At last week’s meeting of the Grand Rapids School Board, a lengthy discussion took place about the literacy collaborative.
The literacy collaborative was on the agenda for approval until Director Pat Medure made a motion to postpone a vote on the program until March. The board had been ready to vote on spending about $250,000 with Ohio State University over five years to implement the program.
Medure explained that he was leery of approving something without a contract. He also questioned the lack of any cost comparisons, and whether the district could implement a literacy program internally with the aid of outside help.
“What would we be doing if Ohio State wasn’t here?” Medure asked. Medure went on to explain that the subject could be further explored in an upcoming workshop. When questioned about the contents of a contract, while unsure of what would need to be included, the director asserted, “Let’s put it in writing so we understand what it is. The better we understand what we’re buying, the better off we all are.”
When asked to explain the program, Assistant Superintendent Rochelle VanDenHeuvel said the reason for proceeding with approval of the literacy collaborative is to complete the application with Ohio State University. She also said approval of the initiative would allow for the hiring of 2.5 full time employees to help staff the program. “We would need to have approval from the board before we could sign a contract with Ohio State because we would need to commit to this model of having the literacy coaches part-time in the classroom and then part-time in the building.”
VanDenHeuvel also said that it was her understanding that the district could get out of the contract at any time. “I don’t know that Ohio State would sign a contract before we filled out the application, and until we commit to hiring those staff. That’s the first step and that’s why it is before you tonight,” she said.
District Superintendent Bruce Thomas offered his perspective saying “Last May I pulled this from the agenda because there were questions about the literacy program; that it may have been premature for us to move forward with this until we’ve had further dialogue.”
Thomas said he understood full well the issues dealing with finances but indicated that the collaborative had been discussed in six workshops. He also said that the program had demonstrated increases in student achievement and that the district was obligated to implement programs that have demonstrated success. Thomas finished his comments by welcoming another workshop but said that the district was also faced with a timeliness issue.
Board Director Harvey Hietala commented, “We hire administrative staff and classroom staff and principals and so on to make educational decisions that the board is really not capable of making.” He added that he didn’t want the board to get into the position of making it impossible for the administration to do the job they have been hired to do.
Board Chair Tom Peltier asked the board to proceed with a vote on Medure’s initial motion, which was to postpone a vote on the literacy collaborative so that the issue could be discussed further in an upcoming workshop. That measure failed and the board instead voted to approve the literacy collaborative with the stipulation that the issuance of a contract from Ohio State University come back to the board for approval.
In other business, the board:
• Accepted six teacher retirements, two coaching resignations, one coaching replacement hire, and the retirement of the Payroll Director
• Approved a resolution directing Administration to make recommendations for reductions in programs and positions.
• Appointed School Board representatives for 2017 graduation ceremonies.
• Approved the 2017/2018 calendar.
• Approved the 2018 graduation dates.
• Approved the School Board member’s right to employment.
• Appointed Wipfi LLP as District Auditors.
• Approved a contract with Hawk Construction for remodeling of an entrance to Forest Lake Elementary in the amount of $220,000.