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School Board Minutes 03/15/2010

LAKE REGION SCHOOL DISTRICT
REGULAR MEETING
March 15, 2010


There was a Regular meeting of the Lake Region School Board on Monday, March 15, 2010 at 7:00 p.m. in the gymnasium at Lake Region High School.  

CALL TO ORDER AND ROLL CALL

Chairperson Warner opened the meeting at 7:00 p.m.   Board members present were:  Janice Barter, Mody Botros, Kenneth Brown, Beth Chaplin, Jean Clancy,
John Fillmore-Patrick, Jody Gray, Richard Merritt, Laura Ordway, Philip Shane, Nikki South, and Janet Ver Planck.

Administrators present were:  Kathleen Beecher, Zane Clement, June Conley, Kirsten Goff, Lisa Caron, Roger Lowell, Andrew Madura, Peter Mortenson,
Guy Stickney, Joshua Sturk, Paul True, Cheryl Turpin, Sherrie Weese, and
Patrick Phillips, Superintendent of Schools.

Chairperson Warner welcomed everyone and read an opening statement on how the meeting would be conducted.  Superintendent Phillips will make opening statements regarding Lake Region High School discussion.  The meeting will then be opened for Board discussion, followed by public comments and suggestions.  The Board understands that the District needs to move forward involving as many stakeholders as possible.  He asked comments to be made in a civil manner.  

There were approximately 150 community members present.

APPROVAL OF THE AGENDA

A motion was made by Jody Gray, seconded by John Fillmore-Patrick, to approve the agenda with the following changes:

Addition of the agenda addendum
Move the Lake Region High School discussion before the Superintendent’s Goals

Motion carried unanimously.

MINUTES

A motion was made by Laura Ordway, seconded by Nikki South, to approve the Minutes with the following changes:

Page 11 – Paragraph 4 – Change Jody Gray to Janet Ver Planck
Page 8 – High School Summer School – Vote:  Change to 5-Yes, 5-No

Motion carried unanimously.

PRESENTATION

A motion was made by Jody Gray, seconded by Richard Merritt, to table the State Student Achievement Tests Presentation.  Motion carried unanimously.





PUBLIC COMMENTS ON AGENDA ITEMS

Mody Botros mentioned that the Liaison Committee had a Breakfast with Freshmen through Senior students at the high school.  He recognized Dan and Jyselle for their work in serving the community in the Bridgton area.

ACTION ITEMS

A motion was made by Janice Barter, seconded by Ken Brown, to approve the following items as a block:

  • Hannah Merrick as a 7th grade Play Assistant
  • Dan Leland as Varsity Baseball Coach
  • Tim Place as Varsity Assistant Baseball Coach
  • Roger Smith as JV Baseball Coach
  • J.R. Warren as Varsity Softball Coach
  • Brian Clark as J.V. Softball Coach
  • Mark Snow as Boys’ Track Coach
  • Dana Caron as Girls’ Track Coach
  • Ian Carlson as Assistant Track Coach
  • Kim Peterson as Boys’ Tennis Coach
  • Tracy St. Onge-May as Girls’ Tennis Coach
  • Frank Polak as Spring Weight Room Supervisor
  • Leanne Body as 8th Grade Softball Coach
  • Norman Huntress as 7th Grade Softball Coach
  • Randy Heath as 8th Grade Baseball Coach
  • Pauline Webb as M.S. Track Coach
  • Kevin McDonald as M.S. Track Coach
  • Donation of $64.64 to be used for Liz Shane’s 5th grade class at Stevens Brook Elementary School.
Motion carried unanimously.

Budget

Superintendent Phillips asked the Board for guidance as to where they wanted to go with the Budget following the Public Hearing.  The Finance Committee met last week and they recommended that the Board go forward cautiously as the District has not received information on Medicaid for next year and also two negotiating groups have not settled their contract to date.  It was recommended that a Special Meeting be scheduled between now and April 5 to determine the final budget.  The warrants will be approved and signed at the Board meeting scheduled for April 5.

