NORMAL – Three newly-elected Board members for Normal-based Unit 5 School District were sworn in at the regularly-scheduled session for the governing body April 28 in Normal Community West High School’s cafeteria. Kentrica Coleman, Jeremy DeHaai, and Stan Gozur took the oath of office toward the end of the nearly two-hour session which began with tributes to three Board members they were about to succeed.

But before the new members were sworn in, the three outgoing Board members were sent off with tributes from fellow Board members and family members honoring them for the time they spent making decisions which would impact the district. Mike Trask, Meta Mickens-Baker, and Taunia Leffler made final statements about their time on the Board. Trask had been on the Board for 10 years over three terms, including a two-year stint. Mickens-Baker first was appointed in 2004 and ran for terms in 2005, 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2019. Leffler only had one term after being elected in 2017.

“It’s been a great four year term, and I’ve met some great people,” Leffler said. “Everyone who works in our district are a great group of people, so congratulations to the new Board members.” She added she has appreciated the friendships she has gotten from her experience on the Board, adding being on the Board means Board members put in long hours to accomplish what is needed to be done on behalf of the district.

“I just appreciate that we were always respectful of each other,” Leffler added. She said even with coming from different backgrounds, she felt it was important that Board members “were able to come together to make important decisions for the district.” Leffler came onto the Board with David W. Fortner and Joseph Cleary. New job opportunities prompted both Fortner and Cleary to step down from the Board, Fortner resigning in spring 2018 to pursue an opportunity in the Chicago area followed by Cleary in July that year for a job in California.

Board Member Barry Hitchins made note to Leffler about her being the one who remained when, as he explained, “It’s a challenge to be on the Board at times. You persevered, and your passion for the students is something I will always remember.”

Board Member Dr. Kelly Pyle said she wrote each of the three exiting members personal notes, adding, “I do want to thank all of you very sincerely for the service that you have provided Unit 5 families, not only through your many years of service on the school board, but as Barry noted, many of you have served in multiple capacities on PTOs, Citizen Advisory Council, Back-To-School Alliance, Promise Council, and continue to serve our students and our community to the greatest extend.”

A phrase Board Member Alan Kalitzky had heard sometime before the meeting summed up the trio’s efforts on the Board for him, he said. He told them, “You all have a servant’s heart in everything you do.”

Trask recalled the first meeting he attended and wearing a purple shirt whereupon Mickens-Baker gently chided Trask by reminding him he was wearing District 87 colors to a Unit 5 meeting. The memory produced laughter among Board members. He continued reminding he replaced Scott Lay on the Board. Scott Lay, and his father, Loren Lay, had both been Unit 5 Board members. Becoming emotional, Trask said, “I’m not sure if I filled their shoes all the way up, but I gave it my best shot.” Loren Lay was a Board member in the 1990s. Scott Lay exited the Board in 2011 after being on it for two terms.

Trask also said giving each of his two daughters their high school diplomas were “moments I will never forget.” He told his daughters, Hannah and Sydney, he considered himself “the luckiest and most blessed dad.” He also thanked his wife, Angela, for her support during his years on the Board. He said when he wants to become involved in something, he admits he doesn’t say no, but that Angela never tells him “Don’t do it.”

Mickens-Baker said she appreciated Trask’s passion concerning the district’s facilities. That meant he spent time working with Joe Adelman, the district’s operations director, and District Business Manager Marty Hickman to make sure Unit 5’s facilities were kept clean whether it was for daily classes or special events.

She said she recalled hearing students criticizing upkeep at schools in other districts for events but how clean Unit 5 kept their schools. Facilities “was something you stuck with throughout the time you were on the Board,” Mickens-Baker reminded Trask.

At the end of the April 6 election, ballot counts indicated Coleman received the most ballots, 6,261, or 21.1 percent of the vote followed by DeHaai who received 5,370 votes or 18.1 percent of the vote, and Gozur who received 5,089 votes or 17.1 percent of the vote.

