The Woodward News

February 12, 2014

Board goes over several issues

Rachael Van Horn
Woodward News

Woodward, Okla. — In what turned out to be one of the longer Woodward Board of Education meetings in the last several months, the impending third grade reading test and make up days for snow were among the items discussed.

But before the meeting began, Student Citizens of the Year, Shane Standerfer and Ashton Baggs were recognized for their winning of the coveted title.

Also recognized were four Woodward Teacher of the Year finalists, who were each chosen by their peers this year, said Sandy Johnson, Woodward curriculum director. Johnson is organizing the Teacher of the Year award ceremony and event which will be presented Feb. 26 at 4:30 p.m. at Northwestern University Woodward.

In the running for the Woodward Teacher of The Year this year are: Chanda Peters, high school chemistry teacher; Abbie Wasson, middle school math teacher; Mona Schmitz, third grade elementary school teacher and Monica Hodgden, pre-k teacher at the Early Childhood Center.

"I think they can feel really good about the fact that they were each chosen for this by their peers," Johnson said.

The outgoing Teach of the Year is eighth grade history teacher, Chelsea Roberts.

In his remarks at the beginning of the meeting, Woodward Superintendent Tim Merchant emphasized the need for the Woodward board members to meet regarding the maturities of and setting a date and time for the sale of the first $3,600,000 of General Obligation Combined Purpose Bonds for the school district.

These would be the first bonds sold related to the recent passage of the $29 million bond issue passed by Woodward School patrons this fall.

Board members agreed to meet at noon on March 6th for this purpose.

The sale of the bonds will represent the first action toward beginning the real work of new construction, purchase of the new iPads for students as well as some of the transportation goals, Merchant said.

"The law has changed and we are working with the city and the county because the money now has to be accounted for through a special bond authority board and then comes to us," Merchant said.

Merchant said while the state has set up bond authority boards, there are fees associated with using the state boards for the administration of the money that could add up to more than $100,000.

"We'd rather stay local if we can on this," he said.

Sharon Mutual School District recently formed an agreement with the newly formed Woodward County Education Facilities Authority to be the administrators of their recently passed bond issue.

In other remarks, Merchant requested input form teachers, administrators and board members regarding how best to manage the need to make up days missed during the recent snow events in Woodward.

While every school but the Early Childhood Center is still within an acceptable number of days missed without the need to make up days, the Early Childhood Center needs to make up four hours to remain within the state's requirements, Merchant said.

Board members together with ECC administrator, Debbie Jones that an additional 5 minutes will be added to the beginning of the school day to make up the four hours, Jones said. "Even if we have another snow day, we still have to make up this four hours, so if we start at 7:55 a.m. for the remainder of the year, then we take care of that four hours," she said.

In other remarks, Merchant informed the board that it would cost about $17,000 to move the portable building from the high school for use at the Early Childhood Center for use as their music room.

In his final remarks during the Superintendent's Report, Merchant and Assistant Superintendent, Tom Fisher expressed their growing concern over the alternative reading exam that a third grader would take if the student failed to score satisfactorily on the Oklahoma Core Curriculum Test for reading. This year is the first year Oklahoma schools will enact the RSA Reading Sufficiency Act, signed into law in 2011. The law requires third grade students to pass a reading exam issued to districts by the state. If the student fails, the student must be given remediation and then has the opportunity to take an alternative exam, according to Fisher.

The problem is, after studying sample copies of the alternative exams and recognizing they appeared to be fairly advanced, Fisher began using computerized methodologies or basically "tests for the tests" that determine the tests reading grade level.

According to Fisher after using 7 different methodologies, the average "readability" of the exams were at the 6th grade level.

"We are coming out in defense of our kids," Merchant said. "If you are going to test kids at the third grade level then the test should measure third grade level reading skills."

Merchant said they were taking their concerns to State Superintendent Janet Baressi who is overseeing the implementation of the Reading Sufficiency Act.

Woodward School Board members also hired four individuals to serve in open positions:Samantha Snyder-HM special education paraprofessional; Lindsey Pipkin-HM classroom paraprofessional; Lacy Moore-ECC RSA paraprofessional; Eloisa Bendita-ECC cafeteria worker.