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School Board Eyes Free Full-Day Kindergarten, Sets Goals

The Mehlville School District Board of Education met Saturday morning to set goals for the 2011-2012 school year.

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. 

D Seidel January 09, 2012 at 07:36 PM
Has anyone EVER seen Franz at a school event? I regularly see Diehl, Palamand and Felton at district concerts, parent meetings, etc. Ditto for former board members during their respective terms - Weber, Frank, Frauenhoffer and others whose names ellude me present. Even during his election campaign, he didn't bother to make regular appearances at BOE or legislative meetings. Speaks volumes to me as to his true intentions.
Franchesca January 09, 2012 at 08:01 PM
Free full-day kindergarten is similar to any preventative measure. Insurance companies pay for preventative measures because it saves them money. It's a sound financial goal to invest in something that will have such an enormous return on that investment within 10 years. I know people on fixed incomes are strapped, but we cannot continually use short fixes to fix things. Investments are just that. If there is anything in the world that is worthy of our monies at this time. It's OUR CHILDREN. They are the only resource that we are completely sure will still be our resource in 20 years.
Rhonda Boyer January 09, 2012 at 09:34 PM
In case in wasn't clear. I do support Free full-day kindergarten. I just didn't like the way it was characterized.
D Seidel January 10, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Contact info and scheduled meeting dates listed here http://board-of-educati.mehlvilleschooldistrict.com/modules/groups/integrated_home.phtml?&gid=2334127&sessionid=ff39c9ad4c085f95796aea22a8289572&t=
Karl Frank Jr. January 13, 2012 at 04:43 AM
Not all money is created equal. Tax money that is collected for capital gains projects (like construction of tennis courts) can't be used for operations (like full-day Kindergarten, other than possible related construction.) Regardless, both programs have their merits. Extra-curricular activities are proven to improve graduation rates, as does Early Childhood Education. Which means the graduates will make more money collectively, which means they will put more money back into the economy collectively, which makes programs like these wise investments of a community, collectively. Compared to what? Compared to lower graduation rates. Compared to lower productivity. Compared to lower living standards and property values for everyone. Do Tennis Courts and Full-Day Kindergarten alone make it all work? Nope. It's just a more complete picture for a an overall better education for the children of this community.
Robyn Turner January 14, 2012 at 04:02 AM
Biting tongue. SItting on hands. Seriously. @@
Christine Stewart Mehigh January 14, 2012 at 05:07 PM
Dan who?
Karl Frank Jr. January 17, 2012 at 04:34 PM
Here is the link to Mehlville's curriculum-based kindergarten handbook. http://goo.gl/yUXpj - Daycare? What a disgrace.
Chris Smith January 18, 2012 at 11:04 PM
From what I understand full-day kindergarten, as it is currently constructed, is like daycare. I was told the curriculum is the same as half-day. If Mehlville goes to a full-day kindergarten will the curriculum change? Will the additional time at school be focused on reading and math? If that is not the case I hope they do not go to full day for everyone.
Liz January 18, 2012 at 11:20 PM
Did you look at the district's site to review the K curriculum? I was told the same thing by a well meaning principal years ago to appease me when I questioned the difference between half day and full day. The reality is that full day does a lot more. When my daughter attended half day K, full day kids got the following things that the half day kids didn't : weekly technology instruction (no time in the half day), twice as much art, music, and P.E., twice as much literacy center time, free choice centers and daily recess (extremely important in K), more circle time, twice as much writing instruction, reading instruction, math instruction. So to say it's the same thing is not true.
Chris Smith January 18, 2012 at 11:24 PM
Thank you, I didn't go to the district site. I was going by what I was told by teacher or principal. I am glad they were wrong.
Liz January 19, 2012 at 01:12 PM
I don't think they think they are wrong. :) The reality is the full day kids don't just eat, play and nap during the extra 3 hours they are in attendance. Recess and lunch do take up about 45 minutes of it, but the rest of the time, they are learning. I think that educators want you to feel like your kid isn't getting shortchanged because you aren't paying tuition so they downplay the value of the full day program. That's a problem because now people don't understand why it's important. For every parent who would prefer a half day, there's probably one who wishes they could afford the full day. A tuition free full day kindergarten has value almost beyond measure.
John Meyer January 26, 2012 at 04:26 PM
What is amazing to me is that some members of the board, by even questioning having free full day kindergarten, seem to be saying "It's OK for our students to start 1st grade off already behind their peers in other districts." Seriously, if only 4 districts in the whole state do not offer free full day kindergarten, then obviously others have seen the benefits and have been able to manage the costs. Why is this even a question, it should have been in place years ago
Jennifer Goebel February 21, 2012 at 05:39 PM
I live in the Mehlville school district, and I for one, would never pay Mehville for a full day Kindergarten. The quotes in this article from the board are appalling. Free Day Care? Parents, what day care center are you aware of that still takes Kindergarteners? None that I am aware of. Folks, spend your hard earned money wisely on a private education, for at least Kindergarten year. Any private institution, Catholic, Lutheran, etc, will guarantee that your children receive a full day of education, as opposed to babysitting.
