Rock Island-Milan School Board members discussed changes that could be coming to the district's safety plans and the way math is taught to eighth-grade through high school students.|
In the near future, board members are expected to consider purchasing an electronic messaging system so that parents, staff and others could be contacted quickly in the event of a safety concern or, more likely, a weather concern.
Superintendent Mike Oberhaus said the district is the only one in the area that does not have such a messaging system. Officials hope to have a recommendation before the board by Jan. 25. The system would include land line, cellphone, text messaging and email capabilities.
Board members also may see a request to follow through with plans to beef up security at the middle school buildings. These measures were scrapped during the district's Building Excellence initative because of financial concerns. All elementary buildings have secure entrances, and a staff member always is at the front desk at the high school entrance.
These potential changes were discussed during a safety plan update presented by assistant superintendent Kay Ingham. She discussed a training session she attended on ALICE, a national initiative that stands for alert, lockdown, information counter and evacuate.
Ms. Ingham said the ALICE trainer focused on taking safety measures already in place and looking for enhancements. She said the trainer was impressed the district has a written plan and processes in place to review situations.
"And so I think you don't want to be lulled into thinking we've got the answer; clearly we don't. But it was a good starting point," she said.
Ms. Ingham said information about ALICE procedures has been provided to principals and will be discussed in more detail. Safety is considered by district staff daily, and the district's efforts are boosted by a strong relationship with the Rock Island Police Department, she said.
Board members also heard a report from high school math teacher Michelle Lillis on changing math instruction for eighth-grade through high school students.
The current approach is through "traditional math pathways," which take students through math concepts in a segmented way, first learning algebra and then moving on to geometry and other specialized areas.
The district is considering switching to an integrated approach that Ms. Lillis said would fuse the various math concepts together and make them more applicable to the real world. She said students in kindergarten through eighth grade already receive integrated math instruction, and extending that approach could improve the flow of learning.
Ms. Lillis said studies have shown a positive correlation between integrated math instruction and better performance on testing by low-income students.
Administrators intend to bring a recommendation to the board that would phase in integrated math instruction, beginning with a new course for freshman students next year.
In other business, board members did not approve paying to renew membership in the National School Boards Association. Board member Linda Dothard said she never has seen the benefits of membership, which this year costs just less than $3,000.
Board members also learned five candidates have filed petitions to fill four vacancies on the board. Current board members Jim Bishop, Dave Rockwell, and Jim Veasey filed candidacy papers as did former board member Earl Strupp and newcomer Kevin Matter.