A motion was made by Richard Merritt, seconded by Nikki South, to schedule a special meeting to determine the final budget prior to April 5, 2010.  
Vote:  12-Yes, 1-No, 0-Abstentions.  Motion carried.

PUBLIC COMMENTS ON NON-AGENDA ITEMS

None.

Board Workshop

Lake Region High School Status

Superintendent Phillips gave an overview of the high school status as follows:

He thanked everyone for coming to the meeting.  

What We Know from DOE:

  • Lake Region High School has been identified as one of the 10 schools described as “persistently lowest performing” in Maine.
  • Maine identification process is part of NCLB’s Race to the Top and federal stabilization funding rules.
  • Maine has recently applied for “Race to the Top” funding.  They had to identify schools that were persistently low in achievement scores.
  • The framework for identifying schools was just derived in December.
  • The list is based on Maine’s test for NCLB purposes:  a 3-year average of the MHSA (Maine High School Assessments) combined critical reading and math scores.
  • The whole school average – no breakdown for sub-groups as used on the MEA’s for special education, gender, ethnic groupings, etc.
  • An improvement factor was used for the lowest 5% or 10%.
  • Schools that had made improvement in the last 3 years were taken off the list.
  • LRHS’s scores have been flat; improving slightly, or improving and then going down.
  • Accountability has focused previously on Title I Schools.  For this purpose, the State used Title I eligible schools.  The District has used Title I funds at the elementary level for early intervention for several years.
  • The theory of the federal and state’s focus is on closing the achievement gaps.
MHSA Scores – 2007 – 2009

Year        Reading % Proficient       Math % Proficient
           LRHS        State          LRHS        State

2006-07     45%         46%            30%         40%

2007-08     45%         48%            27%         41%

2008-09     42%         49%            28%         42%

What We Know from DOE:

  • We were notified on Monday afternoon, March 8, about a press release on Tuesday.
  • No advance warning in recent months or information was provided by the Department of Education to schools who might be named.
  • Being on the list has very significant implications.  There are many key decisions to make in a short timeframe.
  • There were two categories of schools identified:  Title 1 and Title I eligible.
  • Since LRHS is Title I eligible, no earlier sanctions (since NCLB was passed) had been applied to the school.
  • Identified schools can receive significant funding to support school and district improve, but …
School Improvement Grants:

Tier I and Tier II (from NCLB regulations)

Turnaround model – Replace the principal and rehire no more than 50 percent of the staff, and grant the principal sufficient operational flexibility (including in staffing, calendars/time, and budgeting) to implement fully a comprehensive approach to substantially improve student outcomes.

Restart model – Convert a school or close and reopen it under a charter school operator, a charter management organization, or an education management organization that has been selected through a rigorous review process.

School closure – Close a school and enroll the students who attended that school in other schools in the LEA that are higher achieving.

Transformation model – Implement each of the following strategies:  (1) replace the principal and take steps to increase teacher and school leader effectiveness: (2) institute comprehensive instructional reforms: (3) increase learning time and create community-oriented schools; and (4) provide operational flexibility and sustained support.

The District has to decide what course of action to take.  The restart model is not an option for the District as there are no Charter Schools in Maine; the school closure option is not possible as we only have one high school.

Timeline for Decisions:

Districts have a key, threshold decision:  
  • To opt in or out of the DOE process.
  • To opt IN, Districts must accept the conditions and improvement strategies.
  • To opt OUT, Districts will forego the significant financial support (up to $2,000,000 per year for three years.)
  • DOE expects an “intent to apply” letter by April 1 and a full application by May 7.
  • The “intent to apply” is non-binding.
Our Response:

  • Take a deep breath, don’t rush to conclusions.
  • Understand what the MSHA data indicates and what other data we should examine.
  • Avoid the temptation to “circle the wagons and fire inward” approach.
  • Don’t focus on just the test:  take this as an opportunity for systemic review.
Our Response: An Analogy