Tom Diehl February 21, 2012 at 10:37 PM
I just want to say that the board member who equated full-day kindergarten to "free day care" does not speak for the majority of the Mehlville Board of Education. We have long recognized the advantages of early childhood education, including full-day kindergarten. Unfortunately, because of the convoluted state funding formula, Mehlville has been handicapped financially by not being funded at the same level as other school districts in the state. As the new state formula is being implemented, we will be on more equal footing with the 520 school districts who do offer full-day kindergarten. To the individual who advised people to enroll their kids in private education, I will put up our curriculum and especially our highly-qualified staff against any private school in the area. In Mehlville, we make every dollar count. We are a leader in providing individualized education plans designed to meet the needs of our students. Our district has been recognized nationally for providing "the best bang for the buck" in Missouri, and while we spend $2000 less per child than the state average (with only 10 districts spending less than we do), we have the 6th highest graduation rate in the state.
Christine Stewart Mehigh February 22, 2012 at 01:12 AM
Both of my children went through full day kindergarten in two different schools (due to a move) in the Mehlville school district. We found the program at both schools to be well planned, in step with current teaching methodologies, challenging, and certainly preparatory for first grade and beyond. Our children's teachers were top notch, caring and highly qualified. We were glad we paid for this enriching experience and our children continue to do well in school to this day. Ms. Goebels, you clearly need to become more well informed about our schools, and specifically about our excellent kindergarten program, before you say something so negative about our district. You owe our excellent teaching staff an apology.
Jennifer Goebel February 22, 2012 at 03:10 AM
I do apoligize if the teachers are offended by my personal opinion, however, my comment was not directed at anyone other than the quote in the article which correlated a free full day of Kindergarten as "free babysitting." I would worry about any school district that would consider full day Kindergarten a luxury. It is definitely reassuring that you feel you received quality education, the taxpayers of Mehville deserve that much.
Brenda Kimberlin February 22, 2012 at 06:46 PM
Ms. Gindler, I respectfully disagree. Many high-level education experts disagree on the long-term benefits of full-day kindergarten. In fact, many studies conclude that the "gains" that seem evident in the early grades typically disappear by the 3rd grade. My first child did not do full-day kindergarten and she is thriving in 2nd grade. My next child will not attend full-day kindergarten either and I have every confidence that she will do just fine. My godchild just received a full scholarship to an elite private high school and she did not attend full-day kindergarten. If other parents want and value it, they should pay for it. I value many things for my children -- dance classes, swimming, etc -- so I pay for them. Please refer to the district's own survey on the community's wishes on this issue. Our elected board members owe us that much.
Brenda Kimberlin February 22, 2012 at 08:59 PM
Mr. Meyer, there is no conclusive evidence that children who attend half-day kindergarten begin first grade "behind" students who attend full-day programs. In fact, many studies have found that while full-day students appear to have an advantage in the early grades, those gains disappear later on. And by the way, Webster Groves is one of the 4 districts you mention -- they continue to offer half-day kindergarten and from what I've seen of their test scores, they're doing just fine.
Brenda Kimberlin February 22, 2012 at 09:00 PM
I do NOT want mandatory, full-day kindergarten for my children. Full-day is not right for every child or every family. I voted against the last bond issue because it included funding for full-day and if it comes up again on the ballot, I will vote against it -- and the Board Members who support it -- again and again. I respect the opinions and wishes of the parents who want it, but the reality is that those parents DO have a choice -- to pay for full-day kindergarten. If the district makes it mandatory, you will be taking away MY choice for MY child and that's not right and it's certainly not democratic. The district's own survey confirms that more than half of our district does NOT believe full-day kindergarten is crucial to the district's future success. When voters were asked about the value they place on "Tuition free, full-day kindergarten" this is how they answered: 53% - not important or neutral 45% - important or very important Please respect the voter's wishes and the wishes of ALL parents on this issue. It's the right and fair thing to do.
Christina Blankenship February 22, 2012 at 09:32 PM
Full Day Kindergarten is going to be a wonderful development for the Mehlville School District and the students it serves. The educational, social, and economic benefits to the area will be far reaching. I would encourage others that post to be respectful of the opinions of others in their responses. Yes, we have freedom of speech, but that does not mean that you should check your manners at the door (we need to be good examples for our children). I would also encourage individuals responding to post to check their facts. There is an abundnce of respected peer reviewed data and research that supports full day Kindergarten. Infact, if I had the influence in this District I would like to see Early Childhood made available on a sliding fee scale. There are so many at risk children in this district that would really benefit from access to Early Childhood Services. Lastly, please re-check your District survey figures and read up on interpreting and analyzing survey results. I have been in the community and on the front lines with educators and parents their voices are loud and clear in regards to the desire to have Full Day Kindergarten in the District.
