The Houston School Board met for its regular meeting at 6 p.m. on Thursday, December 21, 2017, in the library of Houston Public High School. In attendance were Superintendent Abraham and Board Members Bonner, Wilson, Stillin, Evenson, Lundak, and Carlson. Following the Pledge of Allegiance, the board unanimously approved the meeting’s agenda and passed a resolution to move into a closed meeting for negotiation strategy. The board then opened the meeting to public comment, of which there was none. Next, the board looked at the meeting’s consent agenda, which included one hiring memo and three leave requests, all for Minnesota Virtual Academy. Board member Bonner requested some clarification and organization regarding the listing of names district seniority list, which was also included as part of the consent agenda. Board member Lundak noted that those on the list with a different listing were those employees still on a probationary status, and the consent agenda was passed unanimously.
The board then moved on to discussion items, looking at a presentation from Houston High School Prinicpal Todd Lundberg regarding a continuous math program. Lundberg presented materials for the seventh and eighth grade program, noting that knowledge progression under the program has been very encouraging: “48.3% of the seventh graders are now over 50% of the material done, and we said they need to get at least to 80%, and that’s where they’ll meet all the standards, before they can take the final.” Lundberg also mentioned that 45% of eighth graders are at the same 50% completion mark, and that they are hoping to get those numbers over 50% by the end of the semester. Lundberg also told of one eighth grader who passed the 80% mark, already took the final, and had the teacher contact the student’s parents asking if the child would want to move on to the next level with high school level geometry. Lundberg said that student will be moving up, and that two seventh graders are in the 90% completion area but want to finish more of the work before taking the final.
“These kids, we’re not holding them back… they’re ready to go on to the next level,” Lundberg said, excited.
Board member Carlson asked if eighth graders who are moving up to high school geometry will have to move into a different class or can continue working within this system, and Lundberg replied that they will stay within the current program while moving up. Carlson asked if the students can stay in the program longer, and Lundberg said they are looking to stop the continuous program around the algebra III/pre-calculus level, where a student may need more direct work with a physical teacher. Lundberg then reported that the teachers have been in favor of the individualized pacing of the system, allowing each student to work on what they are ready for when they are ready for it. Lundberg also told the board that the system allows for better integration for new students, as they are able to jump into the program at whatever knowledge level they may be at the time. Lundberg did report some bumps in the road for special education students, but that the school is working to change and adapt the program to meet their needs as well. Bonner asked what the plan was for beyond eighth grade, and Lundberg replied that the plan is for a slow integration into the geometry program into the next year. State law requires the teaching of algebra for the eighth grade year, Lundberg reported, and allowing the students to approach it at their own pace helps make the law work and the students learn at the same time.
The board then discussed charters for different board committees. Abraham reported that she and Board member Bonner had worked on making the charters consistent, along with making changes for consistency and by request. The board debated committee meeting schedules, when to call meetings, and who can call meetings in the case of emergency. The charters will appear on the next board agenda for approval. The board then looked at old business, approving the certified 2017 Levy payable in 2018, reducing the tax rate to .56 and approving eight different policies regarding board procedure and meeting order after having a second reading. The board also approved keeping the meeting scheduled to 6 p.m. on Thursdays, scheduling an organizational meeting for January 4. In new business, the board approved two resolutions regarding funding gaps in special education, going on the record as the district favoring support at the state and federal level for increased funding for special education programs. The Houston School Board will meet for its next regular meeting at 6 p.m. on January 4, 2018, in the library of Houston Public High School.