The Milbank Board of Education met in regular session Monday, December 14. Superintendent Tim Graf reported on the upcoming 2016 legislative session and its probable results.
Graf informed the group that Governor Dennis Dauguaard announced during his budget address last week that a .3% increase for education was proposed although the details have not been determined. “It is also expected that the governor will outline his vision for implementing the Blue Ribbon Task Force recommendations in his State of the State Address January 12,” noted Graf.
The board also received an overview of the newly passed Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), which is essentially the reauthorization of No Child Left Behind (NCLB). “We have been anticipating this change for years and it is finally here,” said Graf. “It is generally being widely viewed as positive among educators.”
The ESSA is said to do the following:
1. Ensure states set high standards so that children graduate high school ready for college and a career.
2. Maintain accountability by guaranteeing that when students fall behind, states target resources towards what works to help them and their schools improve, with a particular focus on the lowest-performing 5 percent of schools, high schools with high dropout rates, and schools where subgroups of students are struggling.
3. Empower state and local decision-makers to develop their own strong systems for school improvement based upon evidence, rather than impose cookie-cutter federal solutions like NCLB did.
4. Preserve annual assessments and reduce the onus of unnecessary and ineffective testing on students and teachers, making sure that standardized tests don’t crowd out teaching and learning, without sacrificing clear annual information parents and educators need to make sure our children are learning.
5. Provide more children access to high quality preschool, giving them the chance to get a strong start on their education.
6. Establish new resources to test promising practices and replicate proven strategies that will drive opportunity and better outcomes for America’s students.
“We don’t know what all of this will mean yet,” mentioned Graf. “There are a lot of unknowns yet at the state level, but overall this is positive.” The ESSA will go in effect for the 2017-2018 school year.
Rick Swenson and Mark Keeton presented an overview of how technology is currently being used in numerous classrooms throughout the school. Swenson presented his use of Google Classroom, Google Drive, Go Guardian, My Big Campus, and the use of chrome books. “My class is almost completely paperless,” noted Swenson. “Using this technology serves to empower our students and helps them be life-long learners.”
The board took its first look at the general fund summary for this fiscal year and determined it has spent 32.18% of its budget dollars “We are spending essentially at the same rate as a year ago,” stated Graf. “In FY15 we had spent 31.24% through November, and our cash reserves remain strong.”
The schools have been researching options to replace the security camera system at Koch School, but no decisions have been made. A request to add additional cameras at the high school and a new system at Koch has been made. “Although the system at the high school was purchased through a grant with Homeland Security funds, and it is only a few years old, it seems to function well,” said Graf. “But we would like to add a couple more cameras and update the system at Koch.”
The board approved the resignations of Deb Pauli and Renee Howell. Both have served in the food service department. “Our kitchen staff does an excellent job and we appreciate the quality work that Deb and Renee have provided to the district and students they have served,” stated Graf. The board also approved the hiring of Peggy Johnson as a food service employee.
Three school board positions will be up for grabs in June. A two-year term currently held by Amy Thue and three-year terms held by Dick Schwandt and Tracy Upton will be open.
The state recently completed its special education review. “We received very positive feedback about our staff and the job that both our special education and general education staff are doing,” commented Graf. “While this comes at no surprise, I want to recognize and thank you for what you do day in and day out for our students.”
The meeting concluded by the approval of several job descriptions and reports from Dan Snaza, Tim Lease, Kris Evje and Keri Schliesman.
The next scheduled meeting for the Milbank Board of Education is set for Monday, January 11, at 6 p.m.