Tony Baumgardt School Board President and Jackson Parker Iterim Superintendent
November guest speakers were School Board President, Tony Baumgardt and interim Sup. Jackson Parker. Baumgardt said he would be glad to speak on "policy governance, redistricting, and any other topic." The exception was, for the present, the situation with Public Business Consulting Group because negotiations were still in progress. He also stated that the board had every intention to reply to Jim Morrison’s letter which contained questions RTA would like to have answered. The school board and PBCG have concluded that placing the consulting group in management positions was not the best path to follow.
New testing methods are in place to compare student achievement between demographic equals in similar size school districts, uniformity in teaching methods is being emphasized. Dr. Parker chairs the committee that is weighing several proposals that have been submitted regarding desegregation/redistricting. Parker’s expertise in the matter will enhance the likelihood of success of a plan that will improve students’ academic achievements. A program was studied which placed extra attention and funds into schools with low socio-economic level students, found that student achievement did not improve, but became worse. It, therefore, becomes clear that a diverse student mix, social and economic, is a positive influence on academic achievement. The school board feels that continuing the programs initiated by Dr. Hicks is the proper direction to go and improvement in academic scores is beginning to show.
Students transitioning into high school both the middle school grades (6, 7 and 8), and junior high ( grades 7,8 and 9) suffer failure rates double the normal. Preparing students for high school has been, and is a serious problem. Dr. Parker stated that a student’s eventual drop out could be predicted with 95% accuracy by the third grade if that student had failed 2 academic courses. It could be predicted with the same accuracy that an 8th or 9th grader who had failed 2 major courses would fail to graduate from high school.
A cooperative arrangement with GTI is being implemented for students not planning for college whereby they can take vocational courses at GTI in conjunction with high school courses. Dr. Parker related the program at Burlington H.S. where students are producing their own set of personal care products and industrial cleaning products. Personal care products are on the shelves of Burlington super markets and Carthage College buys all their cleaning products from B. H.S. Courses in construction provide hands-on projects involving carpentry, plumbing and electrical – there is a radio station where students get into radio, TV and moviemaking – anatomy and physiology are studied in cooperation with Aurora Health where they observe surgeries, write papers and learn aspects of the health profession. RUSD could do the same.
Regarding dress codes, the improvement is in behavior rather than in academics. Parker favors plans which allow parents and students to have some choice in which school to attend. Many details need to be worked out for any such plan.