2017-03-16 / Front Page

HLCS hires full-time curriculum director

By Cheryl Holladay

In an effort to address an “urgent” educational need, the Houghton Lake Community Schools Board of Education hired a full-time curriculum director at its regular meeting Monday.

Upon Interim Superintendent Su­san Tyer’s recommendation, the board, in a 6-1 vote (member Char Baker cast the only no vote), approved the hiring of Melissa Hayes, general education direc­tor for COOR Intermediate School Dis­trict.

Hayes has experience as curriculum director and principal and worked in the Crawford AuSable School District (Grayling).

Tyer reiterated some of her concerns she expressed to the school board in Feb­ruary. She said there is an “urgent” need for such a director, based on MiSchool Data information. In her list of concerns, she said student proficiency in English language arts at the end of third grade is 27%; the four-year graduate rate (for stu­HLCS dents starting in ninth grade) is 60.19%; and Houghton Lake Middle School and Collins Elementary are still on the “Fo­cus School” list.

Tyer said the $95,000 salary is “not out of line” with other curricu­lum directors in the state and that the administrative team supports the hire. Among Hayes’ responsibilities at Houghton Lake, she said, would be to ensure high quality instruction is taught; data is collected, reviewed and analyzed; research and strategies are implemented; and that teachers meet often to collabo­rate. She will continue to facilitate the Blueprint for Rapid Turnaround.

Baker said she preferred money be spent addressing behavior issues among students at the elementary school. When board member Kelly Christian inquired about the elimination of intervention­ists, HLCS State and Federal Programs Director Jenny VanDuinen said the deci­sion was made to move from interven­tionists to coaches.

“Our coaches are moving in the right direction,” VanDuinen said, adding that the change was made under the guidance of the Michigan Department of Educa­tion.

Tyer said Hayes is the person the district needs “right now” to move the district toward becoming a “destination district.”

During public comment, Collins El­ementary teacher Char Fitzgerald said two interventionists have more of an im­pact than a curriculum director and par­ent Holly Bosel suggested hiring teach­ers at a higher rate than spending the money on a director. Parent Rachel Peel said the board should look at “the bigger picture” and hire Hayes part-time as well as an interventionist.

Houghton Lake Education Associa­tion

President Curt Schaiberger said the last few curriculum directors, including the most recent, Arlene Jury, filled the position part-time. Teacher Deb Mar­kiewicz said the district needs to make a better effort of keeping teachers and sug­gested Hayes work part-time to prove she “can make a difference.”

A one-year superintendent contract for Tyer was also approved, 7-0. Tyer will now be referred to as superintendent rather than interim superintendent. Her salary for the 2017-18 school year will be $110,240.

The board also approved a new education offering, a STEM (science, technol­ogy, engineering and math) pro­gram.

Houghton Lake High School Princi­pal John Winkler said the program con­sists of labs, from a CNC machine to an injection mold to vinyl and 3-D printers. They allow for project-based learning, he said, and students will design, build and test their projects.

The initial cost of the program is $140,000, in addition to licensing fees of $4,500 the first year and $3,000 every year after that.

“It’s gonna be a great program,” Win­kler said.

The board also approved a new con­tract with Next IT for $6,000 more than the current contract (about $14,000 per month) and a tech proposal by Trinity 3 Technology for 688 new desktop com­puters at a cost of $219,472 (including a six-year warranty).

Also approved was an exception for three seniors as it pertains to the new graduation requirements. Winkler said the students do not qualify under the new requirements of 24 credits; they have met their Michigan Merit Curriculum requirements, but still needed to fulfill their electives requirements.

In a report on the facilities usage committee, spokesperson Bryan Thomp­son said the committee reviewed build­ings, staff and class sizes and its rec­ommendation is to build a new pre-K through 8 building.

Christian, who served on the com­mittee, said the members had a “very healthy discussion” about the district’s buildings and that the three meetings held were productive.

Tyer said any approaches to im­proving the facilities usage would be a “Band-Aid.” For example the middle school was built in 1950. She said an architect from DM Burr has been con­tacted to assess the buildings and she talked with the building principals. Any bond proposal would be a two-year proj­ect, she said. In the meantime, she said, money needs to be spent on fixing things that need addressing.

A portion of the meeting was held in closed session under the section of the Open Meetings Act (OMA) that allows the board to consult with its attorney re­garding pending litigation.

Prior to the board going into the closed meeting, recall supporter Mary Walker spoke during public comment, saying she was not sure why the board needed to meet in closed session be­cause it would not have a “detrimental financial effect,” referring to the OMA exemption language.

She said she believed the board in­tended to discuss former district employ­ee Rhonda Whitlock’s lawsuit she filed following the board’s closed meeting it held Aug. 8, 2016.

Walker said Whitlock was simply asking for an apology, admission that the board violated the OMA and $2,500 in fees. She said such a resolution may give the board some “go-forward credibility.”

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