It was business as usual at the Sedona-Oak Creek School District Governing Board’s regular meeting Tuesday,
With board member Zach Richardson gone and Vice President Heather Hermen telecommuting in, the board’s bench looked a little sparse as it approved a number of agenda items with little fuss.
Unanimous approvals included:
- A one-year lease extension for Running River School, a Waldorf-inspired kindergarten- through fifth-grade school that rents a building at Sedona-Oak Creek’s district office on Brewer Road.
- The academic calendar for the 2018-19 school year.
- The signing of a MATForce statement proclaiming the district’s support for the nonprofit’s “Stand With Me — Be Drug Free” week at schools. n A statement by the district regarding teacher evaluation and standards for submission to the state in order to receive Title I funds.
- Starting the process to form an education foundation with the purpose of fundraising for the district. Also at the meeting, West Sedona School principal Scott Keller presented for the board’s approval of an overnight field trip to California for the sixth-graders. While there, the students will go to Disneyland and get a behind-the-scenes look at the science of roller coasters, as well as visit the California Science Center.
“Our students are working through their STEM student profile … looking at the professions that are out there in the real world,” Keller said. “That’s something we’re really passionate about, getting our students some real-world experiences.”
The trip costs $425 for each of the about 40 sixth-graders and is paid for almost entirely through tax credit donations and fundraisers, including the upcoming fiesta dinner Thursday, March 8.
The field trip was approved unanimously.
On another agenda item, a point of contention came when board President Randy Hawley suggested freezing board travel expenditures for the rest of the school year.
“It’s only a couple thousand dollars, but if everyone else is asked to find ways to reduce spending, I don’t see any reason why we shouldn’t, too,” Hawley said. He suggested if board members want to go to professional development activities that they pay out of their own pockets.
The amount is around $5,000 for the full year and goes toward training opportunities like conferences. Board member Karen McClelland pointed out that foregoing such training could leave the board under-equipped.
“The money we’re talking about is so insignificant,” she said. “It’s basically saying, ‘you don’t want to get the board trained.’ In my opinion, we’ve had a lot of issues over the years, some of which have arisen because individual board members haven’t been well-trained in policies, procedures, and we have made decisions that may not have been the best …. The more training we have, hopefully the fewer mistakes we make.”
When it came to a vote, the board ended up voting in favor of freezing its own expenses 3-1, with McClelland the sole dissent.
Special Education Update
A highlight of the meeting was an update on special education in the district from special education director Trish Alley, who came to the district full time last summer.
She started by giving a shout-out to the district’s special education staff.
“I think that special education teachers are probably some of the most unrecognized teachers in schools,” Alley said. “They’re not necessarily the teacher who’s getting the Christmas presents or the end-of-the-year teacher appreciation stuff. They’re always behind the scenes, but they do so much work, and they get so excited by the tiniest little improvements.”
She described some of the initiatives the program has been working on, such as a district-wide data-driven referral process called the Child Help and Advocacy Team, which helps teachers determine if a child has special education needs; a process for identifying English language learners with disabilities; and an updated enrollment and transfer process for students moving between schools in the district as well as students moving into or out of the district.
Alley also shared a few future projects the district is working on for special education, including a partnership with the Rehabilitation Services Administration, which helps ensure students with disabilities are equipped for life after high school, as well as a collaboration with the Verde Valley Cooperative, Northern Arizona Regional Behavioral Health Authority and Spectrum Healthcare to work with special education students who don’t attend classes on the high school campus.
In other business, the board scheduled a work session Tuesday, Feb. 13 at 4 p.m. at the district office to begin working on the budget with district administration.
The board’s next regular meeting is Tuesday, March 6 at 4 p.m. at the district office, though it expects to have additional work sessions before then, on top of the budget work session next Tuesday.