Planning for the future

Student career planning program presented to school board; 2018-19 school calendar discussed

The first Marshalltown School Board meeting of 2018 brought discussion on a plan to get students thinking about the future, school calendar options and more.

“We went through and looked at all of the different activities that we had been doing, and then we added onto them to build the career development plan,” said Marshalltown High School Counselor Lydia Arevalo the district’s Individual Career and Academic Plan (ICAP). “There have been principals and teachers and counselors and Central Office staff on this team to develop a plan.”

The ICAP is designed to get students thinking about potential career paths, even before high school. Arevalo said the state requires such a plan for students in grades 8-12, but added the district team expanded on that figure.

“We decided that we would like to encompass a full scope of activities, and so included in the plan is activities from pre-K through 12th grade,” she said.

The presentation covered the ICAP’s five “essential components” for students, including self-understanding, career information, career exploration activities, post-secondary exploration, and a career and post-secondary decision.

Software called Virtual Job Shadow was also discussed. The program has students take various career assessments to allow them to further research careers that may be of interest.

College visits, four-year plans and other measures of the ICAP were also discussed.

“I think the time is right, especially with the big emphasis the high school is placing in work-based learning experiences and providing kids with more meaningful exposure to businesses and jobs and potential career pathways,” said district Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte. “I think this will have a lot of potential throughout the district, and look forward to seeing it evolve over time.”

Also discussed were two options for the 2018-19 school year calendar. A similar discussion was held during a board meeting in December of 2017 over whether to continue early-out Wednesdays or use the time for more staff professional development.

“We put out another survey to employees, and then parents, looking at the second question: ‘Spring break or no spring break?'” Schutte said of the two options presented Monday. “Option A was the calendar with spring break built in, as we’ve had in the recent past; Option B was a calendar with no spring break but an extended Easter break.”

The staff survey yielded 55 percent in favor of keeping spring break, while the other 45 percent preferred dropping the break. The parent survey saw “technical issues,” with some parents voting far more than once and skewing the results.

Schutte first recommended an “alternating approach,” where spring break would be held every other school year. Some board members disagreed with that approach.

“The downside of alternating is you upset everybody,” said board member Ross Harris. “We ought to go with one and just stick to it.”

Board member Mike Miller agreed.

“I’m with Ross, I think it just makes everybody unhappy, that’s not a system that I’d be in favor of or vote for,” he said.

District Director of Communications Andrew Potter, who ran the surveys, said the district has alternated between the two options before. Schutte suggested a new, better parent survey could be put out for more clarity.

“My preference would be to re-survey them in a way that forbids more than one vote,” he said, adding he has no strong preference either way. “We’ll take that into account along with the employees [survey]; if both of them land on a preference toward spring break, then that kind of answers our question.”

Harris said he thinks it would be valuable to re-survey parents for the sake of “transparency.”

The board also approved a request by district Director of Technology John Wesley for using the E-Rate program and to send out requests for proposals (RFPs) for internet providers.

“E-Rate provides discounts to schools to attain affordable telecommunications and access to the internet,” Wesley said, adding the program comes from the Universal Service Fund.

Wesley said the total estimated costs of wireless access points, firewalls, leased fiber service and internet service total $561,520. With the E-Rate discount of 80 percent, the cost to the district is reduced to $112,304.

“This year, we’d like to purchase approximately 315 wireless access points to expand wireless coverage,” Wesley said. “It’s replacing, updating with newer access points … there are spots where we’re going to be adding coverage.”

He also said the district’s current internet access agreement expires on July 1.

“The request is to publish an RFP looking for new internet service providers,” Wesley said, adding there is no issue with the current provider and that the formal bidding process must be followed.

Also approved Monday was an increase in K-6 student book fees from $40 to $45. Miller said he appreciated an overview of the district’s fees provided by administration prior to the vote.

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Feb. 5 at the Central Administration Office, 1002 S. 3rd Ave.

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Contact Adam Sodders at (641) 753-6611 or asodders@timesrepublican.com