PTO Meeting Minutes – February 23, 2017

8:15 Call to order

In attendance: Amy S., Dana Ellis, Gwen Burek, Sue Gehlert, Julie Poyton, Sarah Schulte, Robin Keys, Kristy Westnedge, Stasi York, Katie Hines, Margot Brown, Liza Weems, Diane Harpold, Amy Chan, Mary Pierce, Jessica Coulson, Julie Frieder

8:30 Katie Hines- Social Studies teacher, PTO Teacher Representative. Katie Hines is one of the 4 teacher reps to the PTO. She jokes that she is the historian of CMS. Ours was the first school to put an internet newspaper on line. It was called Vocal Point. We were written about in the Wall Street Journal. We had students come from Japan because CMS was so on the cutting edge of technology.

Right now teachers are getting ready for testing and conferences. They are trying not to stress the kids out. We are building schedules and electives for next year based on what the numbers look like for next year. Ms. Hines is starting an online class today for mindfulness for educators. This class will give tools for stress reduction and for encouraging achievement. Mindfulness is so important for kids. The District offers Smart Education, a mindfulness course. Schools are even using mindfulness instead of detention for kids. Katie found these online mindfulness schools. The online cost is approximately $125.

8:35 Principal Report, Dana Ellis

Ms. Ellis reports that right now our numbers are really up for next year—640 kids in the system right now. We often have some movement over the summer. We’ve been trying to stay in the last two years right around 630 which was a little higher than it was 3 years ago, so 640 is a little more than we’d want. It is all doable though. We are currently staffed at 620 kids. So, soon we’ll know how many teachers the district will give us.

Ms. Ellis is working with Boulder High School with their Latin and German teachers to figure out if our next year’s 8th graders can take Latin and German if they want to. If that happens, we will let parents know so that kids who want to take those classes can adjust their schedules.

Dr. Marc Schaffer at the District is working on our principal hire. Through the 24th parents can fill out that feedback form and indicate if interested in serving on hiring committee. Katie Hines talked about how the testing is gearing up. Today a link will go out to our community for parents to click on if they want to opt their kids out of testing. Please do that by next week if you intend to opt out your children. Stasi asks what it means if you are testing or not. Ms. Ellis says that children who do not test sit in a quiet room and read. School is not supposed to offer an advantage or disadvantage to kids who are not testing so theoretically they are not even supposed to be able to do homework. Margot asks how many kids have opted out so far. Dana says the numbers are rising. There is also a station set up at conferences to help parents who want to opt out. Currently we are at about 20%. Last year, our average was over 50% opt out. It is an excused absence if they opt out and don’t come to school.

Ms. Ellis is working on our YMCA before school programs. They are on a different director again. They keep moving on. Louisville and Dana are meeting with them next week. We want to be able to participate fully in the grants that are available for next year.

8:40 Business

  • Approve January meeting minutes
    Nobody has any additions or corrections to the January minutes. Ginger Barnes moved that we approve the minutes. Sue G. seconded the motion. All are in favor. The minutes are approved.
  • Survey—Gwen
    The PTO Executive committee decided it would be useful to survey our parent community with an eye toward finding out what they deem important so we can more focus our volunteer needs. She also is interested in finding out if a different meeting time or day might be helpful in getting more participation. Gwen has a draft link. Next step will be for Gwen to send it to the PTO exec committee. Then, the survey will go out in the next few weeks so we get direction on what parents think is important. This will go out through a survey monkey platform. Jessica asks if there will be a St. Baldricks question. Gwen says she will add that on to the survey specifically.
  • Vice President Position opening—Amy
    As part of the bylaws committee process, we have identified the need for a vice president position as the person who would after serving then transition into the president position the following term. We don’t have anyone in that position right now. It would be great to fill it before the end of the year. We do have a lead on someone who might be interested but we did want to put it out to the wider community. Duties are to support the president, help organize the transition from one year to the next, help with the election process of new committee members, and to transition to the president position. If anyone is interested, please let us know. There is also a past president position to help with smooth transitions.The person who does the Lucky’s cards is not able to continue in that position but she has a friend who may wish to step into that role. That is a great way to fill positions. Ask your friends!
  • SAC Family event—Robin.
    Robin says SAC will sponsor a community family event as a result of our climate survey. We want to further solidify the community. Dinner and family movie night on a Thursday evening in April. Date to be determined. Dinner will be from 5-6 and the movie from 6-8. Movie will be, at the highest, PG rated. We are trying to get a movie in Spanish with English subtitles. Robin thanks the PTO for sponsoring the food for the event. Monday the 27th is the next SAC meeting and they will finalize the details and get info out. They hope to get a way to invite everyone in the community and get rsvp for the food count. They will probably use Sign up Genius to get volunteers. We may also use Google invite that Mr. Georgitis will help with. Some of our community may not have access to technology so we will try to use a more analog way of getting the info out too.
  • Treasurer’s report—Diane.
    We saved a lot in our budget with volunteer donations for staff appreciations and honor roll breakfasts so we find ourselves actually under budget. So, by end of year, we really want to spend the money we’ve raised. Some capital project ideas include bulletin boards and water fountains. We have met with Dana to find out what is feasible and what might be covered by the bond.Margot says the theater department is lacking budget so we are not having a musical, just a play. Dana says that is not accurate. There is a budget. Dana says our entire activities budget has been cut the last three years and will probably be cut next year also district wide. All activities and events have less money but there is money for the theater department. Margot says usually there is a musical and a play each year but was told there was not adequate budget for both. Amy S. says she heard back from Jeff and he would like to talk with PTO about the theater productions. Margot says another solution would be to put it on Rev Trak and have a fee for participation and that would help with the fee for the productions. Amy S. says there was no space on the agenda to give this the time it deserves. Margot says there are other parents who want to be involved in this. Dana says there is a district limit as to what we can charge fees for and what we can put on rev trak. For example, we were not given permission to add a fee for the photography class. We are asking again. There are equity concerns. Some of this is the natural growing pains around when you add new classes. We were given $3333.33 to purchase equipment for our new CTE classes but there are lots of new things we need for our CTE classes. Amy S. says it sounds like we need to talk about activities and clubs and we will add it to a future agenda.