Family Member, Friend Of Board Members Speak During Public Comments: Public comments were highlighted by members of outgoing Board members stepping up to the microphone before the Board and thanking their relative one final time publicly for the work they put in on the Board. Mickens-Baker’s husband, Keith Baker, led off that group, reminding his wife and Board members that her first Board meeting fell on her birthday, and for that occasion, he and their two sons brought in a cake and those in attendance sang “Happy Birthday” to her. As for her 17 years serving the Board, he added, “It’s been a great ride. We met a lot of great people, not just in Bloomington-Normal but throughout the State.” He reminded current Board members and informed new Board members that “School Board members are also the family because the family is involved in just listening, offering feedback, and supporting.”

Joined by a few members of the sorority she belonged to, Delta Sigma Theta, Renee Thompson saluted her sorority sister, Mickens-Baker next by said to her, “We want her to know how much we love her and appreciate her. Anyone who serves for 17 years in any capacity must have a servant’s heart.”

Michael Coleman, husband of Kentrica Coleman, thanked Mickens-Baker, and added, “I am here to say how proud the Coleman family is of Miss Kentrica Coleman and that she is going to do a fantastic job.”

District “Those Who Excel” Nominees Announced: Nominees from the district for the annual “Those Who Excel” Awards, presented by Illinois State Board of Education were announced to Board members by Dayna Brown, Director of Communications and Community Relations for the district. The nominees, the schools or office they work at, and the awards they were nominated for are: Kailey Geiselman, Normal Community West High School, Classroom Teacher; Marielena Gozur, Cedar Ridge Elementary School, Classroom Teacher; Hunter Watts, NCHS, Early Educator; Kirsten Freeze, Pepper Ridge Elementary, Early Educator; Natalie Schumaker, District Administration, Special Education Administrator; Stacie France, Kingsley Junior High School, Administrator; Margie Toca, NCHS, and Susan Naber, Brigham Elementary School, Educational Service Personnel; April Powell, Fox Creek Elementary School, and Emma Milliken, Northpoint Elementary School, Student Support Personnel; Unit 5 Nursing Team, and Normal Community West High School CARES Team, Team; Meta Mickens-Baker, District, and Miranda Davis, George L. Evans Junior High School, Volunteer.

By Steve Robinson | April 17, 2021 - 6:11 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – Literature and theater made up the components presented to members of Normal-based Unit 5 School Board at their regularly-scheduled meeting in Normal Community West High School’s cafeteria April 14. Board members were introduced to authors, speech team competition winners, and received an invitation to one of the district high school’s spring performances

Parkside Junior High’s Speech Team’s “Good News”: Parkside Junior High School’s Speech team took center stage for a “good news” report concerning a speech competition they participated in with six first place winners coming away with honors. Those students are: Eighth grader Faithe Streily; Seventh graders River Stokes-Dorsey and Dane Schlipfman; and sixth graders Delia Allen and Caroline Bertsche. Streily also came away with the event’s Judge’s Choice Award for Outstanding Performance.

High Schools Present “Good News” About Student Authors: Board members were introduced to a newly-published authors as a result of two students, one from Normal Community High School and one from Normal Community West High School, were introduced by their principals.

As Normal Community High School Principal Trevor Chapman introduced Annie Sun, an NCHS senior, had a book titled Igniting Snow published by China-based Hobai University Press in 2020. Igniting Snow is a collection of poetry and essays written in both English and Chinese. Chapman said Sun credited her access to comics in English teacher Jacob Wiechman’s English class and being part of German teacher Mirjam Schnabel’s class to motivate her to be able to share her writing skills in both German and English.

Normal Community West High Principal Dave Johnson introduced Thomas Dyrek, a senior, to Board members. Dyrek has just published Central Illinois Train Depots, published by South Carolina-based Arcadia Publishing. Johnson said Dyrek has had an interest in trains and first wrote about them in the sixth grade. In addition to text, the book includes 127 pages of photos Dyrek himself took. He refers to the trips he has taken with his mother for these pictures “depot drives” and looks forward to writing another book on the subject in the future.

