The Mehlville school board met Saturday to establish their goals for the 2011-2012 school year, and made tuition-free, full-day kindergarten a priority in the near future.
The board was originally scheduled to create goals at its retreat in August, and again in September, but delayed the task due to other agenda items and long meetings.
At the Nov. 30 meeting, the board devised a system for developing goals. Each board member compiled measuring points or goals around the topics of: facilities, strategic planning, board development and governance, technology, student achievement, highly-qualified staff with professional development, community engagement and fiscal responsibility.
Board Secretary Elaine Powers organized the board members’ feedback, combined similar concepts and outlined priorities.
Powers said early education was on almost everyone’s list. Mehlville is one of four districts in the state that doesn't offer full-day kindergarten for free. The district's half-day program is free, but parents pay tuition for the entire day.
Board member Rich Franz was concerned about financing tuition-free, full-day kindergarten.
“I’m not interested in providing daycare for a family that has a dual income of $200,000 a year, I’m more interested in providing quality all-day kindergarten for families of working parents who can’t afford to get the care they need for their children,” he said.
Powers said studies show children score better on standardized testing and are held back less often when they attend full-day kindergarten.
“You put the money into them now when they’re young and you’re spending less on them later on,” she said.
Franz said he would support the program if it did not decrease the district’s revenues.
“I want to be clear on my feelings about this… I am a believer in early intervention,” he said. “My issues aren’t with the effectiveness of that, I think that intervention is crucial, my issue is how we pay for it and is it the wisest use of funds based on the results that we’re getting from it? “
Superintendent Eric Knost said he is working on a timeline to fund tuition-free kindergarten, and will present it to the board in January. He said the school district would receive more money from the state than it is currently receiving from kindergarten tuition.
“I would be all for it if it’s within our budget and we’re not going back to the taxpayers for additional bonds or additional revenue,” Mark Stoner said. ”I think it’s very clear that the taxpayers do want us to live within our budget and that is one thing that will give this board credibility: additional services with no additional cost.”
Stoner said he thought it was very important to communicate visions such as free full-day kindergarten through the board’s goals.
“The danger, when we go through these, is that with some of the past board goals, they’re so watered down, that to me they’re almost meaningless,” he said. “I don’t think that’s what the public wants and I don’t think that’s what our students need.”
In the three-hour meeting, the board developed seven goals with priorities in student achievement and board governance.
Knost said he would incorporate the board goals and objectives in the district’s (CSIP).
But board member Larry Felton said the board still needed to establish more specific budget priorities.
“The board has to set a goal of what it’s going to define what the compensation strategy is for the district,” he said.
Felton said the board needed to decide where to allocate funds; for example, 3 percent of the budget to technology and 4 percent to capital.
“We need to have a discussion, and I think our goal has to be to examine the budget structure,” he said. “I think we need to take a look at, how do we build into that a technology cost? How do we build into that a capital line item? How do we build into that a preventative maintenance line item?”
The board agreed to consult with the district’s finance committee on specific numbers, and discuss priorities at a future meeting.
The following are the board’s goals with emphasis on specific areas if discussed:
1. Student Achievement: The Mehlville School District will, at all times, strive for academic excellence. All educators, curriculum, funding, policy and procedure should be examine with the direct benefit of the student; in particular, emphasis on core skills.
- Institute full-day, tuition-free kindergarten
- Assess student programs
- Increase instructional time
- Improve curriculum and early childhood instruction
2. Governance: Board meetings should be professional, productive and concise. The board should govern the Mehlville School District in an efficient and effective manner providing leadership and representation to benefit the students, staff and patrons and serve as an advocate for public education at the local, state and national level.
- Review policies and have quarterly workshops
- Host a legislative forum for public officials
- Be transparent and accountable
- Improve board training and professional development
3. Facilities: Provide and maintain adequate facilities to support our curriculum and provide a safe and healthy environment.
4. Technology: Technology will be part of the educational strategy to accommodate flexibility of instructional times, curriculum content, learning styles, CSIP and the goal of academic excellence, and yet support the goal of long-term cost reduction.
5. Fiscal Responsibility: The Mehlville Board of Education will ensure fiscal responsibility and transparency in the management of public financial resources by continuing to provide and excellent return on investment.
6. Highly-Qualified Staff and Professional Development: The Mehlville Board of Education will recruit, attract, provide professional development and retain highly-qualified staff to carry out the Mehlville School District’s mission, goals and objectives to improve academic excellence.
7. Community Engagement: The board will foster a sense of community and proactively seek family and community involvement in the education of all students.