School board sets date for vote on teachers' contract


July 12, 2011
ALTON — The Alton School Board held a work session to discuss board goals on Monday, July 11, but the big news is that a new teachers' contract has been reached. (See the press release elsewhere on page A1.)

A deliberative session will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 30, beginning at 7 p.m., and a vote with be held on Tuesday, Oct. 4, from 7 a.m. until 7 p.m., with both events being held at Prospect Mountain High School.

The board agreed to keep the mission statement at ACS the same: "Small enough to create a safe environment that inspires each child to excel."

Interim Principal Sydney Leggett talked to the board about how ACS works with students on the individual subjects.

In reading, kindergarten through third grade students learn to read and fourth grade and up students read to learn, with a focus in nonfiction.

In writing, through the use of rubrics, teachers use calibration to track students' progress.

Leggett talked about cursive and believes it needs to be taught, but that multiple programs are used and one central program should be used. She also believes that the school needs to be specific about when it is to be assessed, meaning don't grade students on cursive on a spelling test.

In Math, Leggett talked about aligning the curriculum with common core standards and creating "I can" statements.

The curriculum will be available online, and each teacher will have access to their curriculum.

Leggett talked about the alignment of the science programs and the goal to align the curriculum for social studies in the near future.

She also talked about the unified arts, which include physical education, art, music, technology education, computers, QUEST, Spanish, guidance, health and consumer sciences.

She introduced the six-day rotation schedule that will be used next year that will allow easier scheduling when it comes to the unified arts.

The six-day rotation will allow for increased instruction time, consistency in the unified arts that will allow for more progressive instruction, shared planning time between grades and interruptions not affecting the same classes.

Leggett pointed to an example this past year when school was cancelled on multiple Wednesdays and it resulted in an elective not meeting for almost a month.

With the rotating schedule, the rotation continues after a missed school day. The main drawback of the six-day rotation will be adjusting the students and teachers to the new schedule.

Study halls would also be eliminated under the six-day rotation schedule. Leggett pointed to other school systems that have used this system, for example Keene has been using it for five years.

According to Leggett, the unified arts teams loved this plan the most, but the grade level teams also support it.

Superintendent Kathy Holt talked to the board about Bloom's Taxonomy of Learning Domains.

This system was established in 1956 and creates a hierarchy for learning that ranges from lower level thinking skills to higher level thinking skills.

Bloom's Taxonomy includes: remembering, understanding, applying, analyzing, evaluating and creating.

Holt talked about students who can do the higher level skills, but can't do the lower level skills.

These skills come in to play when the students are tested for the NECAPs.

Vice-chair Krista Argiropolis brought up concerns about changing the curriculum.

Chair Terri Noyes pointed out that every student earning proficiency on these tests isn't a reasonable goal.

"Everybody is not going to be proficient," Noyes said.

The board then addressed the five goals and how they are working to accomplish these goals.

The first goal is to establish and maintain a good relationship with the entire community, including teachers, the parents and the community.

Action steps to accomplish this goal include: sending out a district newsletter twice a year, offering a monthly coffee with the principal, recognizing students' and teachers' efforts, setting up an annual meeting with the board of selectmen and enhancing the relationship between the Alton, Barnstead and PMHS superintendents.

The second goal is to ensure that the district's facilities meet the present and future needs of the students.

Action steps to accomplish this goal include supporting the Building and Grounds Committee and presenting voters with a plan that is clear and concise so that they know the direction.

Noyes talked about the expiring bond at PMHS and focusing on a backup plan that could use the money, about $1 million every year, to start renovations at ACS piece by piece.

She feels passing these improvement by warrant article, which requires a majority vote, may be easier than passing a bond, which require a two-thirds majority vote.

The third goal is to ensure that the school board maintains its responsibilities.

The action steps to accomplish this goal include: updating district policies and aligning school/district handbooks to district policies, updating categorical starting salary steps and tracks, updating job descriptions and evaluating the superintendent.

The fourth goal is to ensure that the fiscal needs of the district are met, and the action steps include preparing a budget that is fiscally and educationally sound and seeking funding from other available sources to address district needs through grants.

Argiropolis suggested holding more workshops in the future as a way to work through different issues that come before the school board.

The fifth goal is to ensure that educational programming meets local, state and national guidelines.

Action steps include: aligning the curriculum with Barnstead, comparing test scores with other districts, allowing for interaction between the three schools, orientation for example, and enhancing the communication between the three schools.

An offshoot of the fifth goal is to "Raise the bar" regarding expectations for the academic success for all students.

Action steps include: using multiple measures of date to inform classroom instruction, supporting students in the development of their personalized learning goals, developing a K-8 articulated numeracy curriculum, training teachers in differentiated instruction and using existing software and data tools to report on progress made by pre-school and kindergarten students to determine levels of performance based on early learning interventions.

Argiropolis asked Holt if the teachers offered input on the school board goals, and Holt said she has received some input from teachers but not a lot.

The board talked about establishing a policy for a principal search.

Member Sandy Wyatt suggested that Leggett could be the principal that the school is looking for.

"Perhaps we have the principal of the future," Wyatt said.

The next Alton School Boarding meeting will be held on Tuesday, Aug. 8, at 6 p.m. at the Alton Central School music room.

Tim Croes can be reached at tcroes@salmonpress.com or 569-3126

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