Monday’s meeting of the Perry Community School District Board of Education covered topics ranging from programs dealing with students just learning to speak and read English to declining enrollment, the purchase of t-shirts, new building security measures and the possible need to hire up to seven new teaching positions.

The meeting began with Director of Learning Support Laura Skeel reporting on the district’s K-12 Lau program, designed to serve English Language Learners (ELL).

Skeel noted that ELL “does not supplant, but supplements” the education Perry students receive. She noted Perry tries to direct instruction according to each student’s individual needs.

“Equal means everyone receives the same thing, but equal is not as equitable,” she explained. “We send all new Perry students a Home Language Survey within 30 days of their registering with the school. That survey asks what language the student speaks and what language is spoken in the home. Any non-English response means we will contact the parents and inform them about ELL.”

The board was informed Perry ELL staff training to meet new English Language Proficiency state standards that will be put in place at the start of the 2016-2017 school year.

While Perry is currently meeting the ELP and Iowa proficiency standards, the district is in the fourth year of not meeting the Annual Measurable Achievement Objectives in regards to the percentage of students showing progress towards reaching proficiency, which is set at 63.4 percent.

“Our kids are making growth, just not at the level the state wants,” Skeel said. “For example, the state counts progress as a student moving from Level II to Level III. Well, a student may start the year as a low (level) II and end up as a high (level) II, but because they did not reach Level III it is not counted, even though they clearly are advancing.”

Superintendent Lynn Ubben informed the board of a decline in student enrollment. Although official numbers are yet to be reported to the state, Ubben noted the high school is down 36 students, the middle school seven students and the elementary 39 students from last year.

“We have know for some time this was becoming, in part because we had some large classes and we have known the elementary would have smaller units,” she said. “Right now we have a (class) range of from 105-160 students.

“The two largest are grades 8 and 10; I think the 10th grade is at 160 and the 8th at 156, and those are quite large numbers,” Ubben added. “Our lowest are grades 1 and 5, which is why the elementary is down.”

The board then spent many minutes discussing the need to increase building security at the elementary, middle and high schools.

PHS principal Dan Marburger noted that the schools, being public buildings, would not be able to be made entirely secure.

“We cannot stop every scenario, and we know that,” he said. “What we want to know is when the doors are open and to control access to the building at different times. We want to do what we can to make it as safe as possible and educating our kids about it will be very important. It is a fine line between being vigilant but not making the kids scared.”

Marburger said research among fellow Raccoon River Conference schools showed some had already taken additional measures and that others were in the process of doing so.

Various means of securing the buildings were discussed, including security card and secure key fob entry as well as video monitoring and ‘buzzing in’ of visitors. A video/buzz-in system is already in place at St. Patrick’s Catholic School in Perry.

Students could always open doors from the inside, an issue Marburger noted would need to be addressed.

“Our kids see someone wanting in and they are being polite, so they go and open the door,” he said. “That is where we can educate them about safety. For us, the key will be knowing what door is open and when, because even if we don’t have video, we can know a door opened and investigate it.”

Costs of differing systems are currently being researched. The board took no action other than to encourage the continued collection of information on the matter, with many members offering their support in making each building as safe as possible.

Some discussion was held on the purchase of t-shirts for qualified athletes and coaches; these are usually in conjunction with qualifying for a state meet or tournament. The issue arose as no existing policy allowed for the school to purchase attire for the coaching staff; the board approved continuing to buy t-shirts for the students involved and will ask the Booster Club if they would be willing to buy t-shirts for the coaches in question.

The board made commendations, approved an hourly wage increase from $22.05 to $25 for PACES certified staff and approved revisions of board policies and district hires and resignations.

Director of Teaching and Learning Kevin Vidergar updated the board and answered questions on the Annual Progress Report and reviewed with directors the district’s Teacher Leadership and Compensation plan, which is to be submitted Oct. 16.

A Director of Teacher Learning would be hired (full-time) with teacher mentor and teacher model personnel — which would be full-time plus extra-time — also needed if the district’s plan is approved.

These positions would advise and lead teachers in becoming more proficient in their skills. Any current full-time teacher could be a model teacher or mentor. Vidergar said there could be as many as three instructional coaches at the elementary school and an equal number at the middle/high school.

As these positions would be filled by teachers leaving the classroom, those positions would have to be filled, and the search to fill the vacancies would begin in December or January.

The district will be informed at some point in November if they have been approved for the TLC plan.

He noted it would cost approximately $573,000 to pay for the program over the next year, but would then be rolled into a funding program by the state. That comment brought some looks of concern from the board, but Vidergar said he had been assured the state was fully on board with such projects and for funding them, noting he had been told “this is a pretty high priority and everyone is behind it.”

The PCSD Board of Education meets the second Monday of each month at 6 p.m. in the Brady Library at the Perry High School.

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