School Board Selects New Junior High Math

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Members of the Hillsboro School Board met in person at the unit office on Tuesday, May 12, for the first time since March–the last week before schools were closed across the state.

In addition to all seven board members and unit office staff, district administrators were the only ones physically present; the meeting was live-streamed on Facebook for the public.

To combat a trend in which too few junior high students have met or exceeded state averages on standardized test scores over the past five years, the board adopted a new junior high math curriculum, “Into Math.”

“This has nothing to do with our math teachers at the junior high,” district curriculum director Hope McBrain said.  “Our math staff is great.  This has to do with the curriculum,” she added, pointing out that the “Engage New York” curriculum is not as robust at the seventh and eighth grade level.  “From the get-go, there were some gaps.”

The new curriculum costs $68,237 for a seven-year contract.  It is not text book-based, but that is one of it’s assets, McBrain felt. “I do think this program is very rigorous, and it provides more support for the students.”

Junior high assistant principal Blake Lipe, participating by phone, said the new curriculum “offers a ton of different options for our students to learn at home.  For me, that was one of the biggest selling points.”  Junior high math teachers Mary Ellen Mathews and Heidi Olson also added thumbs up to the discussion by phone.

First discussed during the March meeting, the board approved a free “choose love” curriculum developed in response to the Sandy Hook school shooting.  

The curriculum focuses on courage, gratitude, forgiveness and compassion, and includes lessons on character education, positive psychology, mindfulness, neuroscience and emotional intelligence.

“It is a free curriculum,” McBrain said.  “It doesn’t cost us anything and has a lot of professional development included.”

School fees and breakfast and lunch prices will remain the same next school year, the board decided after adopting minimal changes to next year’s student handbook. Down the road, however, Superintendent David Powell said he may ask the board to consider “all free” lunches for kindergarten through fifth grade students.

During the meeting, the board approved a resolution to sell $2.274 million in working cash bonds, sold to an up-state school district.  

“In the backward world we live in, we have school districts that have so much excess money they can invest it,” the superintendent said, “and districts like us that have to borrow.”

As in recent years, the board has used working cash funds to shore up deficits in other funds, primarily the Education Fund. Powell said the interest rate will allow the district’s bond tax levy rate to drop.

“We got some outstanding bids on the bonds,” bond agent Kevin Hyde of Stifel said via speaker phone of interest rates averaging 1.68 percent–2.27 percent counting fees.

The board adopted a meeting schedule for the next year, keeping regular meetings on the second Tuesday of each month, beginning at 7 p.m. at the unit office. Exceptions are the September and December meetings which will be on the third Tuesday of those months.

The superintendent began the meeting noting that $125,000 more money in pre-K grants has been approved for next year when Coffeen School becomes a pre-K-only site.

After a closed session, the board approved the retirement of custodian Roy Segrest, and accepted the resignation of three teachers and three coaches:  Zach Friedrichs resigned as Beckemeyer PE teacher, Jamie Trader as Coffeen fifth grade teacher, John Sertich as high school business teacher, Bob Allen as high school baseball coach, Chase Connor as high school JV boys basketball coach, and Mike Koniak as eighth grade boys basketball coach.

Kyle McBrain was hired to teach junior high PE and will fill two of the coaching vacancies, in high school baseball and eighth grade boys basketball.  Bob Allen was then hired to fill two previous coaching vacancies, as high school girls golf coach and high school boys track coach.  Tom Lunz was hired as high school scholar bowl sponsor, and Blake Malloy as district courier. All remaining fall, winter and spring sports coaches were re-hired by the board with “no” votes from board members Bryce Rupert and Dan Tester.

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