Perry School Board hears numerous reports at May meeting

The move to Standards Based Grading and a request to cede small parcel of land for bike trail highlight monthly gathering.

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The Perry Community School District Board of Education. From left, Director Marjean Gries, Vice President Jim Lutmer, President Kyle Baxter, Superintendent Lynn Ubben, Secretary Kent Bultman, Director Kenia Alarcon and Director Linda Andorf.

An entirely different approach to the current grading system was among many issues addressed by the Perry Community School District Board of Education at their May 9 meeting.

Director of Teaching and Learning Kevin Vidergar, High School Principal Dan Marburger and Elementary Dean of Students Ned Menke shared with the board some of what they had learned from a recent trip to Solon High School, which has implemented Standards Based Grading.

Unlike the current “letter” grade system, Standards Based Grading (SBG) seeks to illuminate not only how much a student knows, but precisely identify that information, thereby enabling educators, students and parents to better understand areas that may or may not need attention.

Marburger noted that a student may receive, for instance, an ‘A’ in certain subject, but that the grade does not identify exactly what it is a student knows.

As an example, a student may receive a passing grade in a government course, but not be able to adequately explain the three branches of the federal government.

“What (SBG) does is point out the exact areas of knowledge,” Marburger said. “I believe that it also gives a student a greater ownership over their grade, because they can see the areas where they might need more work.”

Vidergar said he hope Perry would follow Solon’s example as implementing the new system begins to take shape.

“They had six open house meetings and answered what they told us would be lots of questions and push-back, at least initially,” he said. “One thing that was stressed to us was the need for complete transparency as we move forward.”

Dallas County Conservation Director Mike Wallace addressed the board concerning the Raccoon River Valley Bike Trail's request to use some 30 feet of school property as part of the connector trail between Perry and Woodward.
Dallas County Conservation Director Mike Wallace addressed the board concerning the Raccoon River Valley Bike Trail’s request to use some 30 feet of school property as part of the connector trail between Perry and Woodward.

The trio noted Solon officials were “more than pleased” with how the switch to SBG has worked while noting there were still “areas that still need some smoothing out” even after five years of the new grading.

Marburger said there were no plans for the high school to completely abandon the ‘letter’ system.

“At the high school level you’ll still have to be able to compare and contrast with other districts, and colleges are still going to require the G.P.A. system, so that isn’t going to just go away,” he explained.

The plan for Perry schools is to begin the new SBG at the elementary and middle schools for the 2017-18 school year, with the high school beginning to use the new style in 2018-19.

“I am not against stealing anything from a school that is proven to work,” Marburger quipped.

Elementary Assistant Principal Joel Martin joined Menke in discussing the Summer Reading program, as well as PK and TK registration.

The preschool program has 107 spots available, with approximately half already filled, which, they noted, was on par with the pace of registrations over the past two years. It was also noted that 12 of the 15 slots for Kim Herrera’s TK program had been filled.

The board approved setting the salaries of Martin and Menke, who will serve as Elementary Co-Principals next year, at $95,000 and $92,000, respectively. Also approved was a 3.3 percent salary increase for Special Services Group personnel.

Those employees, as well as those in administration, had contracts approved, with the board approving a Master Contract Agreement with the Perry Support Staff Association while also consenting to the Support Staff roster.

Dallas County Conservation Director Mike Wallace spoke before the board concerning the planned Connector Trail bike path between Woodward and Perry. The trail will be feet in width, with 10-foot shoulders upon either side.

As part of the proposed path would fall along the north side of the current driving range at the Perry Athletic Complex, the board was asked to consider ceding approximately 30 feet of school property to help facilitate the project.

Concerns were expressed about the safety of those using the trail if errant golf shots sailed over the path.

“Bikers wear helmets, don’t they?” Board President Kyle Baxter light-heartedly, generating laughs.

Many members of the board spoke in full support of the trail and the need to move forward with current plans for property acquisition and construction.

Wallace noted those days were still “a long way off” and that the parcel of land the school would have to surrender would first have to surveyed for irrigation and other issues.

While taking no official action, Baxter said Wallace had “the full, unofficial go-ahead” to proceed with surveying the 30 feet in question.

The Industrial Technology Department sought, and received, permission for Curt Cornelius and Calvin Smith to attend an upcoming Skills USA National Contest in Louisville, Ky. in June. There is no cost to the district, as fundraising efforts have covered all costs expect meals for the week.

Drees Company was awarded a contract to replace heat pumps at the elementary school for $641,345.

The board also approved PACES summer staff wages and fees as well as Summer Food service wages, consented to a list of district fundraisers for 2016-17, approved revisions to board policies, signed off on resignations, hires and a reduction in force and agreed to Instructional and Activity fees for 2016-17.

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