Broken Bow School Board discusses Special Education Program at Work Session

BROKEN BOW—After a full evening of activities at Broken Bow Public Schools, the School Board met for a work session on Monday. Students, teachers, and families celebrated the Academic Wall of Fame as well as Spring and Fine Arts End of Year Banquets. No decisions were made at the work session but the board and new superintendent Darren Tobey dove into a variety of topics.

Tobey had previously recommended a classified salary increase before learning of the salary schedule based on years of experience. He recommended terminating the schedule and allowing administration to determine yearly increases. If all classified staff received a two percent raise, it would come to about $32,000. A formal vote will be made at the May 21 meeting.

“Terminate the classified salary schedule–get rid of it completely and then give our administrative team the option to give out up to a two percent raise for our classified staff,” Tobey said.

Special Education (SPED) Director Nikki Altig gave an update on the program, comparing numbers from this year and last year; last year 163 students were verified for SPED and 171 have been verified so far this year, with more pending. As a whole, numbers of verified students have increased for younger kids and decreased for older kids.

“We’ve just had a big increase. Our babies are up five, our 0-3, our preschoolers are up seven, and our school age right now is currently down four. So it’s just more of that early intervention, there’s a lot of it in our community, a lot of need for that,” Altig said.

The board discussed the increase in younger kids being SPED verified is likely do to more awareness of the importance of early intervention.

Each student has a plan and his/her goals must continually be tracked and updated to determine progress. Altig explained two types of SPED evaluations: initial evaluation and verification testing, which is done every three years for a student. She said there are 13 different categories/verifications a student could qualify for, which would then determine his/her individualized plan.

“Physical therapy, occupational therapy, speech, anything. They really are allowed to kind of have anything they want. There’s not a whole lot of criteria because the whole philosophy is early intervention—get the services in there, get it turned around right away so you don’t have to try to fix it on the back end,” Altig said.

Tobey emphasized that the district is also responsible for serving babies in the community, before they even enter a school building. Federal and state laws are “strict and complicated” according to Tobey, but the school is reimbursed for approximately 46% of certain SPED services.

The board reexamined the HOSA program (presented by CAPABLE and hospital staff at the last meeting) and recommended paying instructor Susie Smith an hourly rate up to a certain amount the first year as the program is established for students interested in the medical field. The board will vote officially on HOSA next meeting, as well as a recommendation to increase lunch prices $0.10.

The school board discussed an interest in assisting the music boosters with new band uniforms in the amount of $20,000, with the understanding the money comes out of the Activities Fund. The timeline remains in question, as does the purchase/refurbishment of a new bus. Painting the activities building and adding new gutters will cost approximately $14,000 and is still part of the summer maintenance plan.

Another lengthy discussion centered on the Broken Bow standards-based grading scale. The system was implemented more than 10 years ago and according to Kim Jonas, it measures what students know and what they can do. The system utilizes an 80-20 program in which assessments are worth 80% of a student’s grade and homework/daily work is worth 20%. Elementary Counselor Mary Jane Garner presented numbers to the board giving examples of how homework and testing can be weighted differently.

The goal is that homework will serve as a way for students to practice what they need to know for testing. Jonas, Rusty Kluender, and Altig said this system is more rigorous and that many local colleges prefer it. Discussion included the importance of practicing skills, teaching strong study habits, and how much a student has learned is measured. No decisions were made.

The meeting adjourned at 9:36 p.m. and the next regular school board meeting will be held on Monday, May 21 at 7:30 p.m.