LEXINGTON – In the next 30 days, the Lexington Board of Education will decide whether to change Lexington elementary schools over to a “community school” format, or face potential penalties at the state and federal level for failing to meet requirements of No Child Left Behind.
Lexington students, while making improvements each year in their reading, writing and math skills, are not at a level required by the federal law, No Child Left Behind. When students, and subsequently schools, do not meet adequate yearly progress (AYP), they are labeled as being in “school improvement.”
Each year the schools remain in school improvement, penalties become more significant.
In addition to being required to use federal funds for supplemental education services (SES) for the students, corrective action can include removing staff members from their positions, appoint outside experts to operate the school, enter into a contract with an entity to operate the school and, finally, turning the operation of the school over to the State Education Department, a possibility under the state’s pending law, LB 438.
Funds used to provide SES services for students could potentially be taken from current student enrichment programs, such as the HOSTS mentoring program, LPS homeless student services, instructional coaching positions at the elementary and middle school level or staffing at the Early Learning Academy.
By restructuring the elementary school system, LPS officials will be able to ‘reset’ the clock on the schools that are under performing. The move would give them two years to work out a plan of action. It is educator’s hope that No Child Left Behind will be repealed or restructured.
Julie Meyer, principal at Morton Elementary, one of the schools in school improvement, said she doesn’t like the idea of restructuring the school system, but added, “We need to put the kids’ needs first.”
Under the plan, the school would shift students from their current ‘neighborhood schools,’ to ‘community schools.’ In the LPS proposal, kindergarten and first grade students across Lexington would attend Sandoz Elementary; second and third grade students would attend Morton Elementary and fourth and fifth grade students would attend Pershing Elementary.
Bryan Elementary, because it’s a dual language school with optional enrollment will not be part of the restructuring.
“We are only at the discussion stage,” said board member Jeff Wightman. “We want to get the public’s input.”
According to LPS officials, there are advantages to the restructure. Students would be less likely to be bullied by older students, because they would be separated from them. Also, the school would be able to reduce the number of modular units used at the elementary schools and four staff positions could eventually be eliminated through attrition.
Administrators from LPS will be presenting an informational meeting on the proposed restructuring plan and how it will affect area students. The meetings will be held in English and Spanish and the public is welcome to attend any of the presentations.
Meeting times are 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Thursday, March 14; 8:30 a.m. to 9:30 a.m., Tuesday, March 19 and again on March 19 from 5:30 p.m. to 6:30 p.m., all at the Lexington Public Library.
Board members approved a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between LPS and the City of Lexington for a community development block grant (CDBG) for the Majestic Theater project.
The city can submit a request to the state for a CDBG, but LPS cannot. The memorandum of understanding which outlines LPS responsibilities in the agreement as well as the services the city is willing to provide, which is mainly to act as a ‘pass-through’ entity for the grant money.
Under the MOU, the district is required to provide matching funds for grant projects. These funds won’t come out of the school district’s general funds, but from money the students have raised toward the renovation of the theater. Lexington Middle School assistant principal Jason Sullivan, who is working with the students on the project, advised the board the students had $126,000 between the money they raised and private donations through the Lexington Community Foundation.
The motion passed with all voting yes, except for board member Ray Ehlers who had concerns about the possibility of vague language in the MOU.
In other business:
Board members approved the purchase of Lot 6, Block 11 of MacColl and Leflang’s Second Addition to the City of Lexington, Dawson County, Nebraska, from Reynaldo Ortiz Lopez and Leticia Ortiz Perez, for $12,000. The land, which is an empty lot, will allow the school to finally close the street separating Bryan Elementary School’s campus and the school’s playground across the street.
The school board also recommended authorizing the Lexington Community Facilities Agency to accept donations from the Lexington Community Foundation on behalf of the Lexington Recreation Management Company, LLC for facility improvements and enhancements.
The community facilities agency is the entity in charge of the YMCA project at the middle school. As a member of the Lexington Community Facilities Agency, the school, in conjunction with the City of Lexington, has to approve the actions of the agency. The approval by both member agencies will allow the Lexington Community Foundation to give money to the agency on behalf of the Lexington Recreation Management Company, LLC., which is representing the YMCA in this instance.
The meeting ended in executive session so board members could consider approval of administrative and classified staff salary schedules and substitute teacher pay rates for 2013-2014. Also up for consideration was the approval of the superintendent’s contact.
No action was taken after the board returned from executive session.