Decline in state letter grades could result in longer days at two schools

A longer school day is in store for students at two Huntington County schools, Huntington County Community Schools Superintendent Tracey Shafer says.

Shafer announced the plan during a discussion of the Indiana Department of Education's school letter grades during the Nov. 12 meeting of the school board.

The overall grade for the corporation is a "B," he noted, up one letter grade from last year.

But, he noted, letter grades for Lincoln and Flint Springs elementary school fell significantly from last year.

To improve these grades next year, Shafer says the plan is to "provide an extended learning day" for students at those two schools.

The increase in instruction time will be voluntary this year, he said, and transportation will be provided for students who choose to participate.

However, he added, the increase in class time will be mandatory for all Lincoln and Flint Springs students during the 2013-14 school year as long as transportation issues can be worked out.

Long term, Shafer said he hopes these schools will have equalized learning times with other schools across the district.

"We are working hard to make it happen," he said.

The board approved a request to add three new courses at Huntington North - advanced placement microeconomics, Chinese III and forensics (biology II).

Forensics will be offered to Viking New Tech students only, while Chinese III and AP microeconomics will be open to the general population of students.

The classes will be added to the course catalog for the 2013-14 school year.

Chuck Grable, assistant superintendent, and Tom Ashley, director of technology, discussed bandwidth, student email accounts and the "re-imaging" of student iPads.

Grable stated the rollout of student e-mail accounts is "pretty much finished" and said the updated bandwidth settings are "holding steady."

He also stated 90 percent of student iPads at Riverview Middle School have been "re-imaged" - a process that replaces the Safari web browser with a more restrictive browser, Mobicip; places restrictions on applications that can be downloaded to the iPad; and removes Apple's app store.

"Mobicip seems to be helping resolve the situation regarding the access to inappropriate content," noted Grable.

However, he pointed out that Mobicip is "a short-term solution" and a more long-term solution would be to change the school's firewall protection.

At this time, Crestview Middle School and Huntington North High School's iPads have not been re-imaged. Grable predicts the process will begin at Crestview within the next two weeks.

School Board President Kevin Patrick presented his concerns about disciplining students who use the iPads for other than educational purposes.

Patrick called for the development of a policy detailing how iPad usage will be monitored and how discipline will be implemented.

"The discipline needs to be very tough ... we need to deal with it swiftly," he said.

Grable said the administration is currently encountering students at Riverview who are finding ways around the new, safer settings placed on their iPads after re-imaging.

Ashley explained this type of activity can be monitored and building administrators can be made aware of students taking part in this type of behavior.

Grable and Ashley also presented a new iPad case to the board. This new case is expected to prevent breakage more effectively than the current iPad cases. Ashley stated he would have recommendations of purchase for the board within a few days.

Jon Bennett, assistant superintendent for business and classified staff, presented a request for a 2 percent raise for classified and administrative staff.

For classified staff, the increase was unanimously approved as a 2 percent raise in wages for all classified staff, retroactive to the beginning of the 2012-13 school year (or the employee's hire date if he or she began employment after the start of the school year).

For the administration, the increase was unanimously approved as a 2 percent raise in base pay, retroactive to the beginning of the 2012-13 school year.

In other business:
• Shafer announced three General Education Diplomas (GED) were awarded in October.

• The board unanimously approved the advertisement of fuel bids for transportation.

• Bennett reported a cash balance of $1.4 million in the corporation's general fund; a cash balance of $28,000 in the capital projects fund; and $1.9 million cash balance in the transportation fund.

• Member Rex Baxter, District 7, requested a report at the next meeting detailing the possibility of paying substitute teachers more money per day. Substitutes within the corporation currently make $70 per day worked, or more if the substitute is long term.

• The board unanimously awarded permission to accept a donation of $250 from Wells Fargo Bank, to be used for after school programming and recognizing student efforts of achievement.