Brenda Kimberlin February 22, 2012 at 10:51 PM
Christina, please be direct in explaining why you think I misinterpreted the district's survey data. Question #4 of the District's survey asks: When considering the stability and future direction of the Mehlville School District, the District looks to its community's values to help choose and shape the programs that require funding. Going forward, which general areas are most important to you and would most likely gain your future support? Tuition-free full-day kindergarten: Very Important 25% Important 22% Neutral 22% Not Important 31% Perhapys you're referring to question number three of the survey, which yields a reverse result. However, that question includes the issue of Early Childhood Expansion, which is not a part of this debate. .
Karl Frank Jr. February 24, 2012 at 04:45 PM
I believe Brenda is working professionally with these posts as a PR Consultant for Lutheran Elementary Schools Association. "Media Coordinator - Outside Consultant at Lutheran Elementary School Assocation"
Christina Blankenship February 24, 2012 at 06:40 PM
Brenda, First of all my comment regarding the Early Childhood program is purely my opinion as I have stated many times in public that it is my hope that the Mehlville School District goes even further than provide free full day Kindergarten and provides Early Childhood Services on a free or sliding fee basis. There are so many underserved Children in our district. Second, one must consider the size and diversity of the survey sample in relation to the represented population as well as the composition and in some cases the order of the questions. In regards to the survey results and the figures your represented, Very Important 25% Important 22% - it is clear that 47% +/- a margin of error support free full day. Neutral 22% - it is not appropriate to lump the "Neutral" respondents in with "Not Important". Those respondents that selected neutral may not be opposed to free full day Kindergarten, but did not feel comfortable in checking important or very important as they required additional information to make an informed decision or their priorities and focus of interest due to their current life circumstances (i.e. students in high school or a student attending a middle school in need of repair) are in other areas. Not Important 31% - this is a clear objection. This is my final word on this. I support Dr. Knost and the Board in this action and thank them for their service to the students of this district. Regards, Christina
Brenda Kimberlin February 24, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Christina, I did not state that voters who selected "neutral" are opposed to full-day kindergarten. If you re-read my comment, you will see that I printed the survey's question word for word. The question and corresponding results speak for themselves. We can all twist the data any way we like to suit our viewpoints and I have no desire to change your mind on this issue. But like you or any parent, I have an obligation to speak my conscience on issues that affect my children and this one does.
Christine Stewart Mehigh February 24, 2012 at 09:40 PM
One report frequently cited by those in education research as it is a well-controlled national analysis of data, as well as a statewide study, is from the Center for Evaluation and Education Policy. This study shows the following (I've taken a direct quote from the study and put the link to it below): "Evidence was gathered supporting the following areas: attendance; academic achievement, including grade retention and special education referral; social and behavioral effects; and effects on disadvantaged students. On the issue of attendance, findings are inconclusive. The studies involving academic achievement, grade retention, special education referrals, and social and behavioral effects generally support the effectiveness of full day over half day programs. Disadvantaged students in full day kindergarten were also found to experience greater academic benefits than students in half day programs, although the magnitude of these greater benefits is again inconclusive. The national research suggests that there are no negative outcomes commonly associated with full day kindergarten." Clearly there are not any significant negative affects, and many positives associated with full day kindergarten. You can read the full report here: http://ceep.indiana.edu/projects/PDF/FDK_report_final.pdf
Christine Stewart Mehigh February 24, 2012 at 10:24 PM
For another interesting study, you can read about how the cost of full day kindergarten was offset to a great deal by the reduction in mid-day bus runs. This study also shows a decline in the number of students requiring special education services after the institution of full day kindergarten. http://www.northjersey.com/news/116899318_BOE_announces_benefits_of_full-day_kindergarten.html
Karl Frank Jr. March 05, 2012 at 04:24 PM
Does preshool matter? Overwhelmingly yes, and here is the reason why from the brilliant Jonah Lehrer. http://m.wired.com/wiredscience/2012/03/does-preschool-matter/
Sarah Belmar September 11, 2012 at 12:38 AM
What is the current cost of the full day program?
D Seidel September 11, 2012 at 01:10 AM
$2,275 http://enrollment-infor.mehlvilleschooldistrict.com/modules/groups/group_pages.phtml?&gid=2345480&nid=280917&sessionid=e116506f9bf1405821811279bb41352c

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