Invitation Extended To NCHS’ “High School Musical” In Public Comments: During public comments, Normal Community High School junior Ian Kuhlman invited Board members to watch the school’s spring musical, “High School Musical: The One Act Edition.” Performances can be seen Thursday-Saturday, April 22-24 at 7p.m. with a matinee on Sunday, April 25 at 2p.m. Kuhlman said the show’s cast of 50 did all six rehearsals virtually. From there, they filmed the play in March. “The cast did a remarkable job putting the production together in such a short amount of time, all while being masked and socially distant,” he told Board members.

Angela Trask, wife of Board Member Mike Trask, addressed Board members on what would be Trask’s final meeting as a Board member. He did not seek re-election after having been initially elected in 2011, and earning re-election in 2015 and again in 2019. With the couple’s two daughters present, she began her comments saying, “First of all, I want to say thank you so much to the entire board for all you do every day for all the students of Unit 5. So many times, you only hear the negative comments when, really more people ought to be here thanking you for your service.”

She also acknowledged the two other Board members, in addition to her husband who opted not to seek another term on the Board, Taunia Leffler, who is stepping away from the Board after a single term, and Meta Mickens-Baker, who has been on the Board since first being appointed in 2004 and followed that up with an election win in 2005, and re-election in 2009, 2013, 2017, and 2019.

She saved her last comments for her husband, stating to him, “You have spent countless hours at meetings and at events. You have had sleepless nights worrying about making the right decisions, not only for the students and staff, but also for this whole community.” She said she knew her husband’s proudest moments came when he got to hand their two daughters their high school diplomas. “Mike, from your teacher wife, and your two daughters, we want to say thank you. Thank you for all your years of service to Unit 5.”

Kingsley Jr. High’s “Good News”: In an era where there isn’t always good news about journalism, Kingsley Junior High School Principal Stacie France presented a video which introduced Board members to students at the school who assemble the KJ News, a student newspaper. The paper was started three years ago when a student approached language arts teacher Ashley Durdan-Levy wanting to see what interest there would be for starting it. At the time, the student asked about starting the paper so that the student “could share her writing with others.” At that time, Durdan-Levy was also a first-year teacher.

The paper is now in its third year, France told Board members, adding, “There are now two student leaders who co-edit the newspaper.” They are Layla Winn and Vibhuti Patel. In the video, Patel explained, “Every writer brings, like, something different to the newspaper. We have so much fun seeing their writing evolve, and it shows they really care about this as much as we do.”

In just three years of operation, France said, the number of writers has increased from 3 to 18. Among the writers in the video is Joanna Gonzalez, who said she likes the research aspect of doing writing because, as she explained it, “it’s not very often I get to randomly choose and go out and read a couple articles about it, but then turn those words into my own.” Also in the video is fellow KJ News writer Alyssa Thompson. She explained she “enjoys working with others who share my passion of writing.” Thompson added she likes being on the paper because “we get to choose what we want to write about and make it our own. We get to publish it in our own words as to how we want to say it so other students can read it.”

Data System Preview Presented: Board members received a presentation from Darrin Cooper, the district’s director for teaching and learning, concerning software the district is looking into which would become a replacement for student data processors currently in use. The district spends $185,920 on the system it is considering replacing. The system presented to Board members at this session to replace the current processors, called EduClimber, manufactured by a company called Illuminate Education, would cost the district $160,700. There are also on-time training and implementation costs which would cost $17,000.

Such products like EduClimber must be compliant with the State’s Student Online Personal Protection Act, or SOPPA, which goes into effect July 1. The Act requires all Illinois public school districts to provide additional guarantees to protect student data privacy by that date.

