Windham Southwest Supervisory Union Superintendent Dr. Richard McClements offered his draft of a list of data to be collected from several suggested schools. He said the goal was to find out “How do our high school, middle school, and elementary school measure up against other districts?”
The data McClements proposed collecting from the schools included variables from the amount of money spent on supplies and textbooks per student to the number and types of courses offered.
He asked for input from the board and school administrators. Twin Valley Elementary School Principal Rebecca Fillion, noting that McClements had proposed collecting information from Green Street School in Brattleboro, suggested finding elementary schools in Windham Central Supervisory Union that might be closer in size to Twin Valley Elementary School. “I spent 13 years of my career at Green Street,” she said. “They’re not like our district.”
Other suggestions included Leland & Gray middle and high schools and Newbrook Elementary School.
Board member Phil Taylor, who recently served on a legislative committee tasked with creating a statewide process for collecting education data, said McClements’ initiative was fantastic. “I think it will start to show the inequities (of education funding),” he said. “This is our issue, talking about equity and equity of opportunity, but (the state) doesn’t measure it, and I don’t think they want to measure it.”
But Taylor also warned that a lot of the information would be difficult to get from the schools. “Guidance counselors will be driven nuts by this,” agreed board member John Doty.
Board members also suggested adding teachers’ pay steps to the data to be collected, along with special education spending. “What are other schools outside of WSSU spending, and where are they placing those sizeable costs?” said Taylor. “If there’s a statistical aberration, I would want to investigate that.”
The board also discussed Twin Valley Middle School Principal Keith Lyman’s suggestion that they offer compensation for mileage to substitutes who must drive between the middle school in Whitingham and the high school in Wilmington. Lyman said that, although there hasn’t been much need for substitutes so far in the current school year, he’s concerned substitutes won’t take positions if they’re required to make the drive.
But board members suggested increasing pay for all substitutes – board member Dwight Williams suggested raising it as high as $100 per day. “But don’t say it’s for mileage,” warned Fillion, “or other teachers will want it.”
Board member Kathy Larsen recalled that WSSU Business Manager Karen Atwood told board members that determining who should be paid the mileage would be difficult from a bookkeeping standpoint.
Board members agreed that raising the general substitute rate would be the better choice, and voted to raise substitute pay to $85 per day.
In another pay matter, Twin Valley High School Principal Bob Morse sought a $3,000 stipend for a staff member who helped the school develop a data tracking and reporting system.
Morse said the stipend amounted to $50 per hour for 60 hours of continuing work, but he said the work was technical, specialized, and not part of the teacher’s regular duties. “If you want to improve programs at the school, and make it more streamlined for parents and students to keep up with assignments, this is well worth it.”
Fillion said the work was essentially work that should be done by a curriculum coordinator at the supervisory union level – but WSSU does not fund a curriculum coordinator. But she said teachers at her school were doing similar work without extra pay, which she said could cause “a problem.”
Doty agreed, saying it was “a great idea, but I don’t know how to do it without ruffling feathers everywhere else.”
Morse said he was concerned about losing “one of the best teachers I’ve seen in my life,” which he said was likely if the teacher wasn’t rewarded for his work and initiative.
Board member Adam Grinold agreed. “We’re squabbling about who gets paid,” he said. “I would say this is an opportunity. If there are teachers willing to work on programs, we should put a bounty on that. We want to give more rewards to teachers and challenge them. I would say this proposal tonight is the start of a thought process to get people going.”
Morse said there were already six teachers at the high school using the model set up through the work. “We cannot afford not to have this person as part of our school district.”
McClements offered to come up with a proposal and board members agreed to table the matter and bring it up at a future meeting.