Spring break might be shortened due to last week’s snow days, says the Independence school board. The board is considering cutting part of the break that is currently scheduled from March 27 to 31. Before the board decides, it will be surveying parents of the district next week. The board also officially approved having class today to compensate for the number of consecutive days missed from last week’s snow storm. The originally scheduled professional development day will not be made up, according to Superintendent Dale Herl.

In other action at the meeting, George K. Baum says the Independence School District should take advantage of low interest rates in the fluctuating bond market that would save district taxpayers nearly a million dollars. The school board authorized Baum to sell general obligation bonds that would refund the 2004 series bonds. “This is money that will never be collected from taxpayers and the savings are due to lower interest rates on the refunded bonds,” reports the district.

Students attending schools in western Independence are improving in math. The district’s three FOCUS schools, Korte, Fairmount and Three Trails Elementary, have all improved academically over the past year, reports Assistant Superintendent Dred Scott. Most notably, Three Trails Elementary jumped from 0/16 in math acuity test scores (which are like practice exams for the MAP state assessment) last year to 12/16 this year. Fairmount increased from 9/16 to 16/16 in math acuity over a six month span as well. Korte improved in both language arts and math acuity scores with a jump from 9/16 to 12/16 in ELA and 9/16 to 15/16 in math. According to Scott, principals from all three FOCUS schools who informed the district at the mid year school improvement update said they were very encouraged by the results, and liked how the district uses data to make instructional decisions.

The board approved the construction bid of a districtwide wireless networking system that will begin installation on July 1. “This (wireless network) will increase the efficiency and speed on how data (Internet) is obtained throughout the district,” said Herl. “The intent is every classroom and commons area will have its own hub where they can have faster access to data for educational and personal electronic devices.” Three schools that do not receive federal funding for this project, Little Blue Elementary, Blackburn Elementary and Truman High School, will have the network installed earlier at their respective sites versus the districtwide July 1 start date.

The Missouri Department of Secondary and Elementary Education’s Educator Evaluation System has been approved by the board. Missouri law requires all school districts in the state to evaluate its employed educators, and DESE revised the evaluation model in May 2013.

“Any evaluation model should value what we value,” said Assistant Superintendent Linda Gray Smith. She also said the district’s Performance Based Evaluation Committee has worked two years to develop instruction evaluation that meets DESE requirements. The seven components of performance-based evaluation model include: Using research-based or proven practices to measure educator performance, establishing performance indicators for educators based on their level of performance, aligning the evaluation process with an educator’s probationary period for accumulation of performance data, using student learning in the evaluation process, assessing educator performance on a regular basis and providing feedback to teachers and administrators they can use throughout their career, ensuring evaluators are highly trained so that ratings are fair, accurate and reliable and using the evaluation process to guide school district policies that impact the development of educators.