Calendar, pupil progression are delayed issues

Donald Aguillard

By JEAN L. KAESS jkaess@daily-review.com

Several items that need the attention of the St. Mary Parish School Board are on hold because the state has yet to set guidelines in those areas, the parish superintendent said.
Donald Aguillard, St. Mary superintendent, told the School Board Thursday that setting the calendar for the 2014-15 school year, making changes to the pupil progression plan regarding the promotion of fourth graders and the purchase of textbooks and instructional materials all are on hold.
The school calendar — detailing when school begins, ends and takes breaks for holidays — usually is set around this time of year.
Aguillard said information from the state regarding when test results, used in determining grade promotions, will be available is unknown at this time. The best guess for the beginning of school for students is somewhere between Aug. 7-11, he said.
Meanwhile, Aguillard explained this morning via email that individual districts will be required to make promotional decisions based on academic indicators in addition to LEAP scores through the use of waivers for first-time LEAP students demonstrating readiness to progress to fifth grade.
“… we are waiting for a promised template that will assist the districts in determining if students are prepared for fifth grade. In 2014, the local waivers will be used for those fourth grade students who attend summer remediation and retest. In 2015, student waivers will be available for students who attend summer remediation, but no retest will be available,” Aguillard said.
As for textbook purchases, Aguillard said the state Department of Education is no longer proposing that districts purchase textbooks using a cycle.
“Thus, we will have considerable freedom to purchase instructional materials across disciplines based on the instructional needs. We likely will use our textbook budget to purchase necessary materials as recommended by schools and instructional personnel. We also will look into tapping into the textbook budget to begin deploying tablet-like devices to students,” he said
At this point, the superintendent predicts that the school system will spend roughly the same amount of money under the new program as was typically allocated for prior textbook purchases.
The state education department is working to deliver an approved list of textbooks that have been evaluated for alignment with Common Core Standards. The initial list will be available Wednesday, Aguillard said.
Materials will be identified as Tier 1 (highly aligned with Common Core), Tier 2 (moderately aligned with Common Core) or Tier 3 (no alignment with Common Core). The state will continue to update the approved list of textbooks through April 2014. Districts will be permitted to purchase books from Tier 1 or Tier 2, Aguillard said.
In other action Thursday, the School Board:
—Learned total sales tax collections six months into the fiscal year are 21.2 percent above budget projections. Collections are $1.86 million above the budgeted $8.8 million projected for this time of the year.
—Set the schedule for regular board meetings at 5 p.m. on the second Thursday of each month.
—Agreed to advertise again for components of the walk-in freezer and cooler project at Franklin Junior High after the original bids had to be thrown out.
—Approved the School Activity Funds Principles and Procedures manual with no discussion.

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