Board approves educational reform items

The era of school reform in Warren County School District has finally begun.

After years of development, administration brought some of the first few key pieces of what started as high school reform and eventually involved all educational levels in the district for a school board vote.

“High school reform started a few years ago,” Supervisor of Elementary Education Eric Mineweaser said. “We took our time.”

Board members had some concerns, but in the end voted unanimously to approve new graduation requirements based on a seven-period high school day, a middle level course sequence, and a class rank policy.

Over the next four years, the number of credits required for graduation will drop from the current 27 to 24.

The middle level change will decrease the required number of hours in art, music, library, and family consumer science while increasing required computer time, dramatically boosting physical education and health, and adding STEM (science, technology, engineering, and math) and research and study skills time. Student time in tech ed will remain very much the same.

Stewart said there were more than 50 people involved in planning the education reform changes. “This goes to the priorities that were set forth by those planners,” she said.

“Why are they proposing to boost up PE/health 123 percent at the expense of music and art?” board member Joe Colosimo asked.

“PE and health gets a big boost,” Stewart said. “We heard that kids need to move. Our huge priority was wellness.

“They wanted to see more computer and technology,” Stewart said. “They wanted to see updates to our tech ed. We heard a lot about research and study skills.”

“We look at computer skills,” she said. “We’ve been asking our teachers to integrate computer skills into their curriculum. Some of our kids are getting an amazing experience. Some are not.”

Board member Mary Passinger expressed concerns about students losing time in art, music, and library.

“I don’t see the advantages to this new section that outweigh my concerns,” she said.

She also suggested that the idea of an advisory period be refined from its current state at the middle level before it is implemented in the high schools.

“I’m a music person. I was an art person,” Board President Donna Zariczny said. “I don’t want to see those things go away, either.”

But, in an era when technology is so integral, she said high school students should be able to focus on electives they want “instead of mandating computer classes at a high school level when they should have had it at an earlier stage.”

While much of the discussion Monday was on the schedule changes, because those were the items before the board, education reform involves more. “There’s so much here,” Director of Administrative Support Services Gary Weber said. “The schedule change is one small piece of the puzzle that we’ve been working on for a very long time.”

Elementary changes

Changes to elementary programming were not part of the agenda, but a proposal was presented to the board. In that proposal, music would be removed from the third grade programming, art from fourth, and library from fifth. Required and separate computer courses, which are currently integrated into the other subjects, would replace them.

Warren Area Elementary Center Art Teacher Terri Williams cautioned the board and administration against the proposal.

“Please keep art in the elementary,” she said. “The arts teach students to think and problem-solve.”

“Art is every subject intertwined,” Williams said. “My students didn’t learn geometry in math. They learned it in art.”

Keeping all of the existing classes and adding computer would require an increase in staffing. “Adding a fifth special, that would be adding dollars,” Stewart said.