Contracts extended for Superintendent, administrators and directors

USD 402 Augusta Superintendent Dr. John Black will lead the local school district at least another two years after Board of Education members on Monday night voted unanimously to extend his contract.

The School Board also voted to approve contracts for the school district’s administrators and directors.

Augusta Middle School Principal Eileen Drieling’s contract was not extended, her resignation was submitted a few months earlier.

Donna Zerr, Augusta High School Principal appeared before the board at Monday’s meeting with a recommendation - a proposal that includes a daily class schedule change at AHS and incremental adjustment of graduation requirements, effective for the 2013-2014 school year.

Zerr explained that after meeting last year with with members of the high school science department and listening to their concerns about growing class sizes and looking at upcoming enrollment numbers, adjustments were needed to alleviate the situation.

The proposal includes a modification of the current 8-block schedule, but includes a daily seminar period. Students will enroll in 8 classes, attending 4 every other day along with having seminar every day. Students currently take 7 classes and have seminar every other day.

Zerr pointed out that the new schedule would provide an additional section per instructor, representing a 20 percent increase in total number of available class sections, an important consideration in light of enrollment projections.

The modified schedule will result in a reduction of time spent in each class, an average of 37 minutes per week. With the added class period, the minimum number of credits needed for graduation will need to be adjusted incrementally until reaching 28 with the incoming freshmen, class of 2017.

“I discussed the concerns with Superintendent Black and knowing that there won’t be any help from the State, I got creative and came up with this...I spoke to the AEA and our students. We formed a committee and sought feedback from staff. We considered pros and cons... I surveyed our student council and 65 percent liked the idea,” Zerr added, “This won’t affect the number of required credits for our current seniors and juniors.”

Board member Kim Braungardt immediately voiced objections. She stated that she felt taking 10 minutes from each class period was unwise and that it would add more homework for students.

Zerr stressed the advantages of smaller class sizes and more opportunities for electives.

Braungardt then distributed to the other board members a list of some surrounding school districts’ credit requirements.

Board member Jim Brown stated, “Having worked in a very large school district, I would never gauge our district against other districts. You need to look past graduation. Flexibility in the schedule may help seniors succeed. Adding seminar every day is a huge advantage. And this received support from the high school staff.”

“The staff wasn’t given a choice and the public didn’t know. I’m just trying to be a voice for students who struggle,” Braungardt said.

Zerr responded, “I’m a believer that the schedule doesn't’ drive the students’ success. Teachers, parents, and the students drive their success. Any schedule has advantages and disadvantages. We have students failing now. We always have to keep working with those students. We certainly don’t want any failing.”

Board member Bill Rinkenbaugh stated, “The current schedule really doesn’t allow for some students to take art or other electives and it might keep some from pursuing a diploma of distinction. Twenty-five percent of Augusta students who got to Butler have to take remedial classes - they are not college ready. Most of them are great kids - some were even leaders in high school, but they’re not testing out. They’re not college ready. This schedule gives them the opportunity to be better prepared...I believe anything we can do to benefit the students, we need to do it. If we leave things the way they are, class sizes just get larger and adding more teachers means more money and raising the mill levy. I don’t think the public would approve.”

Braungardt wasn’t convinced. “Other things haven’t been discussed...based on this all I see is more for students who struggle.”

Larry Winter, BOE vice president said, “With 45 minutes of seminar each day, that might help those students who are struggling. It could help with skills and expanding elective courses could be a head start with college courses.”

The Board members voted 5-1 to approve the schedule change at the high school. Braungardt voted against the change. Board President Bob McCalla was unable to attend last night’s meeting.