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Mehlville School District Board of Education Recognizes Outstanding Achievement, Looks to Future

Last night's Board of Education meeting recognized outstanding achievements from the past school year, marked the official resignation of board member Mike Ocello and looked to the future of assessment testing.

Project Engage, which began in January, helped bridge the gap between district and community with service to others. The Mehlville School District Board of Education meeting began with a video to highlight the success of the project. The moving video encompassed the various community service projects done in the second half of the year. 

Deputy Superintendent Dr. Eric Knost said that he considers Project Engage a huge success. 

"We didn't discontinue service to others once it (the project) ended," Knost said. "We think it was kind of special and we wanted to share it with the board and the community tonight." 

The meeting continued with a praise to outstanding students in the district. Emily McFarland, director of communications, presented several awards, including Hagemann Elementary kindergardener Sofia Hatzigeorgiou, who was honored for her smart actions when helping a student in need; Oakville High School sophomore German student Melina Delkic, who earned a three-week trip to Germany based on her high scores on the AATG’s National German Exam; Trautwein Elementary, who received the School of Character Award from the Character Education Partnership; Margaret Buerkle Middle School, who was honored for Outstanding Student Leadership; and Mehlville High School senior Jessica Ghormley, who has advanced to the national competition level for National History Day. 

Superintendent Terry Noble talked about levy bill NB530, otherwise known as the Mehlville Fix, which will be heard on both the senate and house of representatives floors tomorrow. Look for a forthcoming story on both Mehlville and Oakville Patch regarding the outcome of that bill. 

Next came the discussion of Mike Ocello’s impending move out of the district. His submitted letter of resignation was accepted, and Board of Education President Venki Palamand officially announced the vacancy. The board is looking for a three-page application, and applications are due to the central office by 4 p.m. Friday, June 3. This is a one-time extension from a two-week deadline to a three-week deadline, approved by the board. The application should include why you want to serve and what you feel that you would add to the current Mehlville School District Board of Education.

The last major agenda item was the Tungsten examination approval. Grades 5-8 are tested to see how they would then test on future MAP test. It was stressed that the Tungsten test is a predictive test. 

“We test grades 2 through 5 in communication, arts and math, and we’ve had it for a number of years. We use that data to make predictions on kids on how they will score in the MAP test. It is a predictive test,” Dr. Vicki VanLaere, supervisor of instruction, said.  “It tests different types of question that kids may not have been exposed to.”

After the test is administered, Tungsten then scores them and sends data to each school. The principals meet every month to discuss the data and chart the number of students who received 80 percent or higher on the assessments. Teachers then discuss what the data shows to be strengths and weaknesses for students and then work with them to increase their scores. 

The current contract is available for a one-year or two-year cost. Elementary-level testing is projected to cost $58, 312.30 and middle school-level is approximately $47, 024.20

“I’ve worked with elementary teachers and we are getting a lot closer toward common assessments that are generated by our teachers. So, we will likely not need Tungsten,” VanLaere said. “The middle schools may accomplish the goal by the end of this school year, but the elementary schools are going to need 1-2 years to reach this goal.” 

Scott Andrews, Hagemann Elementary School Principal, is a big proponent of Tungsten testing. 

“Tungsten is a predictive test on whether the child will score proficient or advanced on the Missouri state MAP test,” he said. Three 80s or above have a much better chance of being proficient. The test helps us to know that we may have to give students additional help and get them up over the bubble so to speak."

Andrews went on to say that during the first 35 minutes of the school day, students are divided up on how they tested, and certain skills where the students may be lacking are studied during that time.

 Knost said that since secondary schools are much farther along, he is not recommending a continuation for middle schools at this time. 

 “We are always looking for ways to save money and the consensus is that predominantly we would like to get closer to common assessments,” Knost said. “Our recommendation is that we do stay with this model for another year—one more year on the elementary end and part ways with the middle school (Tungsten testing).”

A contract not exceeding $60,000 for another year was then approved by the board.

The meeting closed with a word from Board Member Mark Stoner:

“I just wanted to say to all of the members of the staff and administrative personnel ... as I looked through the Project Engage video tonight it was one of the best things that I have seen, and I was very appreciative of that. As we move into July we will be making a switch from Terry Noble to Eric Knost and while I certainly appreciate Terry’s responsibilities the past year, as a board we need to develop goal setting with Knost as a board and as a district. First off in developing goals and as a board I’d like us to consider compensation packages to district employees and ways to reduce our budget overall, and allowing some of the profits overall back to enhancing student learning experience through technology and electronic curriculum, and putting the focus on the curriculum to help people in the areas of science.”

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