  • Patient presents with certain symptons (a stomach ache, for instance).
  • Physician would not begin by performing surgery, but would rather…
  • Begin by looking at diagnostic evidence to understand underlying causes.
  • Then, develop informed treatment plan, based on specifics of diagnosis.
My Recommendations:

  • Avoid the extremes:
  • “We’re doing just fine, we just need to get better at test taking,” on the one hand, or
  • “The school is a total failure; let’s get rid of the staff and start over, on the other.
  • Establish a broad-based process to oversee a comprehensive review.
  • Consider this as an opportunity to mobilize our collective energies to improve results.
  • Assume from the beginning that we all own a piece of the problem, and the solutions.
  • Use one or more high school reform frameworks:
  • Breaking Ranks II
  • Great Maine Schools Project at Mitchell Institute
  • University of Maine Educational Leadership Review Process
  • Quaglia Institute on Student Aspirations
  • NEASC rubric
  • Who should take part in the review process?  Broad-based committee including parents, students, faculty, community, Board, and administration.
  • Should we use outside help?  Yes, to ensure transparency and objectivity.
  • Key process elements?  Focus groups, surveys, data collection and analysis, special meeting(s), and summary report to the Board.
Board Discussion:

If we choose not to go with the School Improvement grants, does it affect the other federal funding we receive? No.

Superintendent Phillips asked for some direction from the Board on how they would like to proceed.

There is a lot of information to absorb and would like to look at the other alternatives before a decision can be made on what to do.
It was recommended that a special committee be assigned to deal with this issue including public participation.
Superintendent Phillips suggested that the District use an outside facilitator and get help from an outside organization on school reform to help the process be more transparent and objective.
Will the recent news regarding President Obama’s change in the NCLB laws have an effect on the standards that we are being held to now?  The President will be looking at increasing resources for closing the achievement gap and achievement tests are being used to measure that gap.  Therefore, there will be no change.
It is distressing that we are on the list, but it is exciting time as we have become stagnant.  Computers have moved beyond the current teaching methods.  We have not found a way to engage kids.  What can we do better so kids want to be in school and to be successful.  This is a huge wake-up call.  With the renovation of the high school, it is the perfect time to move forward and find a new way to get kids interested.

Comments from the Public

  • Mr. Lowell commented that there has been an outpouring of support for the school.  Anger and frustration has been heard also, with most being at the Department of Education.  SAT scores are low, and the decision was based solely on the reading and math scores.  The SAT’s purpose is to predict how well students will do in college, it was not designed to be used as an achievement test.
  • During the last 4 years, the high school has added a program to specifically improve reading scores, and for the past two years a program has been added for providing extra help in math.  
  • The NEASC report was not taken into account in the decision.  This is a multi-year effort which involves a team of educators including the Department of Education.  Results from the last review indicated an impressive list of commendations and the most significant recommendation was to provide an adequate facility which has finally been approved and will be accomplished.
  • Faculty members have taken active leadership roles and as a school would like to take responsibility to review and take appropriate actions to prove that Lake Region High School is one of the best schools and continue to make improvements.
  • He asked for ideas and avenues that the teacher can pursue.
  • A parent expressed concern that her daughter is a gifted and talented student and she hasn’t learned anything in math or science this year. Mrs. Botka at the middle school sets high expectations for the students.  Teachers need to set high goals for the students so they will work hard.  The parent will hold the teachers accountable to be sure her child is challenged.
  • Don Weafer, an English Teacher at Lake Region High School, spoke on behalf of the high school faculty.  
  • The test scores were based on the Critical Reading and Math section  of the SAT.  The Obama administration does not support the use of a single test score to assess school effectiveness.  The staff also rejects the use of that score as a fair indication of the effort and professionalism of the teachers and leaders and the learning of the students.   
  • The teachers propose to work with the Board and the community in developing a comprehensive, rigorous, and data-driven plan for improving student outcomes. They do not recommend applying for federal funds.  This is a call to action.  A faculty plan for school restructuring was distributed to the Board.
  • Sam Martin spoke on behalf of Dylan Dupee, the Student Representative.  The students presented a petition with 378 signatures of students and staff requesting to keep Mr. Lowell as the Principal.   The teachers are as diverse as the students they teach.  They all have different styles of teaching.  The common goal is to educate young minds.  The students and faculty can all work collaboratively.  A program can be set in place to prep students to take the SAT.
  • A parent expressed concern that after school activities were cancelled to hold this meeting.  It raised her sense of alarm.  
  • If you can’t compare student performance by a test, then how do you do it?  

