The Southern Humboldt Unified School District board of trustees heard generally upbeat reports about the success of the start of the new school year at the regular meeting on Sept. 12.
Carol Kinser of the California Retired Teachers' Association, Division 27 was on hand to present a check for $100 to Whitethorn Elementary School teacher Emily Swingseth. Every year the association gives six checks for $100 each to randomly chosen beginning teachers for use in the classroom and this year Swingseth was one of the teachers chosen.
This year's student trustees, Kathy Petersen and Tyler Hensley, were present to give their report to the board. They reported that the students have been settling into their classes well. The high school students were enjoying using the new school within a school facilities temporarily while high school wings are being modernized, but in the boy's bathroom some stuff had been thrown around, Hensley reported. It was cleaned up right away and most of the students were urging others to behave better.
Board chair Thomas Muldur proposed putting on the agenda for the next meeting an item to close the new bathrooms if the students cannot treat them respectfully.
The student trustee report concluded with the comment that seniors are great.
Bill Arthur of Sanctuary Forest was present to report on the completion of the construction phase of the forbearance water storage program at Whitethorn School.
Remaining tasks for the project include application to water rights for change in rate of withdrawl and a petition to allow storage for more than 30 days. The existing agreement allows the district to draw 1,000 gallons a day, a maximum of 7,000 gallons a week. Filling an 80,000-gallon system at that rate is not feasible, Arthur said. They are in the process of drafting, for the board's approval and submittal to the state Water Resources Control Board, an application for new appropriative rights which would change the rate of diversion to 14,400 gallons a day. This would not change the district's overall water allocation. It would allow the tanks to be filled during times of peak river flows when the water quality is best. Sanctuary Forest monitors the flow of the river in conjunction with the Department of Fish and Wildlife requirements and notifies program participants that they can pump whenever they wish, generally from about the middle of November until June or July.
Trout Unlimited is participating in drafting the application and petition.
District superindendent Catherine Scott reported that in STAR testing Whitethorn School and the district have been placed in Program Improvement status. She pointed out that the district has managed to stay out of Program Improvement status until now, when STAR testing is on its way out. The No Child Left Behind program is finally about to sunset in 2014, but the district must still comply with state laws in order to receive all Title 1 money. There was talk within the state assembly about only participating in some aspects of the STAR testing but there is the chance of jeopardizing federal funding by doing that.
At the senate assembly level the state may make moves that could put federal funding at risk, Scott reported. She thinks that there is a battle going on between the federal department of education and the state department of education and the district is the collateral damage.
Scott is concerned about the need to spend energy on almost obsolete STAR testing when the attention could be put to better use preparing for the Smarter Balance Assessments, which will involve trying to test all school children in the state of California over a six-week window on the Internet. It is a much more rigorous test, and the district will need the Internet and the computers to do it.
Whenever assessments are switched the results drop, Scott explained, so the district needs to prepare. The Common Core money is to be used for technology and due to being in Program Improvement, 10 percent of the Common Core money has to go to professional development. Teacher Jennifer Kubik suggested that maybe Common Core money for professional development could be used to purchase the needed technology.
The first step in the requirements for the new Common Core program was completed by the board with a reading of a simple template for a Common Core State Standards Spending Plan that Scott presented.
The plan calls for professional development for certificated and classified employees involved in the direct instruction of pupils using the Common Core Standards; instructional materials and supplemental instructional materials aligned to the Common Core Standards and technology equipment and infrastructure to provide technology-based instruction using Common Core State Standards; and to implement computer-based student assessments.
The plan states that the district will use funds for the years 2013-2014 and 2014-2015 to provide inservices for certificated and classified classroom staff on the new content standards and to develop curriculum aligned to the new standards; adopt and purchase current standards-aligned instructional materials for English language arts and mathematics; upgrade the technology infrastructure to provide internet access and meet Smarter Balanced Technology Strategy Framework and System Requirements Specifications; and purchase additional computers and software for technology-based instruction.
Superintendent Scott and the principals and staff are preparing to go through the standards for Common Core.
The board certified the unaudited actual financial report and discussed the projected deficit.
Trustee Dennis O'Sullivan spoke about his ongoing concern about the cafeteria fund deficit. Scott said that she and district business manager will talk with a district that has reduced their cafeteria budget and see how they did it. Trustee Blake Lehman said the food at the cafeteria was better when he was a student.
Michael Pritchard, the inspirational speaker who was so well received at the staff back-to-school breakfast will return to the district with age level appropriate presentations and leadership sessions with students, and he will do a parent and community presentation at Redway School on Sept. 24, Scott reported.
Scott concluded her report with positive comments on the overall success of the opening of the school year, which was echoed by the board and the student trustees in their comments.
Administrative assistant Sue Sheldon started a new job this week at Beginnings, where she will once again get to work directly with kids. The board and staff present thanked her for her years of dedication to the district and wished her well.
The next regular meeting of board of trustees will be on Thursday, Oct. 10 at Redway Elementary School. A special meeting will be held on Sept. 26 at South Fork High School in Room A-4. Back to School nights still to come are Agnes J. Johnson and Casterlin School, both on Sept. 25 and South Fork High School on Sept. 19.