Highland board discusses security concerns, technology plans
By Randa Wagner -
School security concerns and new technology plans were discussed at the Highland Board of Education meeting January 23.
Supt. Dr. Bill Dodds addressed the public on school safety measures, in light of recent incidents around the country at public schools.
“There is a great deal of discussion right now across the country regarding the safety of our children while they are in our schools.” he said. “At Highland, student safety is a priority and we are committed to keeping our schools secure. With the support of the school board, and the assistance of the Morrow County Sheriff’s office, we are working to have a school resource officer at Highland.”
He believes many schools around the country are doing the right thing for security, but ‘there are times you can’t do anything.’
“The only thing that has stopped many of these people is the response time: someone getting there and stopping it.,” he added. “Unfortunately, our distance from an officer is pretty far, so I’m concerned.”
He noted a number of options are being explored throughout the country to keep schools safe. He believes the best option is a well-trained professional who knows the best practices for safety and can respond to incidents, ‘an individual on campus whose primary focus is student safety all day.
“That is the reason we have made this a priority at this time,” Dodds said.
Board member Loren Altizer detailed a plan he has been working on to implement the One-to-One (Laptop) Initiative (essentially, providing every staff member, teacher and student with a portable laptop, notebook or tablet PC for continuous use both in the classroom and at home).
“It’s very important the board of education recognizes we need to keep up with the curriculum being presented from our teachers to the students in the technology world,” Altizer said. “Kids learn more now through a device — more so than a book. Mr. Dodds and I embarked on this journey almost a year ago to move into the One-to-One Initiative here: to put a device in each student’s hands so they can learn electronically; put the book away and not purchase more books. It means less paper traffic through the facilities, less waste, less ink and toner cartridges. It’s a much greener environment but, more importantly, a fresher approach to teaching our kids and allowing our teachers to be able access a multitude of curriculum options quickly and easily.”
The goal, he explained, is to get one device per student in the district of nearly 2000 students.
“We’re thinking maybe 1500 is the goal for now,” Altizer said. “When we approached the board about it, we calculated it was going to cost $800,000. They told us to find another source of technology. This board has an overwhelming commitment to not go to the public and ask for more money.”
Altizer and Supt. Dodds have met with numerous parties within the community that are offering different types of devices.
“We believe we have found a way to send our teachers home at the end of this school year with devices in hand to build their curriculum and come back for the 2014 school year ready to teach using technology instead of a teachers planner and a book,” Altizer said. “We have found that many districts in the country have moved to this (method) and there is a wealth of information via the web and through the Cloud (web based technology source) that teachers and students can connect to. The teachers can also access methods other teachers in the country are successfully utilizing. This virtual environment are what kids are growing up in… now we’re going over to the teaching side and letting our teachers pull that in and use it. The most important aspect of this is teachers being able to access their virtual world and gain from what other teachers have already done.”
Altizer said the goal is to have 1500 devices by August of 2013 with a zero cost to the public. They have 500 units currently that students at the middle school are using during the school day.
Remembering Dick Slack
Board Member Bill Short took a few moments to pay tribute to Dick Slack, a former Highland treasurer, who recently passed away.
“Dick was a Highland man,” Short said. “Anything the school needed, anything he could do, he did it. The Richard Slack Educational building was named for him, and justifiably so. (He was a) good Highland person and instrumental in assisting Jon when he came in.”
“If you go to know Dick, you’re blessed,” said Treasurer Jon Mason. “He was a tremendous individual. He had a lot of adversity in his life and he never complained a bit. He spent 53 years in a wheelchair but you wouldn’t know it to talk to him. He was a family man, a Highland man through and through, and we’ll miss him.”
Supt. Dodds reported Highland is partnering with the other three county high schools as well as Gilead Christian for a grant to upgrade their recycling program.
“We have a good recycling program, but the intent is to add another bin in the district and provide some resources for our custodians to get the materials out of the school,” he explained.
Regarding the educational process, Dodds said H.B. 555 changes the way teachers teach, how administrators work, how students are assessed and how schools are graded.