  
  • There is a lot of student apathy which has an enormous affect on the scores.  Curriculum needs to be boosted to make it more challenging so students will really take an interest in learning.  
  • Teachers need to learn different methods of teaching the information so students will do better on the SATs.  
  • Test scores have been low for some time.  Other Districts are doing better.  Funding is not the problem, the middle school is at or below the State average also.  The “Race to the Top” funds are available, the District can use it as an opportunity to set the school straight.  
  • A graduate received a fabulous education at the high school.  She has graduated from college and is proud she is from Lake Region High School.  A majority of the students are not hard working.  Twenty percent of the students have grades above 83, the remaining 80% have grades below 83.  Parents need to help motivate the students.  Students need to know that they can do anything they want to if they work for it.
  • A student attended the school for 2 years.  The majority of the faculty is very caring and compassionate.  At a previous school, students took 4 classes for a semester and then took 4 different classes the next semester.  It worked well.  Motivation is an issue and procrastination is a problem.  The student works hard at the last minutes to get the work in.  She is proud to be a Laker.
  • Chose to live in the District because of the kind of people teaching at Lake Region High School.  Teachers should be allowed to teacher, there is too much bureaucracy.  Kids should be judged by the kind of kids they are and not by a test.  Not all kids are going to college, need to pay attention to the vocational option.  We need to make kids believe that this school is going to help them learn.   The principal is open and honest to children.
  • A graduate of Lake Region High School, who has taught at the high school, and owns a local business in area, commented that he believes in the community.  Students can be judged by writing an essay and having a rubric to score it by – give a value to different parts including content, spelling, punctuation, etc.  Students need to get motivated.  There is a lot of apathy.   
  • Students learn to care through relationships.  If students see their teachers every day for shorter periods of time, they will become more engaged and their math scores will improve.  
  • A graduate of Lake Region High School commended the faculty at the high school.  He has seen a deterioration of the community’s involvement in the high school.  Everyone has a vested interest in the high school.  Parental support drops off by high school once students get their license and become more independent.  Students need to be energized.  Failing for 18 weeks and studying for one week is not acceptable.  There are 3 parts to solving the problem:  community, administration, and the school.
  • It takes a community to raise a child.
  • Parents need to be involved all the way through school for students to be successful.  
  • Peer pressure is a problem, need to investigate everything.
  • A senior stated that the teachers had provided the students with the tools to do well on the SATs.  It is whether the student decided to use the tools.
  • A graduate of the school commented that there are great teachers at the school, he has two children attending the high school.  The opportunity exists for any student to do well that wants to take advantage.  This is a wake-up call.  It is important not to rush into anything without looking at all of the options.  People in the gym are a big part of the solution.  This is an opportunity to

