D97 passes visitation policies after long review process

District 97 update

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Two of four civility policies introduced to the District 97 Board of Education over the summer were approved at last week's board meeting.

The two approved policies establish guidelines for parent/teacher meetings and for school visits.

All four policies met with quick opposition in their original forms from community members, who said the policies were too restrictive, especially for parents of special needs students, and sent parents the message they were not welcome at schools.

The district sent the policies through a months-long rewriting process, asking for input from teachers and parents across the district. Better policies resulted, parents and school officials said.

"This is the community's policy, not just our policy," said Supt. John C. Fagan.

Kimberly Werner, the primary critic of the policies and head of SEA, the Supported Education Association, agreed the policies were much improved by the process.

"Whether the policy is exactly where it needs to be is going to be determined a lot by how it gets implemented. If this does facilitate positive interaction between parents and teachers and helps everybody stay focused on educating kids, I think everybody will be happy."

The two remaining civility policies will undergo the same board/teachers/parents vetting process beginning in January.

Werner hopes the district has "set a positive precedent" in sculpting the policies.

"Overall, the recognition that everybody?#34;teachers, parents and students?#34;need to be treated with respect, that's what we really need to accomplish."
Lunches improved, veggie burgers need improvement

The district implemented some changes in its school lunch program in December, a "proactive stance" to improve food quality and combat childhood obesity.

"Not doing something is not what we're about," said Gary Lonquist, assistant superintendent for finance and operations.

On average, the new menu reduced caloric intake 12 percent, saturated fat 8 percent and total fat 9 percent, while boosting calcium and vitamin A.

"I think we've made a start. Now we have to evaluate whether our people are willing to eat this stuff," Lonquist said. A veggie burger offered "went down in flames," he added.

Lonquist said he should have brought some of the burgers over for the board to see. "We had plenty of them left over," Fagan quipped.

Healthier options will be worked into the new food service contract, which the district will accept bids on this spring.

"I believe the proactive stance taken by the district has caused Preferred Meals [the district's lunch vendor] to look beyond simple menu compliance with current Federal regulations to reflect the changes in public perceptions of child nutrition," Lonquist wrote in a memo to the board.
Mobility rates were way off

Mobility rates as reported to the state and as recorded on state school report cards were off as much as 23 percentage points, the district announced last week.

The rates were reported by each school, and used the wrong formula, said Mark Pickus, student achievement data coordinator. As reported, the rates ranged from 2.7 percent to 31.8 percent. The corrected rates all fell in the 5 percent to 13 percent range.

Mobility rates are defined by the state as the number students transferring in or out of a school, divided by the school's average attendance.

Most of the corrected rates were substantially lower, with the rates at two schools slightly higher.

Pickus said the problem will be avoided in the future by calculating all report card data at the central office.

Contact Drew Carter at dcarter@wjinc.com

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