New sex ed. teacher requirements
The Skagway School Board met on Tuesday, Aug. 30, for the first time in the 2016 -17 school year.
One of the topics on the agenda was setting up committee meetings and one committee in particular to assure the Sex Education course comply with the recently passed and hotly contested HB 156, which requires anyone teaching Sexual Education be vetted and all curriculum be approved by local school boards.
The bill focused largely on standardized testing. An added amendment introduced by Sen. Mike Dunleavy, R-Wasilla, regarding changes to Sex Education, stirred up controversy prompting many in the state to ask Gov. Bill Walker to veto the bill.
The law passed in July and requires state education authorities to work directly with school districts on a new statewide testing regime. It also bans the state from requiring school districts to administer a statewide standardized test until July 1, 2018, unless the federal government threatens to withhold funding.
The state skipped standardized testing last year due to technical glitches in the computerized delivery system.
“This is a change,” said School Board President John Hischer. “Sexual Education must be provided by a licensed teacher or supervised by a licensed teacher. And whoever that is, if they bring in somebody, that person’s credentials has to be made public and the school board has to approve it.”
“I think we will start at the Education Committee level to begin with and then bring it to the full board,” Hischer said to the agreement of the board.
Changes to annual report
School Superintendent Dr. Josh Coughran caught the board up on projects that were completed over the summer including the new carpet and lockers in the school. He also updated the board on higher enrolment numbers this year—a 16-year high, he said. “I had to go back to the 2000- 2001 school year where we counted 133 students that year,” he said. This school year began with 125 students.
Coughran also updated the board on the Education Committee meeting held in August. Committee members discussed adding “something more” to the School District Annual Report.
“Districts are required to submit a report card of sorts once a year that’s got some data associated with it, but there are several districts in the state who do a little bit more with that. And I think we should become one of those districts who do a little bit more with [the report], “ he said adding that he would like it to look my like a business prospectus with charts, graphs, pictures along with the narrative about the school.
“This could be someone we could send out to parents, something we could send to the CVB (Conventions and Visitors Bureau) … if there were people interested in coming to Skagway we could send it to them.” Coughran said. “I think it good PR, it also hold accountable for our data when we put it out there in a very public way.”
The committee will involve Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium (SEARHC), because it’s one of the services they provide, he said.
Record number of students in Advanced Placement
Coughran also announced there were more duel enrollment and advanced placement students than in previous years. Currently nine students are enrolled in 12 courses including: U.S. History, Chinese Philosophy, A.P. Literature, A.P. Statistics, and a Climate Change in Alaska course offered by UAA.
“Our kids are going for it, and it’s really exciting that they are moving on to the next level. Coughran said adding that there have been talks to offer Advanced Placement Computer Science courses at the school at some point in the future.
SAT fee reimbursement
Coughran also touched SAT fee reimbursement to encourage students to either take the SAT for the first time or retake the test for a higher score.
“I’m all for kids trying to improve on their future… on their outlook,” Coughran said.
Due to budget cuts, the state no longer pays for the SAT. One suggestion was made, that for families where money is tight, it might be more difficult for the family to wait to be reimbursed.
But it was agreed that there should be some accountability ensuring the students show up.
Students sign up to take the test in January or February when money can be tight for some families.
The board to pass the college readiness initiative but tabled the discussion on whether the district will prepay or reimburse students for the $65 test fee.
“I think it’s great that we are doing it,” said Board Member Cara Cosgrove. “I know when my kids went through this we told them to take it often as the could, just keep taking it keep taking it. I think it means something to colleges. They are looking at your best score.”
The scores help students in where they get accepted and with scholarships as well.
Early learning meet and greet
There will be an Early Learning event for preschoolers 0 to 5, at the Public Library from 11 a.m. to noon on Sept. 30. The event is to promote early reading and early childhood development. “There’s a good chance for parents to talk to kindergarten teachers and Dr. Coughran,” said Board President John Hischer.
The library is also kicking off a new program called 1,000 books before kindergarten. “It helps parents conceptualize how much reading you can do with your kid,” Hischer said. The program promotes reading three books a day to toddlers and preschoolers to get them ready for learning to read. “Repeating the same book is allowed, so that’ s good,” he added to the laughs and giggles of the rest of the board.
“There are a lot of parents of young children in town. It’s [going to be about] meeting them, hear what they have to say, and keep that conversation going.” Hischer said. – SA