Danville board backs restructuring at North Ridge

Danville board backs restructuring at North Ridge

DANVILLE — Danville school board members on Wednesday threw support behind a restructuring plan aimed at boosting instruction and student achievement at North Ridge Middle School.

The plan calls for partnering with Solution Tree of Bloomington, Ind., to establish professional learning communities at the school and change its overall governance and management and instructional systems.

The price tag: Up to $22,000 to contract with Solution Tree for training and $45,000 for professional development materials, consultants and stipends for teachers. Officials said North Ridge is set to become a Title 1 school, and funding would come mainly from federal Title 1 money.

"It fits perfectly within the middle school concept," Bletzinger said of the professional learning communities, which school leaders across the country are using to change their school's environment.

The plan calls for training staff in late August, and implementing grade-level teams and starting professional development activities in the fall semester. Professional development activities would continue in the spring semester, the following summer and the 2013-14 school year.

Some objectives will include incorporating learning strategies into daily lesson planning to help children who aren't meeting standards and improving assessments across all curricular areas and implementing a social curriculum throughout the school.

Also at the meeting, the board approved piloting a standards-based report card for K-2 students next year.

The cards, which are aligned with the Common Core State Standards, will list specific skills in English/language arts and math that students are expected to know. The cards for first- and second-graders will use number ratings to denote students' achievement level in each content area. Four means exceeds standard, 3 means meets standard, 2 means approaching and 1 means below.

Some board members pushed for including overall letter grades — "A," "B," "C," etc. — for English and math, saying it would help ease the transition to the new card for students and parents. However, teachers and administrators insisted they should be left out.

"An "A" is meaningless," North Ridge teacher Clint Cunningham said, adding students, parents and teachers should focus on learning deficits, which the cards will clearly point out, and work on improving them. If letter grades are included, "most of the parents will see "A" or "B," and there (still) will be deficits, but they won't matter."

In other business, the board approved adopting a 10-point grading scale for the elementary and middle schools. Teachers in those levels requested using the scale, which the high school has used for a few years, largely for consistency's sake and to avoid any confusion among students and parents.

The board also approved moving forward with purchasing the former Holy Family School so that the district can move forward with necessary improvements needed to move the alternative education programs into that building.

The district will pay the Holy Family parish $120,000 in earnest money. That money and the $18,000 in rent will go toward the purchase price of $246,200. The parish will demolish the original St. Patrick's School on the west end of the property, and the district will need to make improvements to the newly exposed outer wall and add a wheelchair ramp to a west entrance.