New Administrative Post To Be Added In New School Year: District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle indicated to Board members the district is seeking to add a person who would become the district’s 20th administrator who would be responsible for overseeing the district’s efforts concerning diversity and inclusion. The person selected for the job would begin their duties on July 1. Finalizing a candidates list for the post will take place in about a month, according to Dr. Weikle.

By Steve Robinson | March 14, 2021 - 5:52 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL – One might say the students who addressed Normal-based Unit 5 School Board members at the governing body’s regularly-scheduled meeting March 10 had fun and games on their minds. Specifically, fun they get out of games they play being part of e-sports competition. E-sports are video games which have become an organized function and serious business for high school students.

When the public comments section of the Board meeting began, Board members heard from two students who are E-sports enthusiasts and a parent who explained the educational value he believes are tied to them. E-sports is a form of sport competition using video games. They can often be organized, multiplayer video game competitions, particularly between professional players, individually or as teams, according to a definition given by the website

Normal Community West junior Luke Sherman informed Board members the team he belongs to, part of a game league call the Rocket League, won the State Championship, allowing them to advance to national competition, where the team placed 2nd. Such advances have earned players in the league scholarships, he explained. Those earning the scholarships are Quinn Gifford and Karen Ellis. Gifford has earned scholarships from Illinois Wesleyan University and St. Ambrose University. Sherman said Ellis was offered full tuition to Lincoln Land Community College.

Sherman said the group he belongs to is struggling to find funding to enter tournaments, hindering their ability to compete.

Normal West senior Tyler Van Draska added to the subject saying the team needs funding to compete. He said what funding they have – around $500 – “isn’t enough for the competitions we have been entering.”

Normal West Parent Ralph Whitsitt told Board members that after he did some research, he discovered a total of 175 colleges and universities have varsity E-sports teams. He characterized E-sports as “the next big thing,” re-emphasizing the information concerning scholarships offered for those who participate in such an activity. “Just because it doesn’t fit into a nice neat little box doesn’t mean it doesn’t have value,” Whitsitt added.

When he researched it, Whitsitt, a teacher himself, explained, he discovered it gave students “a sense of building community, a sense of offering something” to students. In seeking financial aid for this, he added, “I just at it as an opportunity to be at the forefront of something new.” He added it may be new, but explained Illinois High School Association is looking into adding it to its activities list.

Hearing Concerning Bonds Sale Held: The meeting began with a public hearing required by law concerning the district’s desire to sell School Fire Prevention and Safety Bonds in an amount not to exceed $5,150,000. Board President Amy Roser explained the bonds were being sold to provide funds to the district to use for various health/safety projects including an HVAC update at Chiddix Junior High School. No members of the public, either spoken or in writing, came forward or were presented at the hearing. A formal vote by Board members on the matter will take place at a Board meeting next month.

6th-12th Graders Headed Back To Class Four Days Per Week: In her comments to the session, District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle explained sixth-12th grade students would be returning to the classroom beginning Monday, March 29 for four days a week, with Wednesdays serving as a solely remote day for students. Keeping Wednesday remote, Dr. Weikle said, allows teachers to connect with remote learners and answer any questions those students might have concerning assignments.

Beginning March 29, Dr. Weikle said, Pre-Kindergarten through 5th grade students will be at school. That day, also, sixth-12th graders will not be in class so that teachers can use that time as a planning period, Dr. Weikle explained. On March 30, 6th graders will be attending daily at their junior high schools. On Tuesday, 7th-12th graders students with last names beginning L-Z will be in attendance following their hybrid schedule. On Thursday, that week, 7th-12th graders students with last names beginning A-K will be in attendance following their hybrid schedule. Schools will be closed Friday, April 2, Dr. Weikle said, observing a school board-based holiday established by the State.

Dr. Weikle said surveys went out to parents on the subject of sending students back into classrooms. She said the decision to have students back in class was made based on “a variety of factors but were not limited to “feedback from our families and staff, surveys the district put out earlier, union leadership, discussions with the McLean County Health Department, conversations with other districts, as well as looking at our own community metrics.”

