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With all the discussion over API’s and AYP’s, STAR scores and teacher accountability a new study out finds that Americans, in general, think the nations kids are sacrificing to make gains on standardized tests. A poll released by Phi Delta Kappa and Gallup Poll, the 39th Annual Poll of the Public's Attitudes Toward the Public Schools, says that among this year's major findings are that 52 percent of Americans believe that the Federal No Child Left Behind is limiting what children are taught. The sacrifice, according to Americans polled, is at the expense of subjects such as art, science, health and social studies. A significant majority of those surveyed also believe that more must be done to prepare students to compete in a global economy.  National Education Association President Reg Weaver says "Narrowing the curriculum and teaching to the test are only two of the unintended consequences of No Child Left Behind, and educators were the first to sound the alarm on this trend," Weaver continues saying "The law's single-minded focus on test preparation is robbing students of the opportunity to think critically and solve problems.” Weaver says “We need to prepare them for the real world, for success in the new industries of tomorrow like alternative energy, medical research and technology” says Weaver.

slide9.pngThe Amador County Unified School District convened Wednesday evening for the first official meeting of the 08-09 school year. Kicking off the meeting was the introduction of Joe Pechett, a local contractor, who will be taking on the role of Maintenance Supervisor for the district. Mr. Pechett spoke to the board saying that he “went into (the job) thinking there would be more wrong than there (actually) was” and that in his opinion, things are “so far, so good.” Superintendent Glock stated that he felt Mr. Pechett was a “good hire” and that the district is still in need of a “custodial supervisor.” The Board also discussed a resolution for a Quitclaim and Release for the Wild Flower Subdivision, formally the Ryland property. In 2006, the School District and Wild Flower Subdivision signed an agreement which would allocate money from the development to the School District to fund a new entrance to Ione Elementary. Also conditioned in the agreement was a settlement of developer fees which would be paid on the parcels to the District.

As part of the project, a water tower was to be constructed by the Amador Water Agency, which was written into the Development Agreement, but the development construction cannot proceed without finalizing the plans for the tower. slide12.pngThe Quitclaim and Release documents were brought to light because if the parcels in question were available for housing, the School District would have the right to collect fees on them; however, as they are designated specifically for the water tower, and not housing, no fees can be collected. Both Wild Flower and the Water Agency have asked the Ione City Council and the School District to release any potential claim to the parcels in question. Ione City Council passed their Quitclaim and Release unanimously at their meeting on August 5th. Some concern arose from board members regarding the potential loss in fees. Barbara Murray cleared the confusion by stating that “we [the School District] were not expecting those fees anyway.” The resolution was then passed unanimously.

slide16.pngThe Amador County Unified School District is gearing up for the 2008-09 school year.  A special board workshop Tuesday marked the first official day for new Superintendent Richard “Dick” Glock.  At the meeting, board members discussed their vision and goals for the upcoming year, making several changes to the existing Vision and Goals poster. In relation to the board’s vision, Glock quoted the book Results Now, How We Can Achieve Unprecedented Improvements in Teaching and Learning, which talks about the huge difference between well-known essential practices and the reality of most classrooms. The book lectures about consistent curriculum, authentic literacy education, and professional learning communities for teachers.  Taking from the book, Glock said, “simple plans work best – those with a direct focus on straightforward actions and opportunities.” He also recommended that teachers “analyze their achievement data, set goals, and then meet at least twice a month – for 45 minutes.” Glock brings a wealth of experience from his previous superintendent positions, including eleven years with the Temecula Valley Unified School District in Southern California, as well Superintendent of Schools in Nebraska.

The board also discussed streamlining the suspension and expulsion policies and looked at the possibility of hiring slide19.pngfour retired administrators to sit on the Expulsion Hearing Panel. Another item the board felt needed streamlining was Dress Code Policy enforcement.  Collectively, the board recognized the need to address and enforce dress code policy violations at the very beginning of the school year, as well as notifying parents of the policy.  The board also touched on homework policies, as well as the proper procedure for staying in touch with parents or guardians regarding missing assignments and failing grades.  And finally, the board requested a copy of the board’s cell phone policy, which regulates student use of cell phones at school and outlines the proper procedure to follow when phones are confiscated.