9:00 Guest Presenter – Jonathan Dings, Executive Director for Assessment and Program Evaluation, to discuss state testing.

Jonathan is here to answer questions about testing. There were a few sent in advance. There are tests in math and LA for 6-8th grades. There is also a science test at 8th grade. This is not really a change from past years. There is a social studies test given every 3rd year to 7th graders but this is not CMS’s year. Our board adopted a curriculum about five years ago and the test that we give now is aligned to that. The curriculum was adopted before the test changed. What we have now is aligned up pretty well. Tests are a snapshot in time and give some sense about how students are doing in conjunction with other information. The district uses tests to see how well we are doing against standards over time. Also, the tests are used in state’s accountability system.

Jonathan reports that there are no consequences to students if they don’t test. To CMS and the district, the consequence is not having information. When participation drops below a particular amount, the district has to develop a plan for how to improve that participation. Parents have a right to have their students not tested.

Jessica says she is a nontester and asks if there has been an attempt to get at why parents don’t test. Jonathan says we haven’t asked parents why they are opting out. Our view is that it is parents’ rights. He has not gathered information. There can be a whole variety of reasons.

Margot asks if teachers do in-class assessments during the year or is it just unit tests? Are there other assessments? Jonathan says that is entirely up to the teacher. There are some district wide assessments like reading plus. However, there is a lot of latitude at the middle level. Jonathan says the testing does go into how the school is ranked. Margot asks if at places like Boulder High School and Fairview only 5% take the test, what happens? Jonathan says if high performing schools don’t take the test, BVSD’s ratings go down but there is no funding tied to performance on the test.

Jonathan says schools are rated around how high their scores are compared to a standard. Dana says when you used to do testing, all you got were status scores and those were turned into points and schools were given a number and ranked. The law at that time, was that 3% of schools could get the equivalent of an A. That created a lot of competition. That evolved into status and measuring how kids were growing. The state law on that testing and the testing itself has changed multiple times. The scores are used in our unified improvement plan to improve gaps. If you don’t have 15 kids in any subgroup test, you don’t get any results on that.

Amy Chan asks if Dana as an administrator finds this information useful. Dana says we are required to by law. We are mindful of status and growth. Last year our percent of “opt outs” was so high that we left our goals the same as the prior year. We just moved our goals forward. We do use whatever we get. We also use our reading plus test but that’s just for reading. We don’t have any other common assessments for other subjects.

Jonathan says we get the data in August. Jonathan finds the growth data useful in understanding progress groups of students are making. He is really concerned about growth made by our lowest achieving students. Having data of what growth looks over time helps us understand if achievement gaps are improving. Growth data work fairly well. Achievement data don’t work as well.

Mary asks if BVSD opt out is a higher percentage than the rest of the state? Jonathan says yes. Mary asks why. Jonathan says lawmakers passed laws saying 9-11th graders had to take LA and math tests and 11th graders would also take ACT and there would also be social studies and science tests. We told administrators this was too much. Then, a choice was made to test high school seniors on social studies and science. Clearly this was going to have no impact on them at an otherwise very stressful time for seniors who were looking at college applications. This opened the door for people to opt out. This trickled down to the 9-11th graders and then down to middle and elementary schools. Jonathan said that law was reconsidered. The State Board of Education then said students would not be punished for not taking tests and then this was put into law.

Liza asks if these test results are ever looked at by colleges. Jonathan answers that students can use ACT and SAT test scores to report to college. Those are the ones students can use in a tangible way. Not these other tests.

It is not an option for BVSD to not test if so many people opt out. It is not an option for BVSD to encourage or discourage testing. We are doing what the law requires and making the best use of the data we have.

Amy Chan asks if there is any evidence that doing all this testing helping our kids take these ultimate tests for college admissions. Jonathan says that test taking is a skill but this hasn’t been studied. How would it?

Robin says they do use the data on SAC and are required to use it to develop improvement plans for the school. The more data we have the better we can plan. We also combine the data with the climate survey.

Sarah is concerned if we have academic standards, the testing may be the only systematic way we assess if our kids know them. If people opt out and we can’t assess that, then we really don’t know. Sarah is concerned that real data is going away and all that remains is myth.

Gwen asks how this all dovetails with teacher accountability. Dana says by law in CO every teacher in the public schools has part of their evaluation based on student achievement. In BVSD, we use 3rd grade reading assessment data for this. All teachers have a literacy goal as part of their improvement plan.

Testing reports are not attached to funding and teachers will not be marked down for opt out kids.

Dana says individual data for kids is always protected. The growth gap at CMS has been increasing (a bad thing) for the past six years.

Dana just asks that parents please make the testing decision by next Friday (March 2nd) so Dana can do right by the kids who are testing and have adequate supervision for kids who are not.

Jonathan says there may be legislation coming that changes over from LA and math testing in 9th grade to PSAT testing.

9:30 Meeting Adjourned