Teachers vote no on Qcomp, board expresses disappointment
By Emily Bialkowski
An unexpected vote by the local teacher’s union has left the Caledonia School Board disappointed and without Qcomp funding from the state.
The district spent a great deal of time preparing its application for Qcomp and received the state’s blessing, but the funding stream is contingent on both School Board and teacher approval, the latter of which fell short.
“It’s very disappointing,” Board member Kelley McGraw said.
Qcomp would have generated $169 per student. The funds pay for teacher development, evaluations and incentives for demonstrating leadership.
In a follow-up interview, teacher representative Janell Field-Rohrer said: “Our teachers are working hard to implement several new initiatives. I’m proud of all that they are doing for the benefit of students. At this time I cannot comment specifically on Qcomp.”
In 2012-13, 52 school districts participated in Qcomp, including Spring Grove, as did 56 charter schools.
The infamous MCA tests, or the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments, which helped push academic standards and left some parents and students biting nails in hopes of reaching proficiency in all subject areas, is going by the wayside. Meeting proficiency standards was also a graduation requirement.
Based on new legislation, the graduation assessment requirements have changed, and Caledonia stands ready to adjust once the state works out the details.
District testing coordinator Nancy Runningen gave a rundown of the changes during the Sept. 23 School Board meeting.
Essentially, this year’s seniors have all met the graduation requirement. As the district looks chronologically backward, the test requirements will shift as the state implements new requirements, which have yet to be worked out.
The big question is: Will Caledonia want stricter standards for graduation than the state?
“As we move forward, we will bring back a recommendation as to what we think will be most appropriate,” Runningen said, adding, “Change is down the pike, for sure.”
Several personnel items were approved by the board, including:
• Hiring Nicole Ott as a full-time student services secretary.
• Hiring Jim Schoh as the assistant boys soccer coach for the 2013-14 school year due to an increase in participation numbers.
• Hiring Jimmie Westland as a part-time special educational assistant.
• Hiring Scott Sorenson as a ninth-grade girls basketball coach beginning this school year.
• Hiring Chelsey Meyer as a part-time Hand in Hand Preschool and ECFE assistant.
• The board also voted to ratify the full-time teaching contract for Jessie Emerson as a middle/high school science and middle school math teacher for this school year.
• The board approved creating two lead custodial positions and to hire from within for the positions. These individuals will offer guidance on day-to-day objectives but not evaluate staff or manage the budget.
Nov. 5 General Election
The Caledonia School District will once again call upon voters to approve a $495,000 one-day bond to pay for building maintenance and technology needs. The district successfully held special elections on this same matter in 2011 and 2012.
The unique financing tool of the one-day bond is not available to all districts but offers Caledonia a way to address pressing issues, such as the deteriorating elementary school roof, without raising taxes.
The board agreed to start work on promoting this cause and will announce public informational meetings at a later date.
The board addressed a variety of other topics prior to adjournment.
• Approval was given for Caledonia FFA students to attend the National FFA Convention from Oct. 29 through Nov. 1 in Louisville, Ky.
• A proposed levy limit of 3.4 percent was adopted. This action means Caledonia can raise property taxes by up to 3.4 percent but not above 3.4 percent. Most taxing entities start out with a higher number but chop away at it as accurate estimates become available. The final levy will be adopted in December.
“We will make a point of going down,” Finance Director Barb Meyer added.
• Information on starting a one-act play group at the high school will be presented at the next board meeting. A teacher approached Principal Paul DeMorett wanting to start such a group. One-act play is a Minnesota State High School League sanctioned event. DeMorett will gather additional details about the proposal, such as costs, and present his findings in October.
• Runningen, who is also the district’s Title Grant coordinator, reported that 133 students qualify for free or reduced-price lunch this school year. The parochial schools add an additional 47 to that number, and the elementary school’s percentage of children from low-income families is 47.3 percent.
As is tradition at each board meeting, groups and/or individuals are extended a thank you for supporting the Caledonia School District.
Thanks was extended to Bob and Jan Klug for weeding and planting the flower bed area by the kindergarten entrance of the elementary building.
Thanks was extended to Nick Frank and Doug Colsch for installing the canned lighting in the press box at the middle/high school.
Congratulations were extended to the Food Service Department for receiving perfect scores on the State Health Inspection.
Finally, the board voted to go into closed session to discuss its negotiation strategy. No decisions were made upon returning into open session.
The next regular School Board meetings is set for 7 p.m. Monday, Oct. 21.