come together as a community and fix our own problem and take advantage of our problem.
  • Mr. Lowell is an exceptional person and an important part of the solution.
  • A graduate of the high school encouraged the Board to take the opportunity to review the options and review possible approaches to improve our system.  The Superintendent was asked to keep the parents and community in the loop as the process unfolds.
  • A parent commented that her child comes home saying that the English Teacher has trouble reading and writing.  Computers are a waste of money as they are  not be used to do homework, students are using them to chit chat with friends.  They should be kept at school.
  • A high school graduate has two children in the school district. Why is this the first time hearing about the low test scores?  Administration should be sharing this information.  The Superintendent is supposed to be available to parents.  How are students getting into 9th grade without being able to read?  Test scores are an adequate method to determine achievement.  We need to start thinking about our children.
  • A community member who works with the Lakes Environmental Association commented that she has worked with students throughout the District.  She questioned if a standardized test reflects student knowledge?  From one test for only three years, can that determine the achievement of the entire school community?  
  • She has enjoyed the stories from the children and teachers.  This all needs to be a part of the analysis.  She attended the Senior Awareness and Mr. Lowell showed students that they could climb a mountain if they set their mind to it.  She has experienced this across all the grade levels in all the schools across the District.
  • A community member was concerned regarding the comments regarding parent and student apathy.  The report card compares the District to other districts in the State.  The District is below average, our per student cost is higher than other Districts.  We need longer teacher work days, a change in the block schedule, more math every day.  Look at the administrators, the kids, the parents?  What is below average?  Someone needs to be held accountable for this problem.
  • Lake Region High School is a dual school.  It serves as a high school and also a vocational center.  How many schools are being compared that way?  Many students do not have the option to go to college.  They may not be interested in taking the SATs.  The World Quest Team recently competed against other schools and college teams and won the competition.  Need to start thinking outside the box.  Should there be two separate schools?
  • A parent has a student at Lake Region High School and Lake Region Middle School.  The parent has been an advocate for the child, who has a challenging problem, to get involved.  It is no problem of the staff or the administration.  They have been very compassionate and caring.  The achievement gap gets wider every year.  She is concerned that when her child has to take the SAT, the child will not do well.
  • Confident we can address our problems, by being candid and creative, and looking at the unpleasant things.  Does the teachers union contribute to the problem?  Are there teachers in the District who are underpaid and under- appreciated?  Are there teachers who are over protected?  To what degree does the union block any accountability on the low end of the block?




  • A junior at the high school commented that she is very involved in all college and honors classes.  Has worked very hard, does homework until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning.  Teachers are there after school for help and push the students.  Laptops are a big help.  Students can do work at home.  If parents think their child is not using their computer appropriately they should take it away.  
  • A community member commented that he has lived in the area for 32 years.  He campaigned in Raymond and Otisfield several years ago and people wanted higher standards.  Citizens in Casco and Naples wanted something done at the high school.  Mr. Lowell was hired to smooth things over and he has done that.  He was not hired to raise the standards.
  • A junior at the high school commented that all the solutions that have been mentioned are short term solutions.  The problem resides with the students and how much effort they are willing to put into learning.  This is giving everyone a wake-up call.  How little are students caring about what they are doing?  How little can you do to get by?  Not everyone is as nice as the teachers at the high school.  
  • A student commented that the SAT is not meant to measure what you know.  It is an aptitude test to see how you will get along in the first year of college.  There are great teachers at the high school.  The student has been working on a portfolio for English and you have to look at all your work to see how you met the standards.  
  • A teacher at Lake Region High School mentioned that a lot of schools did not qualify for the State’s comparison.  Lake Region was above 16 other schools.  They did not qualify due to size, etc.  
  • The Town Manager in Naples commented that he is a Laker.  The District needs to get to a solution.  There is a problem that needs to be fixed.  
  • People want to know what they are getting for their tax dollars.
  • Parent involvement is important.  Is it possible to link cable to the schools to bring education to the parents, teach them how to help their child.  Students are learning differently than how their parents did.
  • A teacher at the high school commented that teachers have been working after school, looking at models, taking a hard honest look at themselves.  This isn’t acceptable, they need to do a better job.  A better evaluation system is needed in the schools.  There is a need to look at the structure of the schools including the schedules and academic time.  It needs to improve and the teachers are willing to do it.   
  • A parent commented that the laptops are a great addition, however, facebook, etc. should be blocked during the school day.
There was a break and the meeting moved into the High School Library.

Superintendent Phillips commented that he still believes that after hearing the comments that the District needs to seek facilitation and expertise on high school reform.  He suggested that a broad-based committee be organized, and an outside facilitator and consultant be hired to work with the Committee.  He asked the Board for their direction.

