The Norman Transcript

August 20, 2013

Dimensions High principal suggests way to incentivize school attendance

By Caitlin Schudalla
The Norman Transcript

NORMAN — The Norman Board of Education got a running start on the 2013-2014 school year, approving a schedule change for Dimensions High School, hearing updated information on the district’s state aid allocation and changing policy language to align with new state laws.

Dimensions High School Principal Paul Tryggestad gave a presentation establishing his desire to incentivize good attendance by allowing students who perform well and have good attendance to take off every Friday afternoon.

“A significant number of students are missing nine or more days of school, and our curriculum is condensed — it’s important students don’t miss any of it. As it stands, our class time per week is at 27 hours, the state minimum is 21 hours,” Tryggestad said.

Board members expressed concerns about closely monitoring student performance, and Superintendent Joe Siano admitted he was not a fan of the idea at the outset.

“I’ll be honest, I was hesistant about this. But I think Paul’s discussion was very interesting in that he emphasized that putting too many perimeters and regulations on students sets them up for failure,” Siano said.

Ultimately the board approved the schedule change, and Tryggestad will need approval from the State Board of Education before the policy is implemented. The Friday half-day policy will be effective for one year and will be re-evaluated next year for further implementation.

NPS Chief Financial Officer Brenda Burkett presented information that the district’s state aid allocation saw a slight increase but cautioned board members and the public against misinterpreting this news.

“When we hear about increases in state funding, we have to look at the big picture and see how much we’ve really lost and how much we’re still losing,” Burkett said. “If we were still at the levels of state aid we saw in 2010, we would have $5.9 million more than we’ll have for this coming school year.”

The primary cause for the district’s slight increase in state aid was that local tax revenue decreased, ultimately spelling an additional $166,420 in state aid going to NPS.

Currently, Burkett said the NPS budget is $35.4 million, with $3,038 being spent on each student.

“Back in 2010, the highest state aid we got was $38.2 million for 21,600 weighted students. We’re now at 23,400 weighted students and we’re getting $3 million less on those additional kids. I can assure you this is a reduction, and not where we need to be — we’re having to do less with less,” Burkett said.

Policy changes made by the board were predominantly small language adaptations to align with Teacher/Leader Effective reforms as approved the state, to be implemented this year. Additional changes lengthened deadlines for transfer students’ enrollment and allowed for observation of teachers in their classrooms for evaluation.

Most notable among the changes was a policy update pertaining to Senate Bill 259, requiring schools to report all incidents involving discovery of a firearm on campus to police.

“This was already a practice of NPS, but this change makes it official policy,” Siano said.

The Norman Board also began the meeting by recognizing Central Services’ Employee of the Year and Department of the Year: 18-year employee Leon Caskey and the Paint Department, respectively.