Friday, September 20, 2013

School Board Lowers Tax Rate Again

At the September 19 School Board meeting, the Board set the tax rate at $5.5229 down from $5.5333 one year ago. This is the second year in a row the Board has elected to lower the overall tax rate.  Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Support Services Mr. Marc Snow says the reductions the past two years are possible because of increased assessed valuations.  “The operating levy has gone down as assessed valuations have begun to rebound since the start of the recession. The Board feels the right thing to do at this time is reduce the overall tax rate. In doing so, the debt service levy remains the same.”

In other Board action this month, the Board approved the annual program evaluation for technology.  Director of Technology Mr. Nick Gooch highlighted several accomplishments of the department in the past year, including a new work order system that has improved response time to work orders.  A new call center with technology contractor K12ITC handles a high percentage of the work orders.  Other technology accomplishments include the addition of 100 Chromebooks for student use at the high school.  Teachers can check out sets of Chromebooks through the library. In addition, all elementary schools, middle schools, and the high school are fully wireless, and bandwidth has been increased.

Technology department goals for the next year include the transition to Google Apps for Education, making possible the use of cloud storage and student email accounts for middle school and high school students.  The district will also change their domain name to “” from “” to simplify email addresses.  The previous domain will continue to work as well. “We will increase the use of mobile technology in the classrooms, including laptops and handhelds,” reports Mr. Gooch.  The technology department is exploring the next generation of interactive technology in the classroom.  Looking past the year ahead, Mr. Gooch sees the need to increase fiber optic capacity and continue the transition to voice over IP in all schools to improve communication within the district.

The Board approved the audit report on the review of finances for the 2012-2013 school year. Westbrooke and Company conducted this year's audit.  Highlights from the audit reveal: The district saved $500,000 in interest by refinancing two previous school bond issues and maintains the recommended three month reserves. No weaknesses or deficiencies were noted. Recommendations included a formal review and approval process for fundraisers, which the district has already initiated this fall.  Diane Closerman of Westbrooke and Company reported to the Board, "The administrators are responsive to any recommendations we make."

Matthews Principal Mr. James Pinney shared a video presentation with the Board highlighting the work teachers are doing to improve writing skills in students.  Students write every day, write on many topics and genre, and are receiving coaching from their teacher on how to as improve writers.

In the report from the administration, the Board heard from Assistant Superintendent for Academic and Student Services Dr. Brad Welle, that several teachers representing grades K-12 are working on revisions to the English Language Arts curriculum to make changes associated with the state’s new standards.  “These teachers are being introduced to a curriculum development process that is new to them, but they are picking it up and finding early success with it,” reports Dr. Welle.  The new units of study are expected to be ready for elementary teachers and secondary English Language Arts teachers next fall.