The Board commented as follows:

  • The Board needs to determine a date for reporting back to the Board and the public.  The full Board should make the decision on what to do.
  • The Board is too busy to meet as a full Board.
  • Need good advise.
  • The Board needs outside help and needs to get working on this as soon as possible.  The Chair needs to be on the Committee.
  • Teacher evaluation is a policy.  The current teacher evaluation system is being revised.  It is not necessary to negotiate the details.
  • The Board will look at other indicators besides the SATs.  Findings will be presented to the Board.  The Community is expecting a rigorous review of the data.
  • The April 1 date is a non-binding intent to apply for funding.
  • The application due date is May 7.  
  • There is a lot of information to review.  The Board needs to understand the different aspects before it can set in any one direction.  
  • The teachers want to review the data and make a recommendation.  They are the ones that are going to make it work.
  • Teachers have had plans for years on how to improve student achievement.  A committee needs to look at it and see what is the best option for our kids.  
Is there someone who can oversee the plan to be sure it is happening.  It is   an exciting time to take a major look at the high school.  Many students are failing a course every semester, want to see bigger broader ideas from the outside.  Drop out data needs to be reviewed.  
  • Superintendent Phillips mentioned that he had been in contact with Mary Jane McCalmon.  She has worked on high school reform.  He also contacted Duke Albanese, who is a Policy Advisor at Great Schools for the consultant.
  • We should look at high school reform and see where it leads us.  The District has gone alone before.  No District in the State of Maine has stood up to NCLB.  What are the consequences of staying on the program.  NCLB will be changing by the end of the year.  We need to look at the whole student and what is right for the children.
  • More data will lead us to making a better decision.
  • We need to set up a committee including Board members, parents, students, community members, and teachers.  
  • Bruce Smith, the District’s attorney, is working with his staff to do a legal analysis to see if some of the steps are legal in Maine.  Once the information is received, it will be forwarded to the Board.
A motion was made by Niiki South, seconded by Richard Merrit, to have four Board volunteers on a sub-committee to review this issue; allow the Superintendent to expend the necessary funds to hire a facilitator and an outside consultant, submit information to the Board by April 19, and schedule a Special Board
meeting on April 26 to make a final decision regarding the high school.  

There was a discussion on the motion.

The full Committee would be made up of 12 to 15 people including Board members (one from each town), an administrator, the Assistant Superintendent, high school administrative staff, faculty and students, plus a facilitator and a consultant.  The Committee can then be broken up into focus groups to get the work done quickly.    
  
The committee will bring back a recommendation and its findings for the Board to make a final decision.  



The Superintendent will submit a “yes” for intent to apply which is due on   April 1 and is non-binding.  If the Board decides to continue with one of the options, an application must be submitted by May 7.  The Superintendent will notify the teachers and the Principal that the April 1 intent to file is only a place holder and is not the Board’s intention.

Vote:  10-Yes, 3-No, 0-Abstentions.  Motion carried.

Superintendent Phillips congratulated everyone who participated in the conversation.  Everyone is fired up and ready to take action.

The following Board members volunteered to be on the sub-committee:         Janice Barter - Naples, Mody Botros - Bridgton, Janet Ver Planck - Casco, and Jean Clancy – Sebago.

A motion was made by Nikki South, seconded by Ken Brown, to go into Executive Session to discuss a student matter.   Motion carried unanimously.

The Board went into Executive Session at 10:35 p.m.  Mr. Mortenson, the student, and the student’s parent were invited to attend.  Jody Gray was excluded from the Executive Session.

The Board returned to Public Session at 11:00 p.m.  

A motion was made by Wayne Warner, and seconded, to expel this student from school pursuant to 20-A M.R.S.A. Section 1001(9) on the grounds that such expulsion is necessary for the peace and usefulness of the school and to direct the Superintendent to provide the student and his/her parents written notice of this action and the reasons therefor and to provide minimal services to the student.  Motion carried unanimously.

ADJOURNMENT

A motion was made and seconded to adjourn.  Motion carried unanimously.

The meeting adjourned at 11:01 p.m.

                                                                        _________________________
                                                                                Secretary

                                                                        _________________________
                                                                                Date Approved