Beaver Local board OKs teachers pact

LISBON – The Beaver Local Board of Education officially accepted a contract that led to an uninterrupted first two weeks of school rather than a walkout by teachers. The new master agreement between the district and members of the Beaver Local Education Association, effective Sept. 1 through Aug. 31 of 2016, was unanimously approved at the board’s meeting Monday evening.

The measure passed with no discussion beyond a brief comment from board member Greg Eisenhart, who presided at the meeting for the vacationing President John Campbell, before the vote. “I’d like to say that there’s been a lot of hard work on both sides, and we’re glad to have this agreement in place,” he said.

Along with approval of the contract itself came a first reading of the standards-based teacher evaluation policy, which, in its originally-submitted form, had caused substantial discord between members of the board and teachers during weeks leading up to the initial settlement announced on July 27.

The policy will serve as the blueprint Beaver Local’s implementation of the Ohio Teacher Evaluation System, which is compulsory for school districts in the state beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. BLEA members objected to language contained within the initial version of the policy, particularly that which asserted that the policy had been developed in consultation with teachers.

Alterations to the policy include changes to the assessment of student growth, which originally stated that students with 60 or more unexcused absence days during a given school year was ineligible to be factored into the assessment pool for that year. It has been changed to exclude students with 25 percent of instructional days during the school year missed via absences both excused and unexcused.

Also changed was the wording of the teacher evaluation letter-grade key. Whereas it had been set out as A for “accomplished,” B for “proficient,” C for “developing” and D for “ineffective,” B will now equate to “skilled.”

Another revision comes with regulations starting in the 2015-2016 school year that require teachers who have received a D “ineffective” evaluation grade for two of the last three school years to complete a written examination in knowledge standards selected by the Ohio Department of Education. The original policy required teachers who pass these exams to complete professional development courses at their own expense. That cost is no longer the responsibility of the teacher.

In other matters, the board approved a district appropriations package for the 2013-2014 school year totalling $26,944,308.74. The figure includes $17,771,161.96 in general fund spending, $5,811,243.50 in the capital project fund (the bulk of which goes toward construction of the new K-12 school building) and $1,195,264.92 in bond retirement. The standing financial statement balance sits at $25,071,059.27.

Other fiscal matters included announcement that the district was ready accept quotes for the price of a new handicap-accessible bus, which Eisenhart said is being considered for purchase. The district presently runs a pair of ADA-compliant buses, which Barrett stressed have been inspected and approved but also ‘have seen their better days.”

In his report to the board, Superintendent Kent Polen said excavations of the new K-12 school site on Bell School Road are progressing swiftly, with no delay-causing problems cropping up beyond the removal of tree stumps. “They’re working six days a week, ten hours a day,” he said. “We’re moving along quite well.”

The meeting began with BLHS senior Zach Givens giving a recitation of an essay he wrote for the “Dear Mr. President” contest sponsored by Rand McNally during the school year past. Students were to write a letter to President Obama on the topic of their choice. Zach’s letter on education in America made it to the semi-finalist round of judging. “Giving our people a good education is a key to getting this country back on track,” he said.

With post-secondary education becoming more important with each passing generation, Zach suggested further assistance for parents with numerous children in the costs of putting them through college. He also highlighted the dual-credit classes available at local colleges through Beaver Local, giving students the opportunity to earn valuable college credits free of charge while still in high school. “I think the government should give every student the same opportunity,” he said.