Greene Co school board okays new bookless science curriculum

Greene County students in grades K-8 will have a new science curriculum next year, but they won’t have new science books.

The board of education at its Feb. 21 meeting approved the purchase of the Amplify Science curriculum. The curriculum is primarily web-based. The $85,000 cost covers licenses for teachers of grades K-5 and for teachers and students in grades 6-8, hands-on kits for the lessons, and updates.

Curriculum director Karen Sandberg and a committee of teachers spent many months reviewing science curricula before recommending Amplify, and Sandberg was very enthusiastic about the choice.

She began her teaching career at East Greene teaching fifth and sixth grade science 19 years ago. “This is totally different than anything I would have done,” she said. “Content has always been the driver of science instruction. Now, it’s more about what scientists do. They’re going to pick up the concepts while they’re engaging in these practices,” she said.

She described the curriculum as “beautiful” and “amazing.” It includes a lot of hands-on work, 3D computer simulations, and peer-to-peer work. Sandberg said it works will with English language learners and special needs students, and it’s easy for substitute teachers to use.

The board had earmarked Grow Greene County funds for the science curriculum.

The board approved sharing cross-country with Paton-Churdan for the 2018 season. P-C’s request was timely per the current sharing contract.

The contract is up for renewal next November, and activities director Mitch Moore told the board he’d prefer to share all sports or no sports with Paton-Churdan. He reminded the board that sharing a sport doesn’t add just the number of athletes involved to the student count for the purpose of classification, but it adds the entire enrollment. He said the sharing directly affects the athletes at Greene County.

Board member John McConnell said the P-C athletes are welcome and he enjoys having them, but having P-C share a sport one year and then not share the next is a problem for him.

The board plans to discuss the sharing contract further before renewing it in November.
The board also approved no longer sharing a band director with Paton-Churdan. The two districts have shared the contract of middle school band director Emily Brekunitch this year. With the retirement of elementary music teacher Susan Turner at the end of the year, the administration plans to rearrange teaching assignments within the music department, making the middle school band position fulltime again, but still reducing music staff by one-half position through attrition.

It is superintendent Tim Christensen’s goal to reduce staff by 3.5 FTEs through the retirements approved in December.

The board discussed a new method of evaluating the job performance of the superintendent during the work session prior to the meeting and approved it at the regular meeting.

Rather than having only one evaluation per year, the superintendent will be evaluated in August, December and March. The March evaluation will be the most thorough evaluation and will set goals for the following year. The evaluation will include surveys of administrators, staff, students and members of the community, as well as board members. The surveys will be done yearly for the next few years, and then every other year.

The board approved a calendar change for Friday, March 30. That day had been designated as a “data day” for teachers of grades K-8 but a student attendance day for grades 9-12. Anthony Mohamed plans to return to the district for more in-service training on March 30, so there will be no student attendance.

The board ratified the contract with LIUNA Laborers’ Local #177 representing the bus drivers. Bus drivers will receive a 1.5 percent salary increase and a handbook committee will be formed with three drivers, two board members and the superintendent. The handbook committee will be similar to the committee that moved several contract items from the teachers’ contract to the teachers’ handbook after the state legislature changed collective bargaining parameters.

Christensen reported the district will receive an EPA National Clean Diesel rebate grant for $20,000 toward the purchase of a bus.

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