Board of Education, June 2017

July 2nd, 2017  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
June 13, 2017

Present: Board members Alex Dykema, Todd Davidson, Annette Sutherland, Jeffrey Isaacs; Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings, Treasurer Bryan Christman. Board member William Clawson was absent.

The meeting was called to order by Board President Alex Dykema at 6 p.m. The minutes of the May 9. 2017, meeting were approved.

Dr. Hutchings acknowledged staff and students for special recognition, honors and awards. He mentioned the May 18 Service Tea held to recognize and honor staff and stated that three Shaker Heights High School students were National Merit Scholars in 2017. He said that Shaker had celebrated the 100th Anniversary of the first Shaker Heights High School graduation ceremony. Dr. Hutchings commented on the decorum of the audience at the recent commencement exercises—including some enthusiastic clapping, cheering, shouting and dancing. He indicated that even he had to be reminded to consider that not everyone is aware of what it may have taken for some of the families and their graduates to finally walk across the stage to receive a diploma from Shaker Heights High School.

There was no public comment on the agenda, but Mr. Dykema thanked the 500 individuals who had shared their thoughts and comments regarding a petition concerning the science curriculum. He indicated that a responsive statement had been issued by the Board and that the Board would be working to develop a stronger K-4 science curriculum with updates to be issued as they were developed.

Updates were provided by several students and the superintendent regarding the superintendent’s Student Advisory Council. It is one of several groups of students meeting to consider proposals and projects.

A personalized, online, community-based calendar for students, parents, and the community to include assignment schedules, a timeline of events involving sports, clubs and other activities to help parents and students stay informed, organized and connected is in the planning stages. A follow-up will be done in August to determine interest and demand.

A group is working on an initial concept and pilot program to allow students to switch schedules. Groups of 10-20 students could swap schedules between Honors, AP and general classes. The goal would be to open discussion and communication regarding diversity, class assignments and possibly how the same teacher may act or interact in different classes. Dr. Hutchings said that he may even disguise himself as sort of an undercover boss to be a substitute teacher for a day. Schedule plans may be completed by 2018.

Another group is contemplating research regarding class sizes at the high school and the effectiveness of reducing class size, which currently averages about 25 students per class. Minority and inner-city students seem to gain the most from smaller class sizes. Any such reductions may require more teachers and space. The next steps would involve collecting student performance evaluations and research relevant to geographic, racial and economic factors.

The majority of the items for approval on the published agenda involved action on personnel matters, such as new appointments, changes in assignments, temporary employees, special assignments and resignations, all of which were approved and are listed in detail on the published agenda. Some of the new employees were in attendance and were introduced at the meeting.

Business items reported, recommended by the Superintendent and approved by the Board:

  • Replacement of the ceiling in the Middle School Cafeteria. The cost of the project and qualifications of the bidder were considered before requesting authorization of the contract.
  • Procurement of furniture as a pilot program involving 10 classrooms at Boulevard, Fernway, Lomond, Mercer, Onaway, Woodbury, the Middle School and the High School. Furniture will be installed over the Thanksgiving recess so that an evaluation may be made concerning how the furniture impacts students. Some classroom spaces may or may not accommodate 21st-century furniture, lighting, acoustics and the learning environment. Students, teachers and work groups will test the furniture during the pilot project.
  • The Board approved a second one-year contract with AVI Foodsystems of Warren, Ohio, to provide food service for grades Pre-K through 12 for the 2017-2018 school year.

Treasurer Bryan Christman presented financial and budget reports and the Board approved the adoption of the 2017-2018 Temporary Annual Appropriations (details of each financial report are included as exhibits to the published agenda available online). Mr. Christman reported on some budget negotiations of the Ohio General Assembly, which may and always have impacted local school districts.

Superintendent’s Report on the status of the Shaker Heights Schools’ Strategic Plan:

Dr. Hutchings reported that the scope and vision of the Equity Task Force was expanding from original concerns and issues regarding racial disparity to include matters involving international families, gifted learners, LGBTQ students, special education students, and the under-representation of students of color in higher level courses. Dr. Hutchings said that he really wanted his team to understand the history of Shaker and its diversity from the 1950s to the present. Speaking about the 1950s and ’60s, he invited Joan Campbell (mother of former Cleveland Mayor Jane Campbell) to speak about her experiences and the impact of inviting Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. to speak at Heights Christian Church in Shaker. He invited an educator to speak about the plan that was developed in the 1970s to integrate the schools through parent cooperation to send their black children to white schools and white children to black schools. Dr. Hutchings stated that he wants to develop an understanding of where we were, how far we have come, and where we are going in the future. He stated that it’s time to revisit our goals, vision, mission and core values. Dr. Hutchings said that he is on the Board of the Minority Student Achievement Network founded in 1999.

The Board adjourned to Executive Session at about 7:15 p.m.
Lynn McClelland

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