Acknowledging district teachers have been teaching students both in a class and students who are fully remote, Dr. Weikle said teachers doing that are demonstrating “a unique talent that our whole staff has stepped up and done all year.

A survey Unit 5 sent out to all District families resulted in receiving 2,800 responses, with around 1,300 coming back with the first four hours after the survey was posted, Dr. Weikle said. “We had a great response,” she said. “I’m really appreciative of all the families who took the time to give us their feedback, as well as staff who completed surveys.

She added registration has begun for families who have students who will be attending in Unit 5 during the 2021-22 school year. On the Unit 5 webpage, there are pages for parents needing to register students, whether for kindergarten, current returning students, or for students brand new to the district. She added no fees are due at this time. Parents will be able to pay fees after July 1, she added.

“It’s really important families complete the registration process in March,” Dr. Weikle said, adding, “That helps us identify how many staff members we need at various grade levels.” She said with a teacher shortage in progress in the country, Unit 5 “wants to be in the forefront and not competing with other districts.”

Dr. Weikle also encouraged parents to complete a survey called the “5 Essentials” survey, created and overseen by Urban Education Institute at University of Chicago. Dr. Weikle explained, “This survey is a way for parents, teachers, and students across Illinois to send feedback not only to the district but also to the State regard your feelings school environment.”

The district recommends if parents taking part in the survey have students in more than one school, a survey should be completed per school. Names of participants and responses to the survey are kept confidential, she added. A link to the survey is on Unit 5’s website and surveys are due by Friday, April 2.

Board Approves Contract Extension With First Student Bus Co.: Board members unanimously approved a one-year extension with Cincinnati, Ohio-based First Student Bus Co. Without the extension, the district’s contract with the busing provider was set to expire June 30. The contract is now set to expire June 30, 2022. First Student’s first contract with the district was approved by Board members in 2012.

Next Board Meeting Set For April 14 At Normal Community West High School: District schools will observe Spring Break the week of March 22-26. The Board’s next meeting will be held Wednesday, April 14 at Normal Community West High School, beginning at 6:30p.m.

NORMAL – Typically, we hear the word Olympics and our minds immediately conjure pictures of events we may have seen on television, read about, or perhaps, even seen by being at such events in person. At Parkside Junior High School, roughly 100 students, whether learning while at the school or remotely learning as a result of the pandemic, have been learning about Ancient Greece.

For those sixth grade students present at the school, the experience gave the kids an Olympics-sized experience as they participated in Olympics-style events, giving them an understanding of what it must have been like, mixed with use of updated technology allowing them to record their successes.

PJHS Social Studies Teacher Beth Topping led 100 students in four sections, whether the kids were at school or learning from home as a result of the pandemic, having them take part in the event Thursday, March 4. Depending on the letter of the alphabet their last names started with, students either attended classes two days per week with everybody learning from home on Wednesdays, Topping said. Only about 13 students were home throughout the event while the rest followed the district school scheduling for home and in-person.

Up to the day of the event, Topping said, the students’ lessons included Greece’s geography, literature, drama, ancient Greece’s government system; political differences between Athens and Sparta, with the former concentrating on using war as a tool whereas the latter focused on cultural matters; and Greek culture.

To emphasize the competition, the students were divided into two teams, Athenians and Spartans. Determining which students were on each team was strictly by alphabetical order in her grade book, Topping explained. Team members could also be identified by magnets signifying which team each student belonged to. The teams also competed to see which hour’s class between the two sides was the best team, heightening the competition a little further, Topping said.

Topping said the events the students participated in were: Discus using a paper plate thrown like a Frisbee; Javelin using an unsharpened pencil; Standing Long Jump; and Shot Put using a crumpled half page of paper which they flung off their knee.

While they may have gotten a feel for an ancient culture by learning about Greece, students who participated also got a feel for technology of the future, using survey administration software called Google Forms to record how they did in competition, Topping said. From there, results could be transferred to an Excel spreadsheet, she added.

