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Attendance, budget, calendar highlight school discussion PDF Print E-mail
Written by Brenda Johnson Brandt   
Major attendance policy revisions, parameters for setting the 2010-11 budget and a calendar for 2010-11 that looks similar to this year’s were the focus of most discussion at the March 16 meeting of Holyoke School District Re-1J Board of Education.

The current attendance policy reduces student grades for poor attendance, and this will be eliminated from the new policy.

Studied thoroughly by an attendance committee, policy recommendations were presented to the board in January. The policy draft was shared last week, and feedback is now being gathered from staff.

Recommendations will be discussed April 6, with policy readings set for April 20 and May 4 so the policy can be implemented for the 2010-11 school year.

Supt. Bret Miles cited three points of emphasis for the draft policy. It should send a message that attendance is important, it promotes parents as partners with the school and eliminates academic penalty related to attendance.

A new section defining unexcused absences not only clarifies there’s no academic penalty, it also sets 10 days as the maximum unexcused before judicial proceedings are initiated.

Tardiness in the draft policy has been expanded to include consequences but not grade reduction, suspension or expulsion.

Consequences involve a designated amount of time for school service, as well as in-school suspension starting with the 10th tardy. These tardies are cumulative throughout the day, week and semester.

Excessive absence notification involves a step-by-step process and emphasizes working with parents and students.

Notification by letter will be made when a student reaches their fifth day with an absence in a semester. At that time, a member of the attendance committee will be assigned to the student.

After six absences in a semester, the principal will alert the attendance committee of a “red zone” student. On the seventh absence, the assigned committee member will contact the parents and set up a meeting with the attendance committee, at which time an attendance contract will be set up.

The contract will include a commitment not to miss any more class, to turn in missing work related to prior absences, to agree to turn in future homework and to agree to avoid minor or major write-ups for behavioral issues.

If the student has an eighth or ninth absence, the attendance committee member assigned to that student will check in to review the contract, and a home visit will be made.

After 10 absences, the committee will reconvene to determine the most appropriate action to be taken.

Options include continuation of the attendance contract, referral to Alternative High School or referral to the superintendent for legal action according to the truancy policy. If all options have been exhausted, the committee can recommend that credit not be given for a class with 10 or more absences.

Changes in consequences and definitions are also recommended within the truancy policy to emphasize working with parents.


Draft budget parameters finalized

Parameters were finalized at last week’s meeting for informing administration of the goals, priorities and restrictions the board expects to be in place as the budget is developed.

—Fund balance money shall be used to offset no more than half of the reduction in state funding.

—Preliminary budget will be built on a student count of 585, an increase of five over this year’s count.

—Any measure that can be taken to fund benefits should take first priority.

—Administration should not create a budget scenario that includes a salary/wage reduction.

—Utilize natural attrition of staff as the first option for a reduction in staff.

—Be considerate of personnel decisions with primary grades and core academic subjects.

—Maintain a minimum of $180,000 for capital projects, with technology included among the projects.

—Food service shall receive no subsidy from the general fund.

—Begin researching the process for a mill levy or bond election in November 2010.

—Investigate a volunteer program for the schools to support staff.

—Provide more communication about the budget both internally and externally including: budget decisions from prior years, additions, identify cuts and what was protected and how budget decisions match the budget and facilities committee’s priorities and the board’s budget parameters.


Few calendar changes proposed

Two calendar options for 2010-11 were presented for review at last week’s board meeting, with both showing very little change from the 2009-10 calendar. One calendar will be recommended April 6, with board approval set for April 20.

Both calendar options maintain 173 student days, 190 teacher contract days, President’s Day break on Friday of State Wrestling and a half day to end each semester.

Both slot student start-day at Thursday, Aug. 19. Option 1 has four days for staff before students start, while Option 2 has three. Calendar Option 1 notes staff and student last day on Thursday, May 26, while Option 2 sets the end date at Friday, May 27.

Both options note a Friday vacation day in March, aligned with the state basketball tournament.

Calendar 1 sets a one-day inservice on Monday, Jan. 3, with students returning Tuesday, Jan. 4. Option 2 gives two inservice days (Jan. 3-4), with students returning Wednesday, Jan. 5.


Other business

In other business March 16, the Re-1J board:

­—accepted the resignation of HHS social studies teacher John Ortner, effective at the end of the current school year.

—approved Rod Trumper as an assistant HS boys’ and girls’ track coach for 2009-10.

—held a 45-minute executive session at the close of the meeting for discussion involving the high school principal and the school’s current approach to student discipline.

—discussed the Emerald Award program scheduled April 16 to honor three staff members with the Heart Award, Innovator of the Year and Leader Among Us honors.