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‘Schools haven’t kept up with the expectations…’

BALTIMORE – Concerns from some parents about Common Core Standards and the Race to the Top dominated the Sept. 9 Liberty Union-Thurston board meeting.

Race to the Top coordinator Holly Lavender, who is on a one year leave with the Ohio Department of Education, explained the Common Core Standards initiative. Schools haven’t kept up with the expectations for student improvement, she said. Global competition requires better prepared students.

In particular, she said high school reading isn’t keeping up. “Math and reading standards need to be beefed up,” Lavender said.

Common Core Standards only cover English/language arts and math. They are adopted on a state-by-state basis. Ohio adopted them in 2010.

“Curriculum is determined locally,” she added. Standards and curriculum are not the same thing. Curriculum is how the standards are achieved.

“We will be held accountable for higher achievement levels for our students,” Superintendent Paul Mathews added. “We want to accelerate the learning of our students.”

Several elementary school parents questioned the lack of focus on cursive writing. Elementary school principal Linda Rainey said cursive writing is still part of the curriculum. She suggested holding curriculum nights to help parents understand and support their efforts at home.

Lavender encouraged parents to ask questions. “If there is something you would like to see, just ask.”

Curriculum coordinator Ken Dille said the district is moving to the teacher as the instructor rather than the text. That places more emphasis on individual teacher creativity rather than less as several parents feared.

“We are changing because things have changed in the world,” Lavender emphasized.

“We want to do a better job,” Mathews added. He said Race to the Top provided about $25,000 a year in additional funding. Most of it was spent on substitutes to free up teachers for additional training. The district’s participation has given it a head start in meeting the new standards that apply to all districts whether they took advantage of the additional funding or not.

In other business Sept. 9, architect Michael Paplow of Feinknopf, Macioci Schappa Architects presented a Leadership in Energy & Environmental Design or L.E.E.D. award to the district.

“Our goal for the district was to achieve silver ranking for the high school renovation and the new middle school,” Mathews said.

In spite of the challenges of a renovation, the high school achieved silver status. The middle school achieved gold status. “We scored 45 points which is tough to do,” Paplow said. The new school is heated and cooled by an extensive geothermal well system. No fuel, other than electricity to pump the water from the wells to heat exchangers and back, is used for heating or cooling.

In personnel matters, board members approved the retirements of maintenance supervisor Kenneth Kosch and maintenance helper Robert Hendershot, both effective Dec. 31. School nurse Janelle Cochran’s contract was terminated for abandoning her job. She has not been in contact with anyone in the district since school resumed. Joe Muck’s resignation as the sixth-grade outdoor educator was accepted. Supplemental contracts were approved for:

• John Joyce – Varsity Boys Basketball;

• James Peck – Freshman Volleyball;

• Elana Gallagher – National Honor Society;

• Marcus Alford – 6th Grade Outdoor Education;

• John Powles – High School Model U.N.; and

• Julius Poellintz – Cheerlead- ing.

Board members unanimously approved an addendum to the athletic handbook covering head injuries/concussion procedures. “A coach, parent or athlete cannot over-ride a physician’s or athletic trainer’s denial of participation for injury .”

Written physician releases will be required if athletes are referred to a physician.

The board’s next meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Monday, Oct. 14, in the district office.

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