Students Had Fun Competing: The students were excited about learning their lessons, especially when taking part in a friendly competition was involved. For Emma Groves, throwing a piece of paper plate as though it were a discus in hopes of experiencing what it felt to be an Olympian was exciting for her, she said.

Halen Huett said he enjoyed the javelin competition, where an unsharpened pencil served as the object being hurled for posterity. Huett sent his javelin 26 feet, 5 inches, earning him a silver medal. “I wanted to see how far I could throw it,” he explained.

A wadded up piece of paper played the role of a shot put for Chloe DeMatteo who took first place in her event. She said also enjoyed doing the javelin competition, tossing it 16 feet 1 inch. Discus was also Christopher Bishop’s specialty, as he hurled his furthest throw 11 feet, 3 inches, earning him a first place award.

Chloe Cruthis was absent during the Olympics competition but said she found what she learned about Greek civilization interesting because it was the first time she had become aware of the subject.

For Hoyt Carter, learning about the history of the events in the Olympics interested him, he said. Some of what he learned appeared to rub off on him because he tossed a javelin 37 feet.

Prior experience in the long jump competition had Carson Frankeberger feeling confident about how he would do at that same competition. While learning about the Olympics, he said he was impressed by how creative the organizers were in coming up with various competitions for the athletes.

Erica House said she also enjoyed the event, and competed in the javelin throw, getting her pencil to sail 24 feet, 2 inches.

Winning Teams Received Prizes: The games may have been fun for the kids, but they also needed to take a final test including multiple choice and short answer questions on what they learned about Greece on March 5. Winning Olympics teams receive prizes, Topping said.

Topping said she had everything ready to go for last year’s lesson and competition, but last year, on March 13, Unit 5 School District shut down as a result of the pandemic, preventing any prizes from being given out, she added.

Topping said students in Unit 5 receive lessons which emphasize American history up until they reach sixth grade. As a result, for these kids, such lessons Topping teaches, she said, “are a first look at ancient cultures. The one thing they have heard about is Greek Mythology. They do get excited about how these ancient civilizations lived.”

By Steve Robinson | February 27, 2021 - 10:28 pm
Posted in Category: The Normalite, Unit 5

NORMAL — Students in Normal-based Unit 5 School District who need help in math and literacy will receive help thanks to a new program presented to Board members at the Board’s regularly-scheduled meeting Feb. 24 at Normal Community West High School.

The program, introduced to Board members by Assistant Superintendent Michelle Lamboley, would aid students in Pre-Kindergarten through 8th grade focusing on math and literacy with a social-emotional support component added. Parent requests for their student to be part of the program will be how students become involved in the program, Lamboley explained.

School preparedness will be what is focused on for younger students while older students will receive targeted instruction in areas where they are not meeting grade-level expectations, Lamboley explained.

Lamboley said the district anticipates the program would look to serve about 1,500 students, roughly five times more students that are traditionally helped during a summer school period. She added the program being proposed would be of help to students who “have not been able to close gaps” in their education during the regular school year.

Approximately 30 students would be in the Early Learning program at Brigham Elementary, while roughly 800 students would be in the Elementary program at three schools, Cedar Ridge Elementary, Northpoint Elementary, and Oakdale Elementary. Middle school students would attend at Kingsley Junior High School. At all locations, transportation would be provided, as would breakfast and grab-and-go lunches. Early Learning and Elementary programs would be solely in-person sessions.

Early learning, elementary, and junior high students would attend classes Monday-Thursday, June 14 through July 15, from 8:30a.m.-11:30a.m. Summer school for high school students is scheduled for 8a.m.-11a.m. and 12 Noon-3p.m. between June 7-July 2 at both Normal Community High School and Normal Community West High School. High school students would receive breakfast and packaged lunches. The high school sessions would be both in-person and remote.

