Test scores are up!
OK, they're not up as much as Mormon Trail teachers, school board and administrators are looking for, but they are indeed on the upward trend, according to administrators' reports at last week's school board meeting.
"We've been designated a School in Need of Assistance," elementary principal Mike Snyder said, and added improving test scores is going to be an ongoing process. "Progress is being made. Our teachers are working extra hard. We're headed in the right direction."
Students in third through 11th grades are tested yearly for proficiency in reading, math and science. Secondary principal Steve Hunt reported increases in the numbers of students who tested proficient as they reach the higher classes.
"We keep working on it, and you see by 11th grade they are definitely improved," Hunt said, noting that the test scores for this year's 11th graders were almost all at or above the proficient level.
"Overall, teachers are doing a wonderful job and taking very serious efforts to improve assessment scores," MT superintendent Alan Miller said. "(Student scores) are not where we want to see them, but we're making progress and that's our goal."
Budget and taxes
Everybody should be happy when the tax levy drops. That is exactly what is happening with Mormon Trail School's tax levy. The MT board approved a budget for Fiscal Year 2014 that calls for a property tax levy of 15.03751 per thousand dollars of assessed value, a decrease of 1.45 from the current year's levy of 16.48929.
MT superintendent Alan Miller said the levy could go even lower, depending on the legislature's final decision on "allowable growth."
School districts must certify their budgets by April 15, whether or not the State Legislature has completed their school funding appropriations for the year. When the legislature sets an allowable growth limit, the school's budget may be changed.
Miller said part of the reason for the lower levy is a state mandate that schools must spend some of their cash reserve. He said as those reserves are spent, the district will have to increase the levy again.
The board approved a master contract with the Mormon Trail Education Association which will give certified staff a 3.5 percent increase in their total compensation package, along with some language changes in the master contract. The base salary will be $34,880.
The new wording allows up to 10 days of family leave, with the first five days granted by the school district, the second five days from the employee's accrued sick leave. Beginning with those who are hired for the 2013-2014 school year, the district will no longer contribute $110 per month toward either family medical insurance or a tax-sheltered annuity. This benefit will continue for those insured employees who were hired before 2013. Miller said the district saved $6,000 in costs for negotiation because the district and the MTEA negotiated the contract without looking for outside assistance.
The board also approved salary recommendations for classified staff they received at a previous meeting, including pay increases ranging from 20 cents per hour to $1 per hour, based on years of service and amount of responsibility in their job. An extra personal day was granted to Hunt and Snyder.
The board approved a transfer of funds to pay the upcoming principal and interest payments on the bonds for building construction completed in 1993-1994 in both Humeston and Garden Grove. When this payment is made in May, only one year will remain on those bonds and the plan is for the buildings to be completely paid for in 2014.
Miller requested board approval of a resolution asking for a state waiver to start school before the first week of September. He explained this is another matter the legislature has not acted on, but it is important for the district to have this request completed properly.The board approved the early start date resolution.
The board approved a full-time contract for Kayla Rameriz for next year. She has been teaching math and Spanish classes in a sharing agreement with Clarke Community. Miller and Hunt said interest in Spanish classes have increased with her on board. "She is the kind of teacher we want to build programs around," Miller said.
Pending completion of remaining graduation requirements, fourteen seniors were recommended for graduation. The board approved.
Snyder reported spring sports are in full swing, with track and golf coaches "pretty happy" with the way athletes are stepping up and taking responsibility.
Hunt reported "really good attendance for parent-teacher conferences, as usual." He also said the job shadowing day was a wonderful experience for the students, who visited a wide variety of workplaces.
Miller commented on the district's "great teachers, great kids and great staff."