TERRE HAUTE —
A project to design and build canopy entryways at 13 Vigo County School Corp. drew both criticism and praise during Monday’s School Board meeting.
As part of its consent agenda, the board approved a $78,000 contract with Majeur Won, an international design agency based in Paris, France, to design the 13 entryways.
During a public comment session, Leah Myers questioned whether the $78,000 expenditure of capital projects funds was the best use of taxpayer dollars.
“While I want to see students kept safe and warm, a canopy is a want. It is not a necessity,” she said. “We need to focus on our needs before our wants.”
Information about the canopy project was just made public last week, with the School Board approving the contract Monday, Myers said.
It appears the district is “rushing into it” and not giving citizens and taxpayers much of an opportunity to ask questions, she said.
Susan Ream and Tamera Rhodes, both education assistants at Deming Elementary, praised the project and said it will promote student safety and protect children from poor weather. Deming will benefit from the project.
Sharon Pitts, a Woodrow Wilson Middle School principal, said the school community is “thrilled to death” to benefit from the canopy entryway project, and that students will participate in planning and constructing it.
At Wilson, the entryway will extend from the older gym to where parents pick students up on the north side of the school. It will provide protection from inclement weather, particularly during the dark, winter months, Pitts said
The board approved the contact by a 6-0 vote with no discussion.
Matthew Won Piker, who attended Vigo County schools and graduated from Terre Haute South in 2004, began Majeur Won earlier this year. The project is a way to give back to the community, he said last week.
Majeur Won is partnering with three firms for the design and construction of the entryway project, and the companies are providing services that are deeply discounted or at-cost.
• In another matter, the board briefly discussed a new teacher evaluation tool, called RISE, that will be used to evaluate teachers starting this school year.
A new state law requires districts to evaluate their teachers annually, and teacher pay is to be linked to these evaluations. (In Vigo County, teacher pay will not be affected in 2012-13).
Each corporation must revise its evaluation system to include measures of student achievement and growth, such as scores on standardized tests.
The evaluation must consist of rigorous measures of teacher effectiveness and an annual designations in one of four rating categories: highly effective, effective, improvement necessary and ineffective.
Those in the lower two categories do not receive a pay increase, said Terry McDaniel, assistant professor of educational leadership at Indiana State University, in a prior interview.
The evaluations look at teacher planning, instruction, leadership and core professionalism.
The Vigo County School Corp. plans to use the RISE teacher evaluation instrument, which requires school board approval. Administrators will use it to evaluate teachers.
There are two versions, one for regular education teachers and the second for special education teachers.
One concern is that “it will be a very time-consuming tool” because there has to be a lot of documentation, Mick Newport, school district director of human resources, said prior to the meeting.
The administration has been in discussion with VCTA about the evaluation instrument since this spring, Newport said. Both felt that “if we work together, we can live with it,” he said.
The intent of the legislation is to improve instruction for students, Newport said.
Superintendent Dan Tanoos said that tying teacher pay to evaluations, as required by the law, is essentially merit pay, something he opposes for teachers.
His friends in business tell him merit pay might work for those in upper management, but for the average worker — in this case teachers — it’s going to “pit teacher against teacher. Everybody knows what the other person is getting,” Tanoos said.
The board is expected to act on the RISE evaluation tool at its Aug. 27 meeting.
• Also Monday, the board gave approval to advertise the proposed 2013 budget. The general fund budget would be advertised at $107 million; debt service fund, $8.6 million; capital projects fund, $19.1 million; school transportation fund, $6.7 millio; and bus replacement fund, $2.1 million.
The proposed general fund is consistent with this year’s but also includes corporation implementation of the full-day kindergarten program.
The district continues to maintain a strong cash balance and has adhered to an ongoing cost conservation plan to preserve educational programs and the employees that provide them, said Donna Wilson, chief financial officer.
The total for all proposed budgets, $143.5 million, is less than 1 percent more than the 2012 approved budget. The district typically advertises a higher levy than anticipated to insure the district receives adequate revenues to support programs.
The Department of Local Government Finance makes adjustments to levels allowed by statute. The board will conduct a hearing on the budget at its Aug. 27 meeting.
Sue Loughlin can be reached at (812) 231-4235 or firstname.lastname@example.org.