“Those Who Excel” Award Honorees Recognized: The session began with nine educators being recognized with “Those Who Excel” Awards by Illinois State Board of Education. Illinois State Board of Education has sponsored Those Who Excel Award since 1970, in an effort to honor individuals who make significant contributions to public and nonpublic elementary and secondary schools. Awards are presented in five categories: School administrator, student support personnel, educational service personnel, community volunteer and teams.

The teachers honored, and the schools where they work, and award given each are: Mark Huffman, Unit 5 Office, Merit Award as a Community Volunteer; Kim Johnson, Kingsley Junior High School, Merit Award as a member of Student Support Personnel; Paula Birsa, Normal Community West High School, an excellence award as a member of Student Support Personnel; Julie Watson, Northpoint Elementary, Merit Award for Educational Service Personnel; Carrie Chapman, District Office, Merit Award for Office Administration; Lauren Romero, Benjamin Elementary School, Merit Award in Classroom Teaching; Angie Codron, Normal Community West High School, Merit Award as an Administrator; Josie Bensko, George L. Evans Junior High School, an excellence award in Classroom Teaching; and John Bergmann, Normal Community High School, Merit Award in Classroom Teaching.

Two teams of Unit 5 employees also were recognized, as well. They are: Office personnel at Prairieland Elementary School which received a Team Excellence Award, and Unit 5 Office’s Family Coordinator Team which also received a Team Excellence Award.

In congratulating those recognized, District Superintendent Dr. Kristen Weikle called honorees “unique examples of the fine staff we have here at Unit 5.”

Normal Community High School’s “Good News”: Trevor Chapman, principal at Normal Community High School, in a “good news” report to Board members, introduced Board members to Aditi Sharma, an NCHS senior who was named the City of Bloomington’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Youth Award recipient at an online ceremony in January. As a leader of Not In Our School and the founder of Inclusive Education Coalition, she has collaborated with peers and adults in her community to organize social justice events, informational workshops, charity events, and school curriculum reform. Sharma plans on double majoring in Political Science and Philosophy.

NCHS Students Address Standards Based Grading In Public Comments: Four NCHS seniors addressed Board members concerning Standard Based Grading. Standards-Based Grading uses a system which evaluates the student using a model that evaluates the student using a scale based on proficiency, and ranges from 1-to-4. The students who spoke to Board members argue the scale does not fit for all classes and teachers do not use it consistently across the board regardless of the subject. Unit 5 began using SBG during the 2017-18 school year. Since then, students have raised concerns about SBG being used.

Saying the district “overlooks why Standards Based Grading isn’t applicable to every subject,” Sri Nithya Yeragorla told Board members, “AP classes are meant to be complex and cannot conform” to the grading standards applied for SBG. She added students who take AP classes “are there to challenge themselves, not to have the grades filtered down so they will fit on a scale.”

“SBG is unrealistic in preparing students for the real world,” said Katie Krueger. She said it doesn’t aid students for when they must take timed tests such as SAT, ACT, or AP exams. She added SBG puts some students who must retake certain tests for one reason or another at a disadvantage. “The adult world does not allow for unlimited retakes,” she added.

Students “are open to hearing how exactly Standards Based Grading is improving our district, but so far, we have only seen problems arise,” Conner McClelland told Board members. “Lower performing students have been able to increase their grades, but Standard Based Grading requires a certain motivation to improve that not everyone has.” The result of that, he adds, those students don’t see their grades improve.

Sharma also addressed the issue, stating SBG “isn’t very versatile in every subject which leads to confusion grade interpretations which are reflected on students. SBG can be translated to percentages and these percentages can often be unfair to students.” She said under SBG, a student who does something 100 percent correct could get a grade of 90 percent, which she said is unfair. “It’s not only confusing, but it’s frustrating for both students and parents.”

She added students would like to be heard concerning their concerns about SBG, adding, “We really wish to be heard, and we would like to work alongside the district to reach a compromise. We won’t stop our peaceful opposition of this until we can reach some meaningful outcome that supports the interests of students and teachers.”