|Sat, Dec 21, 2013 11:24 AM
|Issue of December 18, 2013
October 16, 2013 | 09:17 AM
For the second consecutive year, and three of the last four, North Harrison Community School Corp. topped all schools in the region in ISTEP scores.
Lance Richards, assistant superintendent for North Harrison schools, gave a presentation at Thursday's school board meeting about the test results. It was similar to the one he gave Sept. 30 during a special meeting attended by just a handful of people.
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Students in grades 3 through 8 take the ISTEP test, which last spring saw some glitches.
"We didn't get the results of our test scores until late September," Richards said.
For all grades combined, NH had 85.3 percent of students passing both the English and math tests; that's a 5.7 percent increase over last year. The next highest school district, coming in at 84.79 percent, was West Washington.
North Harrison also surpassed the state average, which was 80 percent for language arts (NH had 90 percent) and 83 percent for math (93 percent).
"The hardest thing to do is to have a high percentage that passes both (tests), Supt. D. John Thomas said.
North Harrison Elementary School saw the largest improvement, 11.87 percent, bringing its passing percentage to 90.5.
"It's going to be hard for us" to gain much more next year, Richards said.
Thomas expressed gratitude to the teachers and support staff who work with the students.
"I could not be more proud," he said.
School trustee Marla Adams also thanked the parents "for pushing" the students to learn.
Also at the Sept. 30 meeting, the school board unanimously approved the 2013-14 master contract hashed out with the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association.
Thomas recommended a 2-percent pay raise for staff, both certified and non-certified, but not administrators.
Thomas said the staff will pay 4 percent more of their health insurance, which includes dental and vision, saving the school corporation about $120,000 a year.
Those who oversee extracurricular activities will be paid either $18 or $35, depending on the length and time of the events.
School trustee Gary Byrne said he supports the contract but thinks it's "flip-flopped" with beginning teachers getting less of an increase than those who have been in the profession longer.
"It's hard to raise the bottom without raising everybody up the ladder," Thomas said. "I don't see how (new teachers) make it. I agree with you."
The board also approved, with a 4-0-1 vote (Byrne abstained) the teacher evaluation model retroactive to Sept. 19.
"We want to make it where we can more effectively evaluate what's going on in the classroom," Thomas said.
Dan Haskell, president of the North Harrison Classroom Teachers Association, said the new model is easier to understand and use.
Thomas said board approval wasn't necessary to implement the revised model, but he wanted to keep the board members apprised of what he's doing.
At last week's meeting, the board adopted the 2014 school budget and approved the additional appropriations resolutions request for an additional $800,000 for the General Fund (Thomas said $500,000 will go into the instruction account and the balance will be put in the support staff account).
The board approved for the corporation to pay half of textbook fees for all students, using riverboat funds the corporation receives. Byrne voted against, saying he thought the money should be used "to help all the taxpayers in the district," rather than just those who have students.
At Byrne's request, the board discussed evaluation of the superintendent, saying, "an important part of the board's job is making sure (Thomas) is doing his job ...
"The board should hold the superintendent accountable ... " he said.
Byrne also suggested the board be allowed to look at any of the personnel evaluations.
"I think sometimes we can over-evaluate," Trustee Steve Hanger said.
"We're all in agreement Mr. Thomas does a great job," Gregg Oppel said, adding that the evaluation would be another tool to use.
Haskell said he didn't think the board had a legal right to look at the evaluations.
"I'm not happy with what sounds like a witch hunt," he said.
Veronica Battista, board president, said a summary of the evaluations might be helpful for the board, but she was not interested in seeing individual evaluations.
After more discussion, Byrne's motion, which was seconded by Oppel, failed to pass.
The board's next meeting will be Nov. 14 at 7 p.m.