Here’s a quick rundown of Tuesday’s Saline Board of Education meeting at Saline Middle School.
Parents Ask Board to Reduce Third Grade Class Size
Three parents of Woodland Meadows Elementary School students asked the board to hire another third grade teacher to reduce class size. There is an average of 32 students in each of the four sections of the class. Parents said cramped classrooms are nearly impossible for teachers to manage and will hurt student achievement. They also said the crowded classrooms could prevent a safety hazard. Superintendent Scot Graden, who has a son in third grade at Woodland Meadows, said the district is taking the issue seriously and working to find solutions.
Last year, there were five second grade sections. This year are four third grade sections.
Board Approves Administrator Contracts
The board unanimously approved two-year contracts with the Saline Area Schools Directors Association and the Saline Area Schools Administrators Association. The deals call for a wage freeze and unpaid furlough day. Human Resources Director Curt Ellis said there were also health care savings in the plan and that retirement stipends were being phased out. The contracts aren’t as concessionary as the recent contracts with teachers and support staff. Ellis said that administrators had already agreed to concessions back to the targeted 2008-09 levels.
Officer Small Says Partnership Achieves Big Things at SHS
Pittsfield Township police officer Tiffany Small talked about the development of the Saline High School resource officer position at the school. The position, jointly funded by Pittsfield Township and Saline Area Schools, was created last year.
Small said she spent 1,040 hours on school property last year. About 41 percent of the time was spent on criminal investigations and report writing. Another 26 percent of her time was spent monitoring the lunch room and speaking with students. About 13 percent of her time was spent monitoring traffic. Other time was spent on community engagement and education, and on providing tips and counseling to students.
The district and township want Small at the school, which houses 2,000 people each day, for safety reasons. On a day last spring when elementary students and high school students were having “track and field day” at the high school, a bank robbery occurred in Saline. Small had the school locked down and secure quickly. More than that, Small said she’s earned the trust of students in the school.
“I am a trusted adult to these kids. These kids are telling me things they would never tell a police officer. It’s important they have someone they trust who can help guided them so they can handle situations like responsible young adults,” Small said.
Digital Learning with Devices at SMS
Saline Middle School teacher Kara Davis spoke to the board about the way the school is using smart phones, tablets and eReaders to make learning more efficient, collaborative and productive. The middle school adopted a “Bring Your Own Device” program designed by Heather Kellstrom, Director of Instructional Technology for the district.
Eighth grade student Emmi Ruela said she uses her device to take notes, record her teacher and take pictures during lessons.
“I feel more prepared for the future now that I have the option to learn more and improve my technology skills,” Ruela told the board.
Graden said Saline's Bring Your Own Device policy has become a template for districts around the country.
Board Ethics Pledge
Building on comments made by Trustee Craig Hoeft at the prior September board meeting, President Lisa Slawson asked members of the board to review the code of student conduct for their “adopted” schools, and then to agree to live by that same code. She had board members sign off on the code of conduct. She also said the board needed to live by its state goals to be civil, open to new ideas, and engaged. She passed the goals around the table and invited board members to sign the piece of paper.
Strategic Planning Update: Saline Wants You!
Superintendent Graden said the district has begun recruiting people to serve on Strategic Planning Committees. Recruiting will continue until Oct. 15. The committees will be selected by Oct. 19. In all, about 12 people are wanted to serve on each of the five subcommittees for a total of 60 people. A kickoff meeting is scheduled for Nov. 8, with two more meetings taking place in November and December and three meetings taking place in January and February. A final full committee meeting will take place in March. The process is expected to result in a planning document being given to the board at the end of March. It is hoped the document will guide the board’s strategic decisions over the next seven years. People interested in serving on one of the five committees can email Graden at [email protected].
The board briefly discussed the possibility of having one meeting a month at the Saline City Council chamber, which is equipped with a television broadcast booth. The district is considering having the meetings broadcast on Saline Community Television Network (Channel 18 in Saline). The meetings would also be viewable on the SCTN Vimeo.com channel. Slawson said she worried televising meetings will further politicize the board and said if the meetings were taped, they should be taped in a school building.
Trustee David Holden said having the meetings at city hall was a temporary measure as the district did not want to pay $35,000 to build a broadcast facility in one of the school buildings. Holden said broadcasting meetings is a way for the district to be transparent about its decision making.
“People can see the meetings in their entirety and make judgments on the wisdom or lack of wisdom demonstrated here,” Holden said.
The item will be on the agenda in October. Meetings could take place at city hall as soon as November. The city can only offer the council chamber once a month, so the second monthly meeting will not be broadcast.
Board Training Spending
A policy on funding board training through the Michigan Association of School Boards may be delayed as Graden researches how other districts pay to train their board members.
The Board of Education policy recommended a policy that would have paid up to $1,000 in training for a board member for the first years of the trustee’s service, and then $200 annually. It generally costs about $1,000 to take all the classes required to receive MASB certification. It is a stated board goal that all trustees receive MASB certification. Slawson questioned the limits in the policy. Board Vice President Chuck Lesch said the board will take another crack at the policy in October after Graden looks into the procedures of other districts.
Slawson asked Lesch to have the policy committee take another look at the district’s anti-bullying policy. She said the policy was vague and asked if board members were part of the policy.