Moffat County School Board members dig into details of SB 191

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At its meeting Thursday, the Moffat County School Board:

• Approved, 6-0, on second reading, changes to district policies regarding bullying prevention and education; student code of conduct; salary schedule; bids and quotations and the district’s organization chart.

• Approved, 6-0, a first reading on changes to the district’s policy on student investigation, searches and arrests. If passed on second reading, the policy would not require the school principal or his or her designee to be present at student interviews during sexual abuse investigations, unless law enforcement or social services personnel requests it.

• Approved, 6-0, on first reading, to rescind a policy titled “employee expectations.” The board also voted unanimously to adopt on first reading a policy designed to replace it.

• Heard a report from Superintendent Joe Petrone about State Sen. Jean White’s scheduled visit to Moffat County School District on Oct. 3. White is slated to visit all schools in the district, including Maybell Elementary.

— Note: Board member Sandie Johns was absent from Thursday’s meeting.

At the Moffat County School District board meeting Thursday, Superintendent Joe Petrone summed up the complexities of piloting a new evaluation system for the state.

With Moffat County being part of the pilot program for Colorado Senate Bill 10-191, it’s “like building the airplane while we’re flying it,” he said.

Petrone and board members discussed the bill, also known as the “Great Teachers and Leaders Bill,” and the “Educator Effectiveness Bill,” as they tried to unravel the complexities of a measure designed to create a consistent statewide system for evaluating educators.

The measure, which takes full effect in 2015, ties teacher and principal effectiveness to evaluations that adhere to the state’s guidelines. It also requires half of educators’ evaluations be based on student growth.

The results of these evaluations bear weight in decisions like hiring, promotion, compensation and whether educators keep their non-probationary status, which gives them a certain amount of job security.

“You can imagine that’s quite a game changer in the state, and it would be in any other state,” Petrone said.

According to the bill, educators are evaluated then ranked in one of four categories ranging from highly effective to ineffective. Educators deemed to ineffective or partially effective for two years in a row could lose their non-probationary status.

At that point, they would become at-will employees and their contracts may not be renewed.

But that part of the system doesn’t come into play during the pilot program, which Moffat County and 14 other Colorado school districts are participating in.

Some details about the new evaluation system are unknown.

“We still have work to do,” Board President Jo Ann Baxter said, referring to the State Council for Educator Effectiveness, of which she is a member.

The council has yet to hammer out a process, which is part of the law, that lets teachers and principals appeal the results of their evaluations, she said.

Another topic that’s still unclear is how student performance will be measured in the new system.

Results from the Colorado Student Assessment Program would be part of it — but Baxter stressed it can’t be the only factor.

Still, the other measures used to measure student growth have yet to be determined.

Board Secretary Trish Snyder said she believes the new evaluations system is a good thing — if it’s used in the right way.

“I think it’s a good tool if it’s used as a tool,” she said.

Snyder said some teachers may be concerned about the system being similar to CSAP — a high-stakes assessment that measures only one moment in time.

She has questions about how student growth will be measured for the purpose of the evaluations, she said. And she also wonders how that will apply to elementary teachers, who teach a variety of subjects, in contrast to high school teachers, who specialize in one subject.

Still, she has hopes that SB 191 will ultimately benefit teachers and students.

“I feel that the teachers are there in the classroom for the same reason that they’ve always been in the classroom — they love students and they love teaching,” she said. “This hopefully will help them to grow professionally and become more effective.”

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