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HHS grading scale changed

District may add preschool

Staff writer

USD 410 Board of Education voted Monday to change the grading scale at Hillsboro High School, beginning in the 2011-12 school year.

The current grading scale requires 94 percent or above for an A, 86 percent for a B, 78 percent for a C, and 70 percent for a D. Beginning in the fall, 90 percent will be an A, 80 percent will be a B, 70 percent will be a C, and 60 percent will be a D.

The board first discussed the change at its March meeting. A group of district parents submitted a letter requesting the change. They said the district’s stricter grading scale hurts HHS graduates’ competitiveness for scholarships.

In the month since that meeting, the district conducted a survey of high school, middle school, and elementary staff and parents, as well as high school and middle school students. Although there was some disagreement on the surveys, Superintendent Steve Noble said they tended to support the change.

“I don’t believe lowering our grading scale will lower our expectations of student performance,” Noble said.

Board member Rod Koons said he supported the change, but that he still had a concern that C and D students would lower their own efforts to the minimum required. He said he sees that happen all the time in business.

Board member Gary Andrews said a neighboring school district told him that when they lowered their grading scale, the school grade point average remained essentially unchanged.

Noble said the district has ways to measure student learning independent of the grading scale, such as standardized tests.

District may add preschool

Noble said he has had conversations with community leaders about establishing a non-Head Start-funded preschool at Hillsboro Elementary School to fill a gap created by the upcoming closing of Kids Connection preschool and day care.

With the elimination of elementary school art, that classroom could be used for preschool for up to 34 children, Noble said. He said a preschool is important to attracting young families to a community.

Board member Mark Rooker agreed, saying day care and preschool that parents trust are crucial to community growth.

Any preschool would need to be tuition-based or supported by another entity, because at a time of severe budget cuts, USD 410 can’t financially support a preschool.

“For a fee-based program, I wouldn’t hesitate,” Noble said.

New schedule provides challenges, opportunities

High school, middle school, and elementary school principals reviewed first drafts of 2011-12 class schedules.

The high school will switch from a block schedule to a daily schedule, allowing more sharing of staff between the middle and high schools.

“We’re redefining what tight is at the middle school next year,” Principal Greg Brown said.

He said the lion’s share of classes will be taught by shared staff.

With the schedule change, the high school will offer more career and technical classes. That has a dual benefit — schools receive additional funding for those classes, and students can receive some college credit for completing a series of those classes. Among the new classes being considered for the high school are robotics, meteorology, animation, game design, and culinary arts.

“These are 21st-century classes, folks,” Noble said.

He credited the high school staff with working to solve problems rather than create them. The high school staff and students face the biggest change with the new schedule.

“I feel pretty good about this schedule,” HHS Principal Max Heinrichs said.

2011-12 year begins Aug. 24

The 2011-12 school year will include 170 days of school, and will begin Aug. 24. The final day of school will be May 22.

The 2010-11 school year has students in class 180 days. However, beginning school at 8 a.m. in 2011-12 will lead to students being in class more in 2011-12.

Christmas break will be Dec. 22 through Jan 2. Students will have a full week of spring break, March 19 through 23.

The calendar is designed to minimize classroom disruptions by sporting events and activities, Noble said.

District to send letter to Centre about virtual school

The board instructed Noble to draft a letter to Centre USD 397 Board of Education about an issue with USD 397 recruiting students for its virtual school program in other districts, including USD 410.

Kansas State Department of Education requires districts give written notice to other districts before meeting with students in those districts about virtual school, Noble said.

USD 410 received no such notification about an April 18 meeting in Hillsboro. Marion USD 408 and Herington USD 487 have the same issue, Noble said.

In other business:

  • Technology Student Association members competed in the state TSA conference. Brent Mueller placed first in dragster design, Aaron Slater placed second in dragster design, Eric Herbel placed second in flight endurance, and Courtney Troyer placed fourth in digital video production. Mueller, Slater, and Herbel will advance to compete June 21 through 25 in the TSA National Conference in Grapevine, Texas.
  • USD 410’s share of the $25,000 annual contribution from area school districts to Marion County Parents As Teachers is $7,278 for 2011-12. The contributions are based on a district’s weighted enrollment. Noble said that if any other districts cut their PAT funding, he would recommend USD 410 increase funding, which would allow the district to pick up extra services. He noted that there is a waiting list for PAT services in USD 410.
  • Ed Bozarth Chevrolet of Topeka will sell the district a 2011 Chevrolet Suburban for $29,557. Midway Motors was given an opportunity to match that bid but was unable. The vehicle will be purchased with capital outlay funds, which are unaffected by state aid and enrollment and cannot be used for operational expenses.
  • The board met in closed session for 25 minutes to discuss teacher contract negotiations. On return to open session, the board approved the 2011-12 master contract for teachers. The teachers approved the contract April 7.
  • The board met in closed session for 30 minutes to discuss personnel. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • The board met in closed session for 10 minutes to discuss transaction of real property. No action was taken on return to open session.
  • Renovation of the former Midway Motors building on D Street into a district office is proceeding quickly, Noble said.

The next regularly scheduled board of education meeting will be 7 p.m. May 9.

Last modified April 13, 2011

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