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Monday, March 12, 2018

School Board Round-Up: New Positions, Portrait of a Graduate, Policy Changes

Note: Tonight's School Board meeting will be held at Woodfill Elementary School at 6:30 p.m. 

Congratulations for the winning Highlands We the People team, a showcase for student journalism, new positions for next year and reports from traveling teachers were among the items highlighted at the February meeting of the Fort Thomas Independent School Board.

Highlighting student accomplishments

The meeting opened with a hearty congratulations to the Highlands High School We the People team, Kentucky state champions in the civic education competition. This is the 15th time and the 14th consecutive win for the high school. The team will travel to Leesburg, Virginia, to compete in the nationals in April.

RELATED: Highlands Students to Head to Nationals After State We the People Win

Journalism students from Highlands Middle School shared presentations on the yearbook and on the schools active news site developed this year. Twenty-eight students in the class work on writing, photography, design, marketing and special projects throughout the year.

At the end of their presentation, the students gave board members wall plaques with photographs of letters spelling out each member’s name.

RELATED: Journalism Students Showcase Work and Unveil Yearbook Plans

Policy changes (first readings)

At the January school board meeting, Superintendent Karen Cheser and Assistant Superintendent Bill Bradford introduced some changes in policies that primarily refined and clarified language about about dual credit and grading issues.

While they had been working with school administrators and teachers at that time, several teachers expressed concerns that they were unfamiliar with the ongoing discussions around the policy changes.

In the time since that meeting, Cheser said they have met will all the stakeholders to ensure everyone had input and were aware of the policy revisions.

The policy changes were reintroduced for a first reading at the February board meeting and included mostly minor language changes that clarified some issues. The changes will be reintroduced for a vote at the next school board meeting.

New positions

The board approved several key motions to add much-needed personnel for next school year.

Elementary schools in the district will be able to hire an additional assistant principal for 2018-19. Enrollments at elementary schools have increased and currently, the three schools share one assistant principal. The additional assistant principal will provide essential and much-needed support, the superintendent said.

The high school and middle school will each have an additional counselor position next year. With an emphasis on career and education exploration at all levels, as well as an ongoing need for social and emotional support for students, Cheser said it has become evident that additional counselors were needed to support the expanding work load.

In another personnel development, the school board approved hire of an archery assistant coach at a stipend of $1,000. The archery program is new and is very popular. An additional coach will help take the athletic program to the next level.

The board also approved stipends to hire individuals to drive students on various school trips. Having the money available will ensure flexibility with hiring these individuals on an as-needed basis throughout the year. As employees, they will be subject to background checks and other hiring procedures and would be covered under the school’s insurance.

Plans for professional development

Assistant Superintendent Bradford presented a plan for professional development for next year. The plan would allow for five professional development opportunities in 2018-19.

He proposed a two-day Professional Development Academy in August to be held onsite and run by the district educators. Teachers can submit proposals for sessions within the academy. Other opportunities were broken into smaller time periods devoted to school site-specific trainings and vertical or cross-collaboration offerings.

The board also approved staffing guidelines for the upcoming year.

“Portrait of a Graduate”

The superintendent shared background on the district’s plan to develop a comprehensive vision for what Fort Thomas students should know and do, called a “Portrait of a Graduate.” She outlined the process for exploring what should be included in that vision.

RELATED: Fort Thomas Schools Painting Portrait of a Graduate

At the meeting, teachers, counselors and administrators reported on visits to other areas in the country to gather information and ideas to support development of the portrait of a Fort Thomas graduate.

A committee has been formed to carry the research and planning forward. So far, research has included the visits to other high performing schools across the country and an industry think tank event with area business leaders.

RELATED: Educators Gather Ideas for Fort Thomas Schools

Plans are in place to expand research to more teachers and to students, parents and community members. A community conversation is planned for March 15, the community is invited to a documentary on new education practices on March 27 and to another film and live discussion in April with Singapore American School, one of the highest ranking schools in the world.

Additional business

The school board heard from Director for Technology Diana McGhee who presented the district Technology Plan for 2018-19. Although there were few changes in the plan, the district is required to approve the plan to be eligible for some matching funding by the state. The plan was approved.

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