Baraga school parents concerned

BARAGA – Two parents of students at Baraga Area Schools expressed concern during Monday’s school board meeting regarding inconsistent use of a teacher-parent communication tool in the district.

Skyward is a tool that allows teachers to upload grades online for parents to view, but Bill Jondreau, who is also a board member, and Sheila Osterman said use of the tool has been inconsistent, which makes it difficult to track their students’ progress and intervene if/when necessary.

“It’s supposed to be a useful tool, but it’s not done consistently,” Jondreau said. “When the administration puts their foot down and forces the teachers to do it, it works for a week or so, then they’re back to doing the same thing.

“As a parent I want the best education for my students. As a board member I want that for every kid within this district. … Right now there’s some concern with that.”

Jondreau said it’s “a big problem,” and that while the administration is trying their best, discussions have been ongoing since the beginning of the year. He worries if it’s not addressed soon, it’ll be right back to “square zero” by the start of school in the fall.

Superintendent Jennifer Lynn said there are discussions about communicating the expectation to teachers through the regular teacher evaluation process, while also updating the school’s handbook policy to reflect a clear standard.

“We certainly want to set a standard that’s effective,” she said, noting that expecting teachers to upload grades every day isn’t fair, but forcing parents to wait three weeks to see updates isn’t right either. “We need to have clearer guidance.”

Osterman, who said her sons are honor roll students but struggled on the Michigan Educational Assessment Program test, said she’d like to meet with teachers and get them involved in the conversation, too.

“I want to know what the problem is,” she said. “… Parents have to be involved, and I’m one that’s willing to. I want to find a solution. I don’t want to keep kicking the can down the road.”

In other business Monday, the board:

approved a 2013-14 preliminary budget, which will still likely be adjusted before the official budget is approved in June. It projects a $688,082 deficit for the year ($4,698,843 in revenue, $5,386,925 in expenditures), which would drop the district’s fund balance to $295,614. The fund balance was $1,324,028 on July 1, 2012.

“There’s not a lot of good news,” Lynn said. “… We’re hoping to say this is the worst-case scenario based on what we know.”

The district expects enrollment to be 474, which is 19 fewer students than last year, as a “conservative estimate.”

approved reinstating a no-cost cross country program led by volunteer coach Daryl Putala.

approved appointing board member Diane Mayo as the Copper Country Intermediate School District Election Representative for the June 3 CCISD biennial election, with Byron Sailor as the alternate.

approved the resignations of Alternative Education Teacher Doug Engle after 13 years with the district, Girls’ Varsity Basketball and Junior Varsity Volleyball Coach Mariah Dunham, JV Football Coach Scott Artley and Girls’ Freshman Volleyball and Basketball Coach Brigitte LaPointe.

heard an update from Lynn on the district’s improvement plan, which is currently in draft form, and from Grades 3-12 Principal Jon Young on next year’s class matrices for both high school and elementary students.

went into closed session to discuss teacher and Teamster negotiations. No action was taken upon returning to open session. Both contracts expire June 30.