“Unfortunately, it changes every week,” he stated. “I believe we are in great shape at Highland, because we stay ahead of the game. Schools will be graded differently, starting in two years. The number of tests students take will increase. We have always gotten our school grade based on how many students passed the tests. We’ve done very well with that. That has changed now. What they’re going to measure now is the growth of the students — not whether they’re going to pass the test. That changes how teachers and administrators are evaluated.”
He noted the Highland district was recognized in a national publication for their work in formative assessments through the Race to the Top initiative.
“We had a visit from the Ohio Department of Education and they were impressed with the work we do at our elementary and middle school with our assessments,” he said.
Supt. Dodds called out the board and recognized them for their service to the school and community.
“This month is school board appreciation month,” he said. “The position on a school board is not always a glamorous position. They ‘get it from all sides.’ They handle it well, and we have a group with the good intentions with the students’ interests in mind. They’re all about the kids.”
Supt. Dodds handed each board members a certificate praising them for “exemplary leadership and service to public schools.”
Supt. Bill Dodds recognized Jim Wharton for his work through the years with all Highland Sports and the research for the Hall of Fame candidates.
Wharton thanked Dr. Dodds and the community, then mentioned there is an opening on the Hall of Fame selection committee. The committee meets four times a year and anyone interested can contact Dr. Dodds or any of the Highland Principals.
High School Principal Nate Huffman announced their Business Academy was going to the Regional Competition January 31 with 21 students competing in 16 events. Also, 76 students, staff and community members are cast in Highland’s upcoming production of Oklahoma! He said this is the largest cast Joe Bell has had in 29 years.
A blood drive was scheduled for January 31 at the high school. Huffman said so many people signed up, the gymnasium will be used instead of the Bloodmobile.
“We’ve already qualified for a scholarship for at least one of our students due to the number of blood drives we’ve held this year. The more people give blood, the higher the scholarship level goes.”
Huffman said he and a few other staff members were going to meet with Pearson to look at possibly creating a digital learning academy at Highland.
“This would be a way for us to offer about every course that’s out there,” he said. “Whether we offer it here or not, students would be able to take it online virtually through Pearson: everything from AP economics to psychology”
Huffman reported ASVAB testing interpretations were just completed in the English classes, so students know where they stand with possible military careers. (ASVAB is the required military entry exam that determines eligibility for training programs.)
The FAFSA (Free Application or Federal Student Aid) completion workshop was scheduled for Jan. 28 in the computer lab to help students and parents apply for college funding.
Abby Garcia is Highland’s Franklin B. Walter nominee at the MOESC, and Samantha Denman is the Chamber of Commerce’s Student of the Month.
Communications Technology from Marion Tech will be presenting to all freshman classes Feb. 28 in the English classes.
Scholarships are posted in the guidance office.
“There’s a lot of scholarships and local money out there that nobody applies for,” Huffman said. He encouraged parents and students to stop in the guidance office and look into them, stating ‘there’s a lot of money that goes unclaimed.’
Middle School Principal Rob Terrill said the winter sports season is winding up, then tournaments start. He said the wresting team has brought home three trophies thus far. The VEX Robotics team has been competing every month and has a middle school event coming up Feb. 20.
“They’ve actually been competing against high school teams and they’ve done a wonderful job,” Terrill said.
The Highland Spelling Bee is Feb. 5 and the top five finishers there will go to the county bee at Highland Elementary School.
Conferences are going to be Feb 21 from 2:30 – 8:30 p.m.
Seventh Grade Language Arts and Reading Teacher Judy Sellers will be retiring after 35 years in education.
“We’ve started NWA (Northwest Evaluation Association) testing in the district this is a pilot for us right now,” Terrill said. “It gives us instructional strategies for us to use with our kids in the classroom. It also gives our kids an opportunity to see what the common core questions look like now that they’re doing common core, and also what kind of assessments are coming in the future. In 2015, state assessments are going to be electronic, and that’s part of the reason for the move to the One-to-One (Laptop) Initiative so our students have a better opportunity”
Elementary Principal Shawn Winkelfoos recognized students chosen to participate in the upcoming production of Oklahoma!
