13 meeting.
Dec. 13 Board Meeting:
Emergency Preparedness
During the work session, we heard about the district's plan for emergencies, including school closings in case of snow or what-have-you.  Each school must review their emergency plans annually, and train their staff.  The district provides guidelines on this, but the schools are able to customize their plans as they see fit.  Additionally, district personnel are involved in meetings with other emergency responders throughout the cities.  For example, Highland/Alpine/Cedar Hills police and fire meet with ASD personnel once/month to discuss emergency needs and plans.  These meetings, incidentally, are not open to the public, since they may deal with security and emergency situations.
Alternative Education Plans
Also, we were told that the alternative education plans, immersion and gifted and talented programs presented in the past (see Nov. 8 meeting above) were going forward.  If the board had any concerns we should let them know, but things were headed in that direction. 
During the board meeting, recognitions were made for the Friends of Alpine directors and the coaches who won championships this Fall.
Business Administrator
The most significant item of business was reappointing Rob Smith as the district's Business Administrator.  Our district appoints the Business Administrator 6 months prior to the Superintendent, so that we aren't losing one or the other at the same time.  Any salary adjustments, if approved, would not be decided or take effect until the next fiscal year.  These would also be part of the 2012-13 budget process.  From where I sit, the good financial state our district is in is a direct result of the oversight and fiscal planning of Mr. Smith.  As Board Member Mark Clement stated, "Many people don't know that one of the greatest taxpayer advocates we have is Rob Smith."  Rob often says to us, "We can do virtually anything you want, we just can't do everything you want."
Governor's Budget
Board Member JoDee Sundberg is involved in the Governor's Education Commission.  She briefly reviewed the Governor's proposed budget as it relates to education.  The Governor's top education priority is to fund growth.  However, Mrs. Sundberg said the $40M (roughly) proposed to fund growth in the state doesn't include some aspects of property tax equalization that will negatively impact growing districts like Alpine.  I don't quite understand it yet, but I will get you more information.  I'm told it's between $23 and $40M short of fully funding growth in education for this next year.
I wish everyone a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!