G’town school board’s 1.3% tax hike’s still iffy

GERMANTOWN—The Board of Education made decisions about large amounts of money and important school policy at a special meeting April 22.

The board fine-tuned the 2015-2016 district budget by adding $2,000 to support the school’s Odyssey of the Mind teams. This year, in only the school’s second year of participating in Odyssey, the Pandora’s Box team won second place at the state competition and is going on to the World Finals at Michigan State University May 20-23.

A flyer handed out at last weekend’s Odyssey car wash and bake sale describes Odyssey of the Mind as “an international creative problem-solving competition that focuses on developing students’ leadership abilities and spontaneous thinking through exposure to the arts and engineering.”

With the Odyssey grant, the district’s budget stands at $14,502,850. At this time the tax levy would be 1.37%, but the minutes of the April 22 meeting report board president Ron Moore saying that the board had not made a final decision on the levy and would discuss it further at the May 13 meeting.

The board voted unanimously to put the budget before district voters Tuesday, May 19. The Public Hearing on the budget is Wednesday, May 6 at 6:30 p.m. in the elementary school music room.

The board next unanimously adopted a resolution to put before district voters on Thursday, June 11 a capital project consisting of two propositions. Proposition No. 1 authorizes renovations and improvements to the central school building at a total estimated maximum cost of $5,966,136. The plan calls for $500,000 of the district’s Capital Reserve Fund to be used on the renovations, and the remaining $5,466,136, “or as much of that as is necessary,” would be raised by taxes on property in the district.

Proposition No. 2 authorizes the district to construct an addition to the central school building that would contain an auditorium and a band room, with all the furnishings and equipment that go with them, for a total estimated maximum cost of $5,415,920.This would be raised by a tax levy.

If Proposition No. 1 does not pass, then Proposition No. 2 cannot happen, even if voters approve it.

Polls will be open from noon to 9 p.m. Qualified voters are U.S. citizens 18 and older who have been permanent residents of the district for 30 days prior to the referendum. Absentee ballots are permitted; those who wish to vote absentee must apply at the office of the district clerk.

In the matter of the Common Core curriculum, “after much discussion,” according to the minutes, the board unanimously adopted a resolution that calls upon the state commissioner of education and the Board of Regents to end the “over-reliance” on standardized tests as a measure of student performance and principal and teacher effectiveness.

The resolution also calls upon the U.S. Congress and administration to overhaul the “No Child Left Behind Act” and reduce federal testing mandates.

The resolution came at the prompting of board member Jeremy Smith. Working with two district teachers, he had drafted a letter with similar content, but the board decided on the resolution.

“I’m pro Common Core,” Mr. Smith said Tuesday, as he has said during school board meetings. “As I understand it, the Common Core curriculum makes students think about what they’ve read and why. It makes them do in school what we do as adults, taking an analytical approach to questions and answers.

“I also support testing,” said Mr. Smith. “But it’s a grave mistake to place so much emphasis on testing,” he said, recalling that his late wife, Cynthia, a district teacher and school board member, would have a “great class, and then a lousy one. Yes, if kids consistently fail as they go through a particular class, then look at that teacher. But testing of students should be 20% or 25% of a teacher’s assessment, not 50%.

“I just think that the state and others have screwed up Common Core,” he concluded, “with not enough time to introduce it, not enough training for teachers. The state needed to make parents understand the difference between the old system and the new system, and they didn’t do that.

“But we must learn from our mistakes and move on,” he said.

 

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