Bethel-Royalton School Merger Has 9 Areas to Measure Results

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 9/29/2018 11:52:32 PM
Modified: 9/29/2018 11:53:11 PM

The following nine goals come from the district’s Articles of Agreement and the Act 46 study group’s written plan, which the State Board of Education approved before the October 2017 vote in Bethel and Royalton.

Outdoor Experiential Learning Program

Goal: “In the first year, the Unified District will implement an Outdoor Experiential Learning Program that will prepare students for careers in technical and professional fields.”

Status: School officials say the loss of two science teachers and a principal left them unable to establish a quality program in time. They still plan to offer the program, although they are unsure when.

Transportation

Goal: “The new district will design and implement a strong transportation program which will seek to provide reasonable bus commuting times and facilitate participation in curricular and extracurricular activities.”

Status: Bethel jettisoned its in-house busing program in favor of a districtwide contract with Butler’s Bus Service.

Staffing shortages at Butler have resulted in ride times of longer than the target of a one-hour maximum, but school officials say they could just as easily have had the same problems had the districts not merged.

Attracting Tuition Students

Goal: “There is an assumption that a stronger district with larger, more robust programs, would attract a total of 36 additional students in grades 6-12.”

Status: This year, the district has attracted a total of 47 tuition students, including 10 who count the district as their home base but attend regional tech centers for all or part of the day. It is unclear how many are “additional” students.

Technology

Goal: “State-of-the-art technology to support the educational process and to assure students can be competitive regardless of where their journey beyond high school leads.”

Status: Every student has access to a Chromebook, the middle school now houses a large-monitor video system to facilitate interactions with people around the world, and a new half-time tech integrationist is available to help students, teachers and administrators in their use of technology.

Curriculum

Goal: A call for “broad curricular offerings including a robust STEM program and world languages and the arts” is among the many academic goals included in the plan.

Status: Middle schoolers have been offered new classes in world languages, culture and technical education, and the district has hired a firm to develop a middle school-specific curriculum over the next three years. Elementary and high school students have many new class offerings, including computer science, comedy writing, engineering and robotics, ceramics, academic writing and current events.

Community Involvement

Goal: “Substantial parent and community involvement in all local schools.”

Status: The School Board is still developing objective measures for different types of community involvement, but significant anecdotal evidence indicates more parents getting engaged. For example, a music booster club that previously served only Bethel has more than doubled in size, and community-based groups such as the Parent Teacher Organization are communicating and cooperating more than in previous years.

Budget

Goal: “Administration estimates that savings from coming together, including the merging of two middle school programs and two high school programs, will be a minimum of $137,000.”

Status: The $11.6 million budget that was approved in March is $500,000 more than the combined budgets of Bethel ($5.3 million) and Royalton ($5.8 million) for the 2017-18 school year. School officials say that some of that budget reflects one-time grants and one-time spending associated with the merger. An audit, currently in progress, should give officials a better idea of what, if any, savings were actually realized.

Tax Rate

Goal: Tax rate projections presented last year by school officials noted that the actual tax rate would be affected by factors beyond the district’s control, including state policy and tuition student numbers. With that caveat, it projected a tax rate for fiscal year 19 of $1.35 per $100 of assessed value in Bethel and Royalton, as compared with a projection of $1.725 in Bethel and $1.469 in Royalton if the two hadn’t merged.

Status: When the district budget was adopted, the Royalton education tax rate increased from $1.40 to $1.50.

In Bethel, the rate decreased from $1.59 to $1.50. School officials said changes at the state level were responsible for most of the difference between projections and actual figures.

Implementation

Goal: The School Board shall “develop school district policies, adopt curriculum, educational programs, assessment measures and reporting procedures in order to fulfill the State’s Education Quality Standards, prepare for contractual agreements, set the school calendar for Fiscal Year 2019, prepare and present a budget for Fiscal Year 2019.”

Status: Though some matters, such as assessment measures, are still being worked out, all required policies were in place by the time the school year began, and many were adopted on July 1, the first day of the district’s existence.

Matt Hongoltz-Hetling can be reached at mhonghet@vnews.com or 603-727-3211.




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