Board rejects plea to change ranking system — for now
By BROOKS TAYLOR
Mt. Pleasant News
Same song, second verse.
Kirk and Anita Hillman were not happy following the Mt. Pleasant School Board’s March meeting. They left last night’s school board meeting disappointed once again.
The Hillmans’ daughter, Lauren, is a senior at Mt. Pleasant High School and ranked third academically in her class. The couple claims that the school’s ranking system is flawed, students know how to work the system and change is needed. They also contend that Lauren’s ranking hinders her in attracting college scholarships.
While the board agreed that the system is flawed, directors said during somewhat spirited discussion with the Hillmans that it will not be changed this year.
“It takes some time to study it, we can’t just change things in the middle of the year because somebody wants it,” board member Lonny Morrow said.
“The world is competitive and does not operate on four- or five-way ties. You have had this problem for a number of years,” noted Kirk Hillman.
Director Regina Erickson acknowledged that a problem exists and the board thought that “weighting” classes, which was added to the policy several years ago would help solve the problem. But it hasn’t.
“This is a recurring issue each year. In past years, we thought that we were rectifying the issue (through weighted classes),” Erickson said. “We thought we had system that was fair. I am not willing to change the policy on something that needs to be studied. I am studying it. We thought we were making progress.”
“So, you are telling me we are staying with the status quo?” questioned Anita Hillman.
Erickson said there is a strong possibility the policy will be tweaked, “but we can’t change it now.”
“How can you just sit there and see it is wrong and not change it?” A. Hillman asked. “This is harming, not helping (students).”
K. Hillman said the board “was kicking the can down the road and have for a number of years.”
Director Ken Feldmann said the board can’t make a “knee-jerk” reaction to the issue. “We have to study this and have a policy that works for all students. Our objective is to make a good policy.”
In closing remarks, Morrow said, “We are doing our job and you don’t like it.”
“Darn right I don’t,” answered K. Hillman.
Superintendent of Schools Dr. John Roederer said the policy will always be controversial. “There is no way out of not having a problem. You are always going to have an issue on who is number one unless all kids take the same courses. There is always going to be issues even when you have the index.”
Board members said they are looking at a new policy that incorporates test scores, or an index of qualifiers, into class rankings.
Changes were approved for the high school math program. Basically, the math curriculum will be changed from the current integrated math sequence to a traditional discrete math sequence (algebra followed by geometry and algebra II). Graduation requirements for the class of 2017 and all classes following will include completion of algebra II.
School officials said the change is needed to conform to the Iowa Common Cure Standards. The discrete math sequence also would allow more flexibility for students attempting to reach advanced math courses by options to take two (math) courses simultaneously. The graduation requirement of algebra II is to ensure all students will complete the Iowa Core in math.
The math curriculum change will be effective beginning with the 2013-14 school year.
Directors hosted public hearing on the $30.33-million fiscal 2014 budget. No written comments were received, nor public comments made.
The published property tax levy of $14.26 per $1,000 taxable valuation is a decrease of three cents from this year’s levy. Ed Chabal, school district director of finance, said that if the district were to receive 2-percent allowable growth state funding, the levy would drop to $13.81 per $1,000 taxable valuation or a drop of 48 cents from the current levy. The district budget was figured on 0 percent allowable growth. A comprehensive story on the budget was published in the April 5 News.
School district budgets must be certified and filed with the county and state by April 15, a requirement made more difficult because rarely is a state education funding bill passed by that date by the Iowa Legislature.
In a related item, the board approved a budget guarantee resolution. The resolution guarantees the district the same spending authority as the current fiscal year in the event less than 2 percent allowable growth funding is received. The guarantee amounts to roughly $220,000 in spending authority.
The board meets again in regular session Monday, May 13, at 7 p.m. at the high school media center.