BEVERLY - The Fort Frye Local Board of Education agreed Thursday with the superintendent's recommendation against moving sixth-graders to the high school next year to deal with a particularly small class.
This year's fifth-graders number less than 60, with 30 of them at Beverly-Center Elementary School and 10 at Salem-Liberty in a split class with fourth-graders. One idea for dealing with this small number had been to send all sixth-graders to Fort Frye High School, which had raised concerns among some parents.
Superintendent Tom Gibbs told the board at Thursday's regular meeting that he'd surveyed employees at the high school and found that making the change would be a daunting task, especially when it came to keeping sixth-graders separate from older high school students throughout the day.
"To do that for just one small group of students seems extreme," he said.
Board member Charlie Schilling said it would likely be impossible to keep the upper and lower grades separate.
"I think it's maybe the best thing for them to stay in grade school," said Schilling, who has a child in fifth grade this year.
6 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 18, Beverly-Center Elementary School.
Gibbs said he'd also spoken to three board members who indicated they would prefer to keep the students at the elementary schools and adjust staffing accordingly. The full board agreed to this approach at the meeting.
"That's going to cost us a little bit more money than it would have to bring them all to one location, but I think it sends a message that the board values ... community schools," Gibbs said.
Gibbs said the district needs to communicate its decision to families to "end the speculation, so the kids can enjoy their year."
"We'd appreciate that," said Lower Salem resident Rodney West, in attendance at the meeting.
The class is smaller than many others, such as the 94 who graduated last spring. And Gibbs noted this year's number of kindergarteners is slightly larger than last year's senior class, reversing a recent trend.
In other business
Gibbs told the board he'd originally planned to give a presentation on the district's performance on the latest state report cards, but that wasn't possible since the state board of education chose not to release the annual school performance scores amid an investigation into the alleged alteration of attendance figures in some districts to boost scores.
The state plans to release the raw data before the end of the month, but it will not include the final ratings, district attendance rate and performance index numbers.
Gibbs said preliminary data he'd reviewed indicated the district overall had an "effective" rating, with Beverly-Center and the high school earning "excellent" status, Lowell Elementary rated effective and Salem-Liberty between effective and "continuous improvement."
The board approved several policy revisions, including one stating the treasurer and superintendent must have their performance evaluated by the board at least once a year. That matches state law, but the previous policy set two times for evaluation - August and December. Those dates were not met this year due to the hiring of Gibbs, who also serves as superintendent of the Warren Local school district, in May and Treasurer Melcie Wells, also pulling double duty for Fort Frye and Warren, in January.
"(Technically), the board violated its own policy this year by hiring a treasurer and superintendent a little bit out of sequence," Gibbs said.
The board also approved a credit card policy, stating the district credit card is kept in the treasurer's office and must be signed out by an employee who plans to use it for lodging at a conference or something similar. That's what had been done before, but Wells noted it hadn't been formally recorded.
Gibbs said state auditors had recommended Warren establish such a policy and he and Wells felt it was a good idea to go ahead and have one for Fort Frye as well.