By Will McClure
The Stamford ISD School Board held their regular meeting for the month of March last Thursday evening where they discussed property bid approvals, policy updates and calendar approval for the 2016-2017 school year. Before they entered into new business, however, the board recognized and welcomed students from Stamford Middle School as well as parents who wished to address the board that evening. As the students prepared to give their presentation to the board, Dr. Shawn Barnett took time to recognize a prestigious achievement received by Stamford Middle School.
Barnett informed the board that the Stamford Middle School was recognized for high achievement in student success and had been selected for a prestigious honor roll by the National Campaign of Business and Education Leaders. Barnett said that they "announced that [Stamford Middle School] have been selected by the Educational Results Partnership and the Institute for Educational Productivity as one of 713 public schools in Texas to receive the title of 2015 Honor Roll School. They are a star school and what that is for is the honor roll is part of a national effort to identify high performing schools." Barnett mentioned that he would be sending out a press release to formally announce Stamford Middle School's recognition.
The students of SMS then proceeded to give a demonstration to the board concerning the concept that they have been using that revolves around student-centered lessons where the students themselves create the lessons and teach them to their classes as well as classes on the Oliver campus. Represented by students Lane Patton, Macy Fernandez, Brittney Villanueva, Storee Gomez, Brett Patterson and teacher Mrs. Jewelee Kuenstler, the lessons take a "hands-on" approach to learning by allowing the students to engage in the content by dressing in costumes or performing experiments. The students then recreated a lesson from the previous Monday that concerned their studies of the Civil War and, specifically, how field hospitals needed to operate during that time. The students also showed the board photos of another lesson that they had given to the students of Oliver where they would attempt to prove or "bust" common myths with the Oliver students in the style of Mythbusters. The students also mentioned some of the things they learned in their science class which involved learning about hurricanes and mentioned that they would be using Facetime to talk to a meteorologist in class the following week. After the students completed their presentation, the meeting was turned over to Stamford ISD parents Shea and Angie Cook who wished to express a concern to the board.
The Cooks were allowed the opportunity to address the board with a concern over the dual credit program offered by Stamford ISD. According to district policy, a Stamford ISD student could only receive credit on their high school transcript after taking a college course as long as it is through Western Texas College in an online course that is offered by the college. Angie Cook, who is a community college instructor, said that she had previously spoken with Dr. Barnett and Stamford High School Principal Casey Stone about allowing her child to take a dual-credit college course with Cisco College in the summer and/or fall and spring evening courses that would meet face-to-face instead of online. However, as Cook mentioned to the board, she was informed that any credit her child would receive from taking these courses would not be applied to his high school transcript per the district policy. As a result, Mrs. Cook was allowed an opportunity to bring the issue to the board to consider amending the district policy.
"My husband, Shea, and I...would like SISD to allow students who want to take dual credit in a format other than online to be able to do that where they can take a class in a face-to-face setting or during a long semester or even in an ITV course," Cook said. "[On the last page of the handout given to the board], studies have shown that completion rates for online courses are lower than in either traditional face-to-face or ITV courses. A study found that all community colleges show a decrement in fully online courses, some show a steeper decline than others." Cook went on to say that, having been teaching dual credit courses herself for 13 years, she feels that students need to be able to talk to their instructor and mentioned that even in her own online courses, she visits the campuses to answer questions related to the difficult college content, something that the online courses currently recognized by Stamford ISD through WTC does not offer. Cook concluded by expressing that they wish the board and the district to consider the option to allow Stamford ISD students to take a college course from any campus that they wish and in the format in which they feel comfortable and receive credit for the course. While the board could not discuss the issue brought forward by the Cooks during the meeting as it was not on the agenda, the board was still able to listen to the concerns and possibly discuss the issue at a later date. Mrs. Cook thanked the board for their time before the meeting moved into new business.
The board briefly discussed and approved the 2016-2017 school calendar, which will remain virtually the same with the exception of graduation occurring on May 26 and finals occurring the next week for three days for underclassmen. The other change would adopt the new "minutes" policy implemented by the state of Texas that would also not require the teachers to complete summer comp days. The board approved the calendar as presented and moved on to accept six bids on properties owned by the district. The board concluded new business by accepting a new policy update that was given to the district. The board ended the meeting by entering executive session, but not before tentatively setting the next board meeting for April 11.