Plymouth School Board approves policy updates

by Dave Cary
Review Correspondent

PLYMOUTH - Federal and state governments require school districts to formulate policies for a wide range of topics. Unwilling to let it go at that, they also require periodic reviews and updates of these policies in such a way that they do not conflict with each other and yet are understandable to those they are intended to guide.

This amounts to literally a ton of very dry reading and discussion. To assist with this periodic — and rather daunting — task, the Plymouth School District engages NEOLA Inc., a consulting firm that will, according to its website:

• Analyze the minutes of Board meetings for the past five years as well as current district policies and other pertinent documents.

• Identify gaps in policies.

• Separate procedural matter from policy.

• Summarize current policy strengths and weaknesses.

• Provide templates of generic policies that reflect the best thinking of consultants and legal counsel and comply with state and federal law, containing appropriate legal citation.

• Discuss the status report with school district personnel.

• Review suggested changes with district personnel.

This year’s NEOLA updates for the Plymouth School District consists of 52 separate items ranging from the superintendent position through relations with non-school affiliated groups. Four of these are financial in nature — which means they may or may not overlap with a separate set of policy updates that come under the acronym ‘EDGAR’.

The latter policies are all financial in nature, with a total of eight updates to be considered this time around.

Board president Tim St. Clair said he wished this process could be simplified as it takes quite a lot of time, dry reading and consideration even with NEOLA’s help. And, he said, it doesn’t educate one child. Board member Richard York, who had gone over the policies, agreed.

The board passed first reading of the complete package of NEOLA and EDGAR updates with no opposition.

• • •

The board heard a presentation from PHS principal Jennifer Rauscher on “Understanding by Design”, a process developed to aid in curriculum planning. The process was created by Jay Mc- Tighe and Grant Wiggins, and is used by many teachers who use its approach to develop courses, units and lessons.

A unique feature of the process is starting the process with the end in mind. For curriculum this means the question “what will students know, understand and be able to do” as a result, with an eye on learning that is likely to stay with a student for years, not just the next test.

Then it moves to the question “how will we know if students have achieved the desired results?” which means obtaining valid evidence of this.

Then it moves to “what will help students engage and learn” and what can and should go into a learning plan, i.e. curriculum.

• • •

Assistant Superintendent Dan Mella presented the district’s Media and Technology plan, updated to comply with state requirements. Mella said that the state-required plan was lighter in content than the district’s own plan, which went into greater detail. He said it was rumored that the requirement for this plan might be dropped. The board unanimously approved.

Also unanimously approved was the appointment of board members Sally Isely and Jamie Gambrell to the posts of delegate and alternate to the annual meeting of the Wisconsin Association of SchoolBoards (WASB) which will be held January 18. The delegate or alternate will vote in behalf of the board.

• • •

The board accepted the following gifts and made adjustments to the budget to reflect them:

• A donation of $58.41 from the Sheboygan Human Rights Association for 4K student transportation.

• A donation of $396.53 from Fairview PTO for student transportation.

• A donation of $900 from Walmart to the district as part of its giving program.

• A donation of $1474.72 From Sargento Foods, Inc. and their employees for Horizon Elementary School. The money will go into Horizon’s activity fund.

• A donation of $250 from Thrivent Financial to be used to fund female student/staff (mentor/ mentee) activities. This will be deposited in tghe PHS activity account.

• • •

Two board members reported that they had been impressed by what they have found to be going on in the district as a result of their new liaison assignments.

Sally Isely, liaison to the Community

Ed committee, said she was surprised to learn that just over 2000 had participated in recent activities “with another 300 on top." These included a local food fair, the community book read, hallway walkers (up this year by 80), 1,500 youths in youth fitness programs and summer camps. Plus new activities like shorter-duration offerings for adults,a ropes course, basketball league, tumbling and open gyms, and the Plymouth Center. Course listings, she said, are out.

Richard York, new board liaison to the professional development committee, said that since becoming more aware of the subject he had been bumping into professional development opportunities for staff ‘all over the place’.

Just that evening, he said, the 'Understanding by Design’ presentation, he said, was a good example.

And he had learned of 10 different classes, four workshops, nine “days” training for coaches and mentors — a wealth of instruction, encouragement and stimulation available to staff members.

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