Committee to Study the Mission of CHS
December 9, 2005
Attending: Anne Freske, Lee Kounovsky, Heather Dorman-Scott, Ken Donner, Shirley Burrus, Terrie Chrones, Jan Ophus, Sue Bowers
Anne Freske opened the meeting at 6:50 a.m. The group approved the proposed agenda and the minutes of the November 18 meeting.
The primary topic for discussion was transition between the Middle School and High School (recognizing that often at-risk students can be identified during the grade school years and the transition to Middle School can also be very challenging). Problems for students who find the 8th-to-9th grade transition difficult can be linked to maturity level, behavior, academic readiness, lack of support at home and varying combinations of all of these. Terrie reminded the group that we need to continually consider the needs of TAG and “middle” students, as well as those who are struggling.
Ken had collected some data from former “Skills for Success” students who are now at CHS. They mentioned that the CMS program had helped them with reducing stress, getting better organized to do their homework and that it provided a “safety net.” Anne made the analogy with a “Mother Hen” figure watching over them. There is no one to take on such a role once they reach CHS.
Sue mentioned a recent freshmen teacher’s request to spend some time reviewing students’ 8th grade reading and writing test scores as part of better understanding their individual needs. She asked about the district’s current “system” for sharing such information. There does not appear to be much time built into teachers’ work schedules to accommodate this kind of “getting to know their incoming students.” Ken suggested considering a required meeting between school staff, students and parents during the spring of the 8th grade year to thoroughly review a 4-year plan for the high school years.
The implementation of a study hall for freshmen has likely been helpful for many and provides time in their schedule where extra help could be available. Terrie shared Dave Nickelson’s suggestion that students would be more productive at using that time if they were given credit. The Site Council will review that proposal, likely at their next meeting. There would have to be “content” to justify awarding credit. Heather shared her opinion that, for her personally, the 9th grade classes were more challenging than those of her sophomore or (so far) junior year. The idea of moving Global Issues and/or Global Studies to a later year could help relieve the academic load for freshmen.
Ken and Shirley noted that a lot of student-assistance planning is accomplished by grade level staff teams at the middle school and wondered about a possible 9th grade teacher team at CHS that could confer with the 8th grade team about incoming students and their abilities/needs. The “zero period” in the CMS schedule allows regular team meetings to be held during morning work hours. Sue asked whether the high school could push back its starting time for students—necessitating a later dismissal time to keep the same amount of instructional time—to accommodate a similar slot at CHS for staff coordination/meetings. Ken commented that one of the issues currently being discussed by the Labor/Management Committee is allocation of time between professional development and student contact.
Ken asked Lee to describe how the staff works together to meet students’ special needs at Churchill’s Alternative School. Classes are held there from 9:00 until around 6:00 p.m. Monday-Thursday, with groups limited to about 20 and for longer sessions than our 47-minute periods. On Fridays, teachers hold team planning meetings. The real key to help motivate the students is forming a “connected” relationship with them.
Shirley reminded the group that our district does provide a quality education for students, sharing the example of her two sons, who have both gone on to be very successful in college. Terrie reiterated later in the meeting that we should not to forget to focus on our many successes as well as the many challenges we face.
A recurring theme of the discussion was limited available resources, both time and money. Upcoming budgets do not look promising, with “maintenance of effort” in Special Education likely to consume an increasing portion of the district’s funds, the high school’s athletic budget possibly in trouble for next year, Jan’s potential request that the School Board fund an Assistant Principal position and a myriad of other competing needs. We are also facing the end of some current grant-funded programs.
As the topic of special education was raised, there was discussion about the relatively high percentage of our district’s students who fall into this group. Jan and Ken agreed that much administrative and counseling time is required to deal with a small number of students. Counselors have very little time to work on “guidance,” which theoretically should be their major function. It was suggested that a special education teacher be added to this committee to be able to share their insight. Jan will work on recruiting someone for that role.
Lee shared more about his school’s programs, including that all students develop a specific plan. This helps create an understandable purpose for them to be in school. Jan noted that some students here have asked why, if they can pass LCC’s placement tests, do they need to stay in high school? For some, graduating early and moving on to college sooner may be a valid option. This is part of what SB 300, passed by the last legislature, was attempting to address.
As the meeting drew to a close, Anne asked the group about how best to proceed. It was agreed to continue the ongoing conversation at the next meeting and try to formulate a few ideas for implementation beginning in February.
The next meeting was scheduled for 6:45 a.m. on Friday, January 20.
Respectfully submitted, Sue Bowers, Secretary