School board taking Tigers by the tail? |

School board taking Tigers by the tail?

Summit Daily News/Jim Pokrandt Summit School Board members met Tuesday in a retreat at the Keystone Center to lay out their concerns and hopes for local education now that the mill levy and bond issue won voters' approval. Board member Jon Kremelmeier put concerns about Summit High School at the top of his list.

KEYSTONE – When Summit’s top school officials look into the future, they see “reform” as necessary at Summit High School.Reform is a strong word, and the superintendent and school board president are careful to say that, while many things are working at the high school, others need to fall under the microscope.”The immediate concern is erratic class sizes,” said superintendent Millie Hamner, referring to specialized classes with fewer students and others with too many.Other targets for reform include student achievement on test scores, graduation rates (especially among Hispanics) and general student engagement in their subjects.Board member Stuart Adams said these concerns “suggest there are issues behind them that need to be resolved.”The subject of high school reform, as well as other hopes and concerns for the district, arose from a school board retreat held Tuesday at The Keystone Center with top administrators.The ideas are a long way from becoming policy. Hamner said a committee working on the future of the high school would be reviewing what the board had to say.Board president Kristy Johnson, like Adams, used the word reform in listing her ideas for the district.”I don’t mean the high school has to be reconstituted. I think we are doing a decent amount of what is right at the high school. We just need to do more,” Johnson said.

She also said class sizes and teacher salaries are big issues across the district. Another of Johnson’s goals is to convert Dillon Valley Elementary School into a dual-language school with English and Spanish.Board member Jon Kreamelmeyer directed all of his comments toward the high school, as did member Bob Bowers. Both are retired high school teachers.Their concerns addressed the master schedule, too many students with no place to go, too many students becoming teacher’s aides, too many programs directed toward the high-end students, the forgetting of the middle-range students, too many sports programs, inconsistent travel policies between sports and academics and the cutting of alternative education when the goal is to graduate 95 percent of students.”This is not Lake Woebegon, not everybody is above average,” Kreamelmeyer said. “But we are heavy in (our course offerings) in that area … we are basically missing the middle.”I will tell you that most of your students are average,” Kreamelmeyer said.Johnson suggested reform at the high school and middle school might take the shape of two or three “concept” schools within each building.She said research shows that smaller schools are better at engaging students and attendance and achievement rise.Adams said high school reform could be directed toward creation of “career academies” inside the building. He also is concerned about the disparate high-end courses that could be consolidated.He suggested that if mandated curriculum could be taught through real world applications, students would be more engaged.

He also said International Baccalaureate (IB) should remain an academic track in the high school.Maintenance of IB at the middle school as well as discipline and safety in the middle school were other Adams concerns.Here is what some of the other members and administrators were thinking at the retreat:– Board member Jay Brunvand focused spreading all-day kindergarten across all of the elementary schools, even if tuition has to be charged. He compared tuition to the fees middle and high school students pay for academic and extracurricular activities.Brunvand suggested that mill levy money might be budgeted over three years because of potential election failure, and that the Legislature be approached about moderating the three-year election rule for mill levies.Other Brunvand concerns were directed to math and reading labs as student safety nets, bridging the divide between professional and support staffs, addressing food service choices and costs and long-term building needs.– Board member Garrett Sullivan wants attention put on student motivation and community/parent involvement in schools. He also supports making character education a tradition, not a fad.Like others, he wants high school course offerings addressed in the context of the master schedule and best use of time.Sullivan backed IB throughout all of the schools and emphasized the importance of physical education in a “supersized” society.

He also wants the schools to become more energy efficient through solar power and to look at hybrid, biodiesel and propane fueled vehicles.Sullivan suggested the district look at employee housing to aid teacher recruitment.– Superintendent Hamner listed priorities to include professional development of the staff, developing teachers to be leaders of curriculum and professional development, math achievement and drop-out intervention to be addressed through high school reforms.She also said the district needs to examine how staff members are allocated to the schools.– Assistant superintendent Peggy Kastberg said the district needs a full-time special education coordinator and more full-time special education staff at the middle and high schools.Kastberg advocated for a dual-language program at Dillon Valley and for IB across the school district. She also sees funding needed for programs to help the district meet federal Annual Yearly Progress standards.– Business manager Dan Huenneke noted graduation rates should be improved and counselors should be more involved in student life. He suggested student advocates be assigned to individual students.Jim Pokrandt can be reached at (970) 668-3998, ext. 229, or at

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