CASD Approves Fifth Grade Report Card, 2014-15 Budget

CLEARFIELD – Despite debate Monday night, the Clearfield Area School District Board of Directors voted, 5-3, to approve next year’s fifth grade report card.

Board members Mary Anne Jackson, Larry Putt, Dr. Michael Spencer, Jennifer Wallace and Tim Morgan voted in favor. Board members Gail Ralston, Rod Rishel and Susan Mikesell opposed the same.

Last week, Bruce Nicolls, director of curriculum and instruction, presented the administration’s recommendation for the fifth grade report card for next school year.

He said it’d been recommended for the fifth grade to utilize the same report card format as kindergarten through the fourth grade. Then, for 2015-16, he said, it’d been recommended for the sixth grade to utilize the same format.

Also, last week, Ralston expressed concerns about students not getting assessed for library skills under “related arts.” She pointed out the district has a library curriculum, which could be brought up-to-date.

During his administrative report Monday night, Nicolls indicated he’d discussed the possibility of library skills assessments with the library staff. He said the library staff opposed assessing the students for two reasons.

First, he said the library staff felt it spent very little time with the students as compared to classroom teachers; plus, the library staff felt there would be too many students that they would be asked to assess.

Secondly, Nicolls said the library staff pointed out that students are assessed in library skills in their reading and language arts courses. The library staff, Nicolls said, felt if they assessed students, it would be done “out of context.”

Prior to the board’s vote, Jackson asked if there was any further discussion on the proposed fifth grade report card. Ralston expressed concerns about the “related arts” assessments for art, health/physical education, information technology and music.

Ralston said with the “related arts” becoming “planned,” 40-minute courses, she wanted the district to update the curriculums for each. She felt the proposed fifth grade report card wasn’t suitable for teachers, students and the current curriculum.

“[Before] in the fifth grade, they were assessed on physical education and computer applications and they were taught as a semester course,” said Ralston. “Now, they’ll be getting related arts once-a-week in a five-day rotation.

“. . . I think we need to look carefully and implement a planned curriculum. If they’ll be offered in a 40-minute period, I want our students to be benefiting from the increased time, and that’s only obtainable through curriculum with standards and evaluations.”

When asked, Nicolls said the students who are in kindergarten through the fourth grade aren’t assessed in “related arts.” He said the proposed fifth grade report card reflected the direction of the district and had been developed over the past year by a report card committee.

Although the sixth grade report card will not change next year, Nicolls said they are trying to prepare the fifth and sixth grade students for assessments they’ll have at future grade levels. Ralston said she still wasn’t on board with the proposed fifth grade report card.

After the board’s vote, Morgan said it was “split” and thought Superintendent Terry Struble should explore whether or not there should be any “tweaks” to the fifth grade report card. Nicolls noted that when “minor” changes are made, he typically doesn’t bring them to the board.

For example, he said sometimes teachers want to change wording or don’t get through as much material, and so they “gray out” affected assessment areas on the students’ report cards. These assessments, he explained, get postponed to a later grading period. Putt then asked Nicolls why he didn’t think the board should be notified of these instances.

Nicolls said he could ask for more notice of minor report card changes in the future. He said he was willing to bring any change before the board if they requested him to do so.

In other business, the board also approved its 2014-15 general fund budget without raising real estate taxes.

Business Administrator Sam Maney has projected the district’s revenues will be $33,249,807. He’s also projected its expenditures will be $36,560,438, resulting in a deficit of $3,310,631.

According to Maney, he initially projected a $2,548,425 budget deficit for the current-year. The district, he said, has already trimmed that budget deficit to $1,170,331, or by approximately $1.4 million.

Maney said the district is likely to further trim the projected deficit for the current-year. He said he’ll leave the books open for another 60 days while receivables come in.

When asked, Maney said he hadn’t changed any of the budget figures since his presentation of the tentative budget and was comfortable with that even though the state budget hasn’t been approved yet.

The board also approved the capital projects fund budget in the amount of $264,000; the capital projects fund/Clearfield High School in the amount of $1,295,437; the capital projects fund/Clearfield Elementary School in the amount of $3,139,575; and the cafeteria fund budget in the amount of $1,540,642.

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