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Pass to play for Belle Plaine students

By JUDY SCHLESSELMAN

Belle Plaine High school students are now required to have passing grades in all classes if they expect to participate in school-sponsored extracurricular activities such as athletics, music and speech.

The Belle Plaine Board of Education unanimously approved the new academic eligibility policy at its meeting March 17. The policy went into effect March 19.

The new standard is based on the current junior high policy and applies to all 7th through 12th graders except those with a disability who are on an individualized education plan. Those students can remain eligible if school officials see they are making adequate progress toward their goals and objectives.

The new “no pass, no play” rule raises the bar on high school academic expectations. The previous policy, last revised in 2001, allowed students to fail one subject and still participate in activities.

The board addressed the matter at last month’s meeting and at a work session Feb. 24. A number of high school teachers and coaches attended those meetings, many encouraging the board to “put some teeth” into eligibility requirements.

Below is a summary of the new policy:

Alternative high school program approved

Superintendent Bill Lynch’s second attempt this school year to gain board approval for an alternative high school program shared with HLV met with success last week.

After lengthy discussion, the board voted 3-to-2 in favor of a program for the 2010-11 school year  subject to HLV board approval and approval from both boards concerning curriculum, location and instruction. 

Voting “yes” were director Jim Pierce, board vice-president Don McKinney and board president Joyce Livermore. Casting  “no” votes were directors Mike Bachelder and Marie Stratford.

The alternative program would provide daily, structured special programming for high school students who are failing or at risk of dropping out of a traditional school setting, as well as a credit recovery option.

The board denied Lynch’s first request for the program last fall on a 3-to-2 vote. Opponents at that time said they did not have enough information on the program to make an informed decision about its future. The HLV board last fall approved sharing an alternative  program with Belle Plaine.

At last week’s meeting, director Mike Bachelder said he was not necessarily against the alternative program but asked Lynch if a committee could be formed to look into all aspects, including cost, curriculum, staffing and location. Lynch agreed, saying he would offer the HLV board an opportunity to form a similar group that could work jointly with a Belle Plaine committee.

In support of the program, board vice president Don McKinney said Belle Plaine offers Advanced Placement and special education classes but fails to meet the needs of some students.

“I think this would be a good program to initiate to curtail some of that failure,” he stated. “If they fail this program, the taxpayers are going to support them for the rest of their lives.” McKinney said he searched the Internet and found thousands of alternative programs in use today. “You can’t just let them fall in the cracks,” he said of the potential students. “You’ve got to give them one more shot at it, I guess.”

Pierce stated, “If we can take that 15 to 17 percent of our student body who are struggling and put them into a structured environment, and if we do nothing more than salvage half those kids into completing a high school diploma and give them a chance to go on to something else, we’re going to serve the community and country well.”

Stratford, who said last fall she was not opposed to an alternative school but voted against it at that time, asked for more information about why the program is needed, how it would fit in with district priorities, Kirkwood’s high school completion programs, and specifics of the alternative school.

Lynch will now take the shared program back to the HLV school board for its consideration.

Personnel

The board approved a number of resignations, including high school wrestling coaches Bob Yilek and Jim Drahos, and junior high wrestling coach Reece Dodd.

“After 25 years of coaching, I have come to a point in my life where I feel it is time to spend more time with my wife and family and pursue other interests,” Yilek wrote in his letter to the administration and board. “It has been a very rewarding experience and the friendships and memories made with the young men I have coached will be with me forever.” Yilek added he could not have asked for a better district in which to coach. He said he appreciates and thanks the district for everything it has done for him.

The board also approved the resignation of boys’ varsity basketball assistant coach Joel Formanek, who will move out of state following his marriage this August.

Central Elementary secretary Brenda Miller’s resignation and request for early retirement was approved. Miller’s retirement is effective June 30, but she has offered to put it on hold until Dec. 31 if the transition to the new facilities is not complete in August.

Lynch thanked those stepping down for their service to the district. “We appreciate what everybody’s done for the school,” he said.

In other personnel matters, the board approved Melisa Kriegel’s request to transfer from her current K-12 Talented and Gifted position to first grade next school year. Kriegel will replace retiring first grade teacher Cindy Arens.

New hires approved at the meeting are Brandon Janss as the assistant high school baseball coach and Kassey Toney as a school custodian for approximately four hours a day and as a fill-in for other custodians. Toney is currently working as a substitute custodian.

Two summer programs received board approval. Junior high band lessons will be offered again this year with Jack Schlesselman the instructor. He will be paid $950.

Greg Walton and Reece Dodd will teach driver education classes at a pay rate of $23.70 per hour. Student fees for driver education will remain at $250 and $185 reduced fee.

In other business, the board approved Lynch’s recommendation to increase substitute teacher pay from $108 to $115 a day for the remainder of this school year. This is to compensate for the additional 30 minutes added to each day to make up for days lost to bad weather.

School construction

John Darveau of Struxture Architects told the board progress on the school construction project continues, with a tentative final inspection date of March 25 for the new classrooms at Longfellow Elementary. Plans are to move classes to their new rooms over Easter break so remodeling can begin in the present classrooms. Work is nearly complete on the computer room and media center. Exterior and interior work on the gym is progressing.

Work is behind about three weeks at the high school, Darveau stated. Plumbing rough-ins are ready and work is progressing on the first floor.

Lynch reported he is working with the Iowa Communications Network and Kirkwood Community College to locate suitable used equipment for the high school’s new ICN room. Equipment from the former Deep River –Millersburg School District is available and is being considered for possible purchase, Lynch said.

The board approved three change orders for the construction project: a $22,523.54 reduction for power to Longfellow and the high school; a $10,281 reduction for roof screens and masonry above the mechanical unit at the Longfellow gym; and an additional $16,302 for soil testing.

Budget

A hearing was set for Monday, April 12 at 7 p.m. for the proposed 2010-2011 school budget. The regular monthly board meeting will also be held at that time.

The budget calls for $7.4 million in resources and $11.9 million in spending. This compares to $7.4 million in resources and $12.2 million in spending for this fiscal year. The district plans to carry over $6.2 million to next year’s budget. At the end of next fiscal year, the school plans to have a carryover of $1.7 million.

Most of the spending will go to facilities acquisition and construction at $4.5 million. Instruction will receive $3.8 million.

The property tax levy is proposed to be $19.12 per $1,000 valuation, the same as the current year.

Graduation

The board approved issuance of diplomas to Belle Plaine seniors who successfully complete graduation requirements. Lynch reported all graduates with a grade point average of 4.0 or better will be recognized as valedictorians. Commencement is scheduled for Sunday, May 23.

UPDATED March 24, 2010 11:58 AM

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