— By TYLER MASK
Tuesday night, Mineral Wells ISD School Board convened in a regular meeting to discuss the remaining days in the current school year and to look forward into next year. From bad weather days and electronic cigarette usage on district property to adoption of the calendar for the 2014-15 school year and new textbooks, a wide array of subjects were covered.
Many children dream of snow days, especially during school; however, few – staff included – enjoy “makeup days,” Mineral Wells ISD Superintendent Gail G. Haterius said.
This past winter, MWISD accrued four bad weather days, which occurred on Dec. 6, 9, 10, and Feb. 6.
According to Haterius, school districts in Texas must build two makeup days for school closures into their adopted school calendar. If dates for the designated makeup days have already passed, schools are still required to make up at least two of the scheduled instructional days lost. Makeup days must be at least seven hours in length, including intermissions and recesses.
The scheduled makeup days for MWISD are April 18, and May 23, and it’s very important that every student goes to school on these days, Haterius said.
“If parents don’t make sure their kids are in school, it really hurts us because it hurts our attendance, and that’s how we get funding from the state,” Haterius said. “We hate that, but those are the rules, and that’s how we are funded.”
However, makeup days are not the only immediate concern the board shared at the meeting, as electronic cigarettes have become a problem on campus.
“As you know, we are having more of the electronic vaping going on,” Haterius said. “We had written signs for our stadium in the fall, [forbidding use] there, but we have had some of this going on, on our campuses.”
In direct response to this problem the board approved a proposed revision to one of its policies dealing with conduct on school premises.
The ultimatum regarding the e-cigarettes revision reads, “The District prohibits the use of electronic cigarettes or any other electronic vaporizing device on District property at all times.”
In certain instances, or if individuals fail to comply, principals and other designated employees are authorized to:
• Refuse entry onto school grounds to persons who do not have legitimate business at the school.
• Request any unauthorized person or any person engaging in unacceptable conduct to leave the school grounds.
• Request assistance of law enforcement officers in cases of emergency.
• Seek prosecution for violations of law as permitted by statute.
The school board spent the latter half of the meeting discussing the future of MWISD, starting with the approval of the 2014-15 calendar.
State law requires school districts to provide 180 instructional days per school year. To meet these requirements, MWISD District Educational Improvement Council created three working calendars as a starting point. Last night, DEIC’s preferred calendar was presented to the board and was approved as the official calendar for the 2014-2015 school year.
“There wasn’t much difference between any of them because of all the the things that lock you in,” MWISD Assistant Superintendent Jay Walsworth said.
“If you see, the first semester [is] shorter if you actually count days, but there are usually about 17 testing days [in the second semester],” Haterius said. “Even though [the second semester is longer], you actually have less time. And at the junior high and senior high levels, kids are gone so much with spring sports, too, so, actually – even though you’ve got more days – your second semester is probably shorter in actual teaching time than the fall semester.”
In preparing the school calendar, the following state law requirements were followed:
• Must start classes the fourth Monday in August (Aug. 25).
• Must contain 180 school days – districts can obtain waivers for up to five instructional days for the purpose of professional development.
• Must have 187 days for teachers; 175 instructional days (minimum); 12 staff development days (maximum).
• Must have two inclement weather days.
Another key topic discussed for next year was the textbook adoption process.
The following subjects will receive new textbooks in the 2014-15 school year:
• Mathematics, grades kindergarten-eight.
• Mathematics (Spanish), grades kindergarten-five.
• Science, grades kindergarten-12.
• Science (Spanish), grades kindergarten-five.
• Technology Applications, grades kindergarten-12.
Teams between two and four teachers per grade level were chosen to participate in the textbook selection process, MWISD Director of Curriculum/Instruction/Assessment Carey Carter said.
Teachers attended a vendor fair in the fall through the Region 11 Educational Service Center. Following the meeting, they met and narrowed down the options to materials that addressed 100 percent of the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills.
Teachers then completed a rubric to evaluate material and narrowed down the list to two options per subject/grade level.
To further aide in the decision making, publisher representatives came to campus for question and answer sessions.
In the end, meetings were held where teachers could discuss the materials across the grade levels, and recommendations were made.
No action was necessary, as the presentation was strictly informational; however, students, instructors and parents looking for new material have something to look forward to in the coming school year.
In other business, the school board approved:
• Certification of unopposed candidates for May 10 election.
• Order of cancellation for May 10 election.
• State accountability – student/community engagement and compliance. (A House Bill 5 requirement).
• Proposed Skyward contract. (Skyward is one of two state-preferred student information systems with a state contract. MWISD currently uses TxEIS).
• Mineral Wells Junior High Network request for proposal. (Tower Connect was rated the best to set up Mineral Wells Junior High’s new digital infrastructure).
• Purchase of real property – Lamar, MWJH. (The district was approached by two separate parties regarding a plot of land by the new Lamar Elementary and the other regarding a plot of land by the junior high).