A Winter concert is coming up for grades 2 — 5 at 7 p.m February 26. Winkelfoos complimented Eileen Ruffing for bringing her groups from the middle and high school to perform for the elementary students. Another performance is coming up on March 1st for the fourth and fifth grade students.
NWA field testing has also started at the elementary school, Winkelfoos noted, to help acclimate students to the common core and new assessment formats.
Food Service Director Deb Hart said taste testing has been underway to find food items students will like, with food brokers offering their products for tasting. Because of new regulations, Hart said some of the foods they must offer now are not always the most popular.
“We’re starting early to try to find the right products for next year,” she said.
Regarding My School Bucks, a new option is using American Express online payment system so parents can pay online for students’ lunches. There is a $1.95 fee to apply money to a student’s account, but all family members using the service can go on for that fee, Hart said. If a parent puts $50 on My School Bucks, a bonus is one free meal on one student’s account.
Mid-year staff evaluations and on-site reviews are done, Hart noted. On-site reviews (for lunch aides) are required by the state and must be done by Feb. 1.
“We’ve been selected to be on a committee for the Metropolitan Education Council (MEC) to for state commodities and working on menus,” Hart reported. “We are one of a group of 12 that has been asked to build a menu that will help drive up the number of products purchased.”
Hart also informed the board Highland’s free and reduced meals count has gone up by 28 since October. Current percentage for free meals district-wide is 34%.
A resident asked the board about the 2-hour delay policy and what the reason was for delaying buses the day before.
Supt. Dodds said the forecast was for a –15 degree windchill and the administration was not comfortable with having children waiting for buses in that temperature. Also, the buses may have had trouble starting (though they are plugged in overnight).
The resident said he feels it doesn’t sets a good example for students as to what they can and can’t [tolerate] ‘if we can’t send our kids to school when it’s cold.’
“When I was a kid, we pretty much went to school everyday,” he said. “Obviously, it’s a big hassle for the parents with children in grade school to try to make arrangements when school is delayed. There was only a four degree difference between 7 a.m. and 9 a.m., so that two hour delay didn’t make a lot of difference.”
“Daylight is a factor as well,” Dodds replied.
“The only other concern I have is your comments that you believe the school districts in the past have done a pretty good job with security in the schools,” the resident said. “I’d like to pass along some information Fox news reported on the Colorado theater shooting: the shooter had several theaters to choose from and he chose the only one that did not allow concealed carry — all the others did. I’m just trying to say if you want to deter these kinds of attacks, the best thing to do is have somebody with concealed carry on the property and let it be known publicly. That could be a deterrent in itself to someone who wants to commit these kinds of crimes.”
Employment and Personnel
The board approved the following: Melissa McGuirk as 2 hr cook-cashier, elementary; Jerry Hendrickson, high school custodian, 2nd shift; Denise McClure and Ruth Daughtery, EA01 bus aides, split; Dustin Green, m.s. head track coach; David (Chip) Wilson, ms. asst. track coach; Kevin Squiresm m.s. 7th grade girls basketball; Joseph Bell, Play director and Play Art Director.
A leave of absence was approved for elementary teacher Rebakah Bussa.
The FAMS II grant was approved in the amount of $14,520 for salaries and $12,000 for supplies. The I-Credit agreement with TRECA using the Plato Curriculum for English, math, science, and social studies for 2012–2013 was approved.
The following amounts and rates as determined by the county budget commission was approved by the board:
General fund $3,833,954.00 at a rate of 19.0
Permanent improvement $117,158.00 at a rate of .60
Classroom Facilities Maintenance 77,158.00 at a rate of .50
Facilities Bond $895,517.00 at a rate of 4.40
The master agreement between Highland and the United Electrical, Radio and Machine Workers of America Local 741 was approved.
The next regular Highland Board of Education meeting will be held February 13 at 7 p.m. in the high school cafetorium.