West Elementary to be model

Plans include an extended year and hours and curriculum changes
Tuesday, April 13, 2004 | 12:00 a.m. CDT; updated 4:26 p.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 22, 2008

West Boulevard Elementary School will be restructured into a model school for next fall, Superintendent Phyllis Chase announced Monday at the Columbia Board of Education meeting.

Chase also further outlined the goals and ideas of the school, but said the staff and parents of the school would be the ones who ultimately decide West Boulevard’s top priorities.

“The principal and staff will fine-tune our model because I believe people support what they help create,” Chase said.

The model school will use an extended school year and extended hours to improve student achievement. A contract with parents to ensure their involvement and a staff selected by the principal based on commitment to the model’s ideas are also components of this new plan.

“Teachers at this school will get additional compensation because they will be working longer hours and extra days,” Chase said.

Curriculum will also change to incorporate more technology and integrate art, music, physical education and science into the general curriculum.

The district wanted to use a school where efforts to raise achievement can be readily seen.

Not alone

West Boulevard Elementary School was one of five in the Columbia Public School District identified by the state as struggling based on low standardized test scores. The school was the only one in the district in which the whole school was below adequate levels in both language arts and math last year.

Students of West Boulevard will continue to be those who live in its attendance area.

Administrators have begun, and will continue, to notify staff about the new positions. District officials are scheduled to meet with West Boulevard parents and post information on the Web site on Thursday.

The principal will be hired next week, and the rest of the staff will be hired before May 14.

The board was concerned about the building’s lack of air conditioning because the year will be extended into the hotter summer months. The district is considering putting air conditioners in each classroom.

The board also voted to issue teacher contracts as previously planned. These plans included no base pay raise but anticipate incremental increases based on experience and education. These increases will result in cutting 50 full-time positions because of the $8.7 million deficit the district has predicted.

But the issue didn’t end with that vote, and the board is once again considering increasing base pay and giving teachers an actual pay raise.

The withheld money released recently by Gov. Bob Holden, $2.87 million of which will go to Columbia Public Schools, and the budget recently passed by the House with additional education money brought the topic of pay raises back to the floor.

Further down the road

Earlier in the meeting, administrators presented plans for the withheld funds that addressed issues in the 2005-06 year, not next year. Deputy Superintendent Jacque Cowherd said this was because so much had already been decided and contracts already drawn up for the next year.

Jan Mees, president of the Columbia Community Teachers Association, made a plea to the board to act on the pay discussions they have had over the last years.

“When I heard on Friday about the released funds, I thought this was the perfect opportunity for the school board to finally add to teacher salaries,” she said. “Now is not the time to be conservative.”

Board member Elton Fay, who has been one of the biggest advocates of raising teacher salaries, made a motion to raise base pay by $200, and more if the state appropriates more to education.

Board member Kerry Crist seconded the motion, but the board decided to table it because it is “physically impossible” to draw up new contracts in time for the April 15 deadline.

Chase said administrators would come back to the board with new pay raise scenarios, especially since $200 could be a low estimate if discussions in the state continue like they have recently. The district can issue new contracts anytime before June 30.

The board also said it wanted to see a proposed wrestling facility at Hickman High School incorporated into a multipurpose facility. The board voted that if the Hickman Wrestling Booster Club raised enough money, the school district would provide extra money — about $143,800 — to add 1,320 square feet and a brick exterior.

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