School board reorganizes; meeting dates change

PLYMOUTH — The Plymouth School Board started its first meeting of 2011 attending to the organization of the board. Members Melissa Christiansen and Larry Pinkerton were sworn in as newly elected members after both were re-elected in November.
Immediately following the administration of the oaths, Christiansen was unanimously elected as board president.
Also receiving unanimous votes were Todd Samuelson for vice-president and Larry Holloway as secretary.
The dates and make-up of the meetings will change for the year. Meetings will now take place on the first and third Tuesdays of each month. For the time being, the meetings will continue to be held at 7 p.m., but the time for the first meeting of each month could be changed to an earlier hour. The board also agreed to change the format of the first meeting each month to a workshop.
Superintendent Daniel Tyree explained the rationale for the change saying, “The workshop setting gives us more flexibility.”
He went on to say they could spend more time and depth with heavy issues such as any pending legislation or discuss topics such as project based learning. Samuelson confirmed that no decisions are made at workshops.
The next meeting of the board will be Jan. 18 at 7 p.m. in the Administration Office Board Room on Berkeley Street. All meetings will be open to the public.
Board members signed conflict of interest statements that are filed with the Marshall County Clerk’s Office and the State of Indiana.
In other business:
• The board accepted the resignations of Mary Kaufman, Riverside Intermediate, guidance; Deb Martin, Washington Elementary, grade 1; and Robert Remenih, Jefferson Elementary principal. All three resignations will be effective at the end of the current school year in June.
• Washington Elementary Principal Michele Riise was appointed to serve as Title I Grant administrator, effective 1-6-2011. Remenih had previously held the position. Tyree explained the appointment will make a smoother transition due to Remenih’s resignation.
Although not an action item, the board did consider textbook adoption guidelines. Tyree said the state gave schools the flexibility two years ago to use digital materials that can be used in place of a textbook. He said textbooks are usually adopted for seven years and digital material can be changed rapidly. He said, “The state is putting together a list of digital content that can be adopted.”
• Plymouth High School Principal Jim Condon presented a study of graduation rates from 2006 though 2010 along with a detailed action plan for improving PHS graduation rates.
Condon said, “While we remain significantly above the state average, we have witnessed a decline the past two years following a significant jump between 2006 and 2008.” PHS rates were as follows: 2006, 80.8 percent; 2007, 84.9 percent; 2008, 85.9 percent; 2009, 85 percent, and 2010, 84.7, percent.
He explained that there are several factors involved in calculating the graduation rate such as students who do not graduate within the four-year period, students who move to other schools, or those who start at PHS and then move to an undetermined location.
Condon said the school has identified some early warning signs that identify potential drop-outs. Among those are course success (students who show a history of failing combinations of English/math classes); attendance (less that 80 percent); literacy (reading significantly below grade level); failed attempts on achievement tests; and behavior (frequent misbehavior violations).
He said the high school currently works with the Lincoln Junior High guidance department to identify students who have struggled in English/ math classes and consider them for inclusion in lab classes at PHS during their freshman year. Other measures include leadership classes, attendance contracts in hope of including parents in partnership with the school, reading labs, and ECA (end of course assessment) lab classes for upperclassmen who have failed Algebra 1 and/or English 10 ECA tests.
Condon said there is a three-tier intervention plan that includes, but is not limited to, more effective use of homeroom, redefining the freshman orientation program to include more emphasis on academic performance verses social transition, and drawing connections between vocational opportunities and course work.
He also emphasized the desire to increase the level of parent involvement and expansion credit recovery opportunities with focus not only on upperclassman but also immediate attention being given to freshmen who fall behind.
• Tyree said the schools were able to reach a tentative agreement with PEA (Plymouth Education Association) within about an hour-and-a-half. The tentative agreement will be presented to the teachers for approval and then come back to the board for consideration.
• A Board of Finance meeting was held following the regular board meeting. Melissa Christiansen was elected president and Larry Holloway was elected secretary.
The board received information from corporation Treasurer Kandi Tinkey on investments.