Friday, 06 June 2008 01:58

Amador High School Honored

The Amador County Unified School District began their Wednesday evening meeting with a Safety Award presented by Diane Rappaport, the Executive Director of the Tuolumne JPA. The award honors Amador High School as the “Most Improved” out of 4 surrounding counties. According to Rappaport, Amador was chosen because of the swift and impressive clean up of its shop and science labs after multiple waste issues were established. The award has some money attached to it, with 2 checks totaling 15-hundred dollars also presented to the board to be used for future safety needs. Also on the agenda was the Retirement Incentive Pay Conversion Plan, which was pulled from the previous meetings agenda because of ongoing legal discussions. The board approved the plan 6-1 with Board member Porray dissenting.

Two tentative agreements were also on the agenda, including one with the California School Employees Association, and one with the Amador County Teachers Association. The first agreement with the California School Employees Association, or CSEA, involved housekeeping, including such language changes as compensatory time for full time employees and a year long trial run for seniority preferences when it comes to long term absences. The seniority wheel is a common practice in other districts and would allow a part time employee to acquire a full time employee’s work load if said employee were on a long term absence of more than 20 days. Board members questioned whether or not this agreement was taking away flexibility from the district by only allowing employees to step up, as opposed to hiring a sub. But according to staff the agreement is basically “to clean up our practices, and put some consistency in the system.” The agreement was approved 6-1. The tentative agreement with the Amador County Teachers Association was approved 5-2.

Friday, 23 May 2008 02:50

Teacher Retirement Ceremony

slide4.pngA retirement ceremony for many long-standing school officials proved to be a joyous yet solemn occasion for all in attendance last Wednesday. The simplicity of the setting only seemed to add to its solemnity, as school board members lined up in front of five rows of fold-out chairs at the end of the Argonaut High School multi-purpose room. The honors began with a simple speech from board member Mary Walser and the presentation of a plaque to retiring Superintendent Mike Carey. Carey made a speech saying he was honored by the opportunity the school system has given him. Other retiring teachers followed. Each retiree took turns walking down the line and shaking hands with School Board members. They were also presented with an engraved teacher’s bell, described as “a small audible reminder of the school district’s gratitude.” After the formal presentation, cake was served and many of the honorees discussed what they will look forward to in their retirement years.

Friday, 14 March 2008 01:55

New Garden For Argonaut High

slide23.pngArgonaut High School students may have a lot to look forward to come spring: Plans are underway to break ground on an impressive new school garden. The Special Education and Science Departments both applied for a California Department of Education grant last spring. In December, the departments learned that they would be awarded funding totaling 5,000 dollars.
Friday, 29 February 2008 01:11

Pending School Budget Cuts Draw Crowd

slide12.pngWednesday night’s Amador County Unified School District Board Meeting was filled to capacity with students and parents pleading to the board to save the high school music programs and preserve the job of their music educator, Chris Tootle. Tootle, the most junior music teacher, would fall prey to staff cut-backs if the current version of the proposed budget is approved. Tootle was praised with such comments as “the heart and soul of the music program”. Those commenting listed the music departments many accomplishments, which included expansion from a 15 piece band to 30 plus members.
Monday, 11 February 2008 00:54

Student Recognition Awards Presented

Superintendent Mike Carey was pleased to present recognition awards to students, alumni and local businesses at last Thursday’s school board meeting. Students Brandi Baker and Patrick Lindecker received the Community Block Letter Award, which recognizes their participation in community service. Cole Smith, who wasn’t at the meeting, received the High Five Award for most improved grades. Alumni John Plasse was also honored for his ongoing contributions to vocational training. Workability Appreciation Awards, which recognize contributions for work training programs, were awarded to Mountain Mike’s Store Owner Renee Ziegler and Managers Andy Henningsen and Michelle Van Slochteren.
slide8Since the early 1980s, family income has increased 170%, inflation has risen 95%, the cost of healthcare climbed 225%, and the price of a college education has soared above it all- increasing 375%. Congress is now offering some relief to students and families with the passage of a bill on Friday that is considered the largest overhaul of education funding in more than 60 years. The bill creates a $20.9-billion program that will boost financial aid to students and reduce interest payments on their loans.
Monday, 27 August 2007 01:40

Life on Mars? More Evidence Pondered

slide9The soil on Mars may contain microbial life, according to a new interpretation of data first collected more than 30 years ago. The search for life on Mars appeared to hit a dead end in 1976 when the Viking landers touched down on the planet and failed to detect biological activity. But German scientists said on Friday the spacecraft may in fact have found signs of a weird life form based on hydrogen peroxide on the subfreezing.