It is official. This morning was the first day to register for the Hickman Mills School Board race. It will be quite a race. As of today, there are five people running for three seats. I am currently in the middle of my third year. It has been a very rewarding experience as well as a very stressful one. I initially ran for the school board to save our teachers. Today, it is as simple as saving our district.
At the last school board meeting, Tony Stansberry from DESE (Dept. of Secondary and Elementary Education) came to speak to the board. Last year, had the state come to evaluate us, we would have become unaccredited, because our points fell in the 1-5 range. This year, we would have become provisionally accredited. We received 7 pts., out of 14. If our students get 50% of their work correct, they fail. Applying this to our district, we are failing our students. However, we are taking baby steps. That is how we were successful at reaching the 7th point this year. Because of our progress, though small, we have been given a reprieve and will not go before the state board until next November. This will give us the opportunity to raise test scores this year and bolster our points.
We have had many problems to overcome. Though we passed a levy the year I was elected, with the intention of raising teacher salaries, they have been frozen for the past two years. Teacher turnover is excessive. Last year, with the need to support our accountability plan, more attention was given to the restructuring of the schools. Discipline must be addressed. Though the board has policies to aid in this area, implementation by some administrators is lacking. Our financial situation continues to deteriorate. The number of empty homes in our area is excessive. We continue to lose businesses. Both of these factors affect our tax revenues. For the third year in a row, we are facing massive cuts due to a decrease from the state funding formula. Our staff need support.
On the upside, the district is making small victories. Our new Freda Markley Early Childhood Center opened this year and is one of the districts shining accomplishments. Paid for through a bond issue, district patrons can be proud of this addition to our district. The goal was to be as green as possible. The design of the building is receiving a lot of attention and is going up for awards. Our early childhood department is strong and thriving.
Our CODE program also shows wonderful results.The students involved in this gifted program consistently shows evaluated test scores on both MAP and ACT tests. It focuses on both academics and the arts. Again, the staff and support of parents make this program a success.
Problems that were suspected to occur with the reorganization of the secondary schools did not happen. Students have adapted well to the blending of the students. However, discipline problems continue to be encountered.
As a former classroom teacher, I have worked hard to help other board members see our weaknesses from a teacher’s perspective. The stress placed on our staff is extreme. The amount of testing in classrooms and restrictive teaching methods is impeding our teachers, preventing them from incorporating their talents into their teaching. Not all teachers teach the same, just as all students do not learn the same. I also challenge costly expenditures that I do not see as necessary. We have spent tremendous amounts of money on computers in the last three years. Our technology department continues to grow. This should not be the focus of our tax dollars. The success or lack of it should be our primary concern. Not more and more administrative programs.
I was pleased to accept an invitation to be the board representative to the Hickman Mills PTA. I was also asked to join the Federal Advisory Council that evaluates our programs in the district. Both of these positions, I accepted and will do my best to be effective. In addition, I continue to be an advocate for our teachers and staff. I support collective bargaining and the need for a master contract. In the last three years, I have attended many Meet and Confer meetings. At our MSBA (Missouri School Board Association) conferences, I used my time wisely by attending numerous seminars that address collective bargaining, social networking and other topics that effect today’s districts, staff and students. I continue to expand my knowledge. In addition, I have attended every monthly board meeting. To do a job well, one must make such a commitment.
I have pledged my experience, time and effort to being an active member of the Hickman Mills School Board. We must save our district . My duty is to support the staff, our students and the members of our community that elected me to this position. I will continue to do my best to serve you.