School board approves reduction in fee, suspension of senior projects
A pair of Baldwin High School programs was affected by unanimous votes at the Baldwin School Board meeting Monday night.
One will have parents happy because they will be spending less on driver’s education fees. Meanwhile, the other probably has BHS juniors jumping for joy.
On Monday, the school board approved reducing the driver’s education fee to $225. The fee jumped to $250 a year ago after the state cut funding for the program.
“I would recommend we go with $225 if we want to bank on that we will get a little bit of money back next year,” said Cynde Frick, director of financial operations for the district.
BHS saw a significant decrease in students participating in the program a year ago. The class usually enrolls around 60 or 65 students, but dropped to 40 last year. Mike Curran, one of two class teachers, was at Monday’s meeting, and said the reasons were probably cost related, as well as a smaller class eligible to take the course.
Frick advised the school board that several surrounding districts have set their price at $225. Supt. Paul Dorathy was hopeful the decrease in cost this year, along with a large eighth grade class, might boost enrollment.
“I would recommend the $225,” Dorathy said. “I feel pretty confident we will break even with that. I hope we get a few more this year, because 40 was really low last year.”
With that recommendation, the school board approved the reduction in price with a 7-0 vote. Their next item for discussion affects the BHS junior class.
Dorathy recommended not eliminating the BHS senior mastery projects, but instead suspending them for a year.
He said he and the BHS staff had a meeting about the projects and most came to the same conclusion.
“The majority of the staff was in agreement to suspend the program for some length of time,” Dorathy said. “I don’t think the entire staff would like to eliminate the program, because they do feel it is beneficial.”
The program is helped run by a BHS teacher, who is paid for two-sevenths of his salary for being the program’s administrator. Kit Harris, BHS English and journalism teacher, is responsible for the projects this year.
Suspending the program for a year would save the district around $13,000. BHS Principal Shaun Moseman said money wasn’t the only reason for suspending the projects. He said BHS will be graduating around 80 seniors, but around 120 eighth graders would be coming into BHS next fall. Those additional students would require extra English classes. He said Harris will be needed to teach those classes and wouldn’t have time for the senior mastery projects.
“I like the program and I think it does benefit the students,” Board Member Blaine Cone said. “I also understand we need to offer more English classes.”
The school board members continued to discuss the positives and negatives of the program.
“There are a lot of plusses to the projects,” Board Member Ruth Barkley said. “While there may be a few issues for some of the students, it’s a worthwhile challenge for all of the students.”
The other school board members agreed with Barkley. Scott Lauridsen even compared the senior mastery projects to something the students will face in the workforce after high school.
“For most of them, it’s almost overwhelming,” Lauridsen said. “ It’s very daunting and they dread it. No matter how they felt about the project the entire way through, they come out of there knowing they were able to get through it and do it. To me, in the work place, that piece of self-confidence is worthy.
“I recommend that we revisit it and try to improve it,” he said. “I don’t know what the answers are right now. I support suspending it, but I also support the program, from what I’ve seen it do to kids.”
The motion to suspend the program for a year passed with a 7-0 vote. After the news spread to BHS on Tuesday, members of the junior class were ecstatic.
“I was really excited when I heard about not having to do the senior project because I know it will give me more time to focus on my class work and college applications,” BHS junior Michael Krysztof said. “I know it will really bring down my stress level.”