New Mitchell High School plans releasedSuperintendent unveils concept of $40M school to be built by 2025, fine arts center, instruction plan.
By: Ross Dolan, The Daily Republic
Superintendent of Schools Joe Graves outlined plans Monday night for a new $40 million Mitchell High School to be built by 2025.
Graves also unveiled proposals for a new system of individualized instruction, a new high school fine arts center during a Mitchell Board of Education meeting at Mitchell Middle School. He divided his presentation to the board into two main areas: the first being a look at facilities; the second the consideration of a “new instructional paradigm” for individualized learning.
Graves also outlines his plan in his column on the opinion page of today’s Daily Republic. The column is on Page A5.
In his facilities plan, he demonstrated a way the district could start now to whittle down the cost of a new Mitchell High School by starting with the development of a new $13.5 million fine arts center by 2016.
“We have, in my opinion, the best music program in the state and some of the worst facilities,” he said of the rapidly aging 50-year-old high school. Recent efforts to spruce up the music and fine arts areas of MHS have been largely cosmetic, and, he said, are “like putting lipstick on a pig.”
The fine arts center would be part of new Mitchell High School campus that would incorporate the current high school, and the Mitchell Technical Institute north campus building when MTI moves its programs south to its Spruce Street campus next fall.
The north campus would have the new Mitchell Career and Technical Education Academy in the current MTI space, as well as Second Chance High School, the envisioned fine arts center, as well as a few other programs.
The new campus concept would require the closure of Capital Street between the high school and the MTI north campus building. The arts building would be constructed in what is now the south student parking lot, said Graves. It would be paid for by borrowing $7 million against the district’s capital outlay certificates, and by securing $6.5 million in private donations, according to Graves.
There are no big-money donors in the wings at this time, he said after the board meeting.
Graves said the big-ticket price tag for the high school is because — of all the district’s buildings — a new high school would be the largest, and the requirements of its programs, from science and athletic to the fine arts, the most highly specialized.
“At $35 million to $40 million, it’s a huge amount of money, and it would really stretch our capital reserves,” he said. Tackling the fine arts center first and then saving for the high school afterward would make the high school project more manageable and would require no, or minimal, tax increases by 2025, Graves said.
Mass Customized Learning
More thought-provoking was Graves’ introduction of a Mass Customized Learning system, which the district could introduce as a pilot program with fewer than 50 students within the next two years.
Graves said the MCL plan moves away from the regimented “factory model” of education currently used in American schools. The factory model has grade levels, set school calendars and daily class schedules.
The MCL program would customize learning programs for students so that those who are ready would be able to move more quickly toward graduation and post-secondary learning opportunities. Students would have “rolling graduations;” that is, they would graduate as they satisfactorily completed their course work.
The pilot program would be located in the MCTEA building and would be overseen by Second Chance High School Director Shane Thill, who would also be the director of the new pilot program. All students in the program would also have access to all MHS sports and extracurricular programs.
The pilot program would not be forced on teachers, Graves said, but would be taught by volunteer instructors. Students, with parental permission, would also have to volunteer to be part of the pilot group. He said the program would be evaluated by student and instructor reactions and by the use of standardized tests to determine how MCL stacks up against traditional learning.
The cost of the program would also factor in whether or not it survives.
“We’ll be studying the concept further and getting people on board,” Graves said, noting that the quest for more individualized instruction has been a goal of educators for decades “but today’s technologies and innovations are making it much more doable.”
Students love iPads
As if to prove Graves’ point, Erica Kobza, who teaches seventh-grade language arts, gave the board a demonstration of how some of the 400 students at MMS use the new iPads they received at the start of the school year.
Kobza said students love the lightweight tablet computers, and they use them to access digital books as well as texts. In the classroom, Kobza can use specialized applications or “apps” to quiz students and get immediate feedback. A weak score on a quiz can help teachers target subject areas which need more review, she explained.
Abigail Lambert, an eighth-grader, demonstrated how she and her friends use iMovie software to create their own movies. In her movie on cowboys, Lambert used maps to show the routes of historic cattle drives and video clips of a friend who demonstrated horsemanship and western gear.
The iPad, which has an built-in digital still and video camera, was used to photograph and edit all material. Lambert said the program is so easy to use she and her friends can make personalized movies in as little as 10 minutes.
In other business, the board:
• Recognized debate teacher Ron Grimsley and the National Forensic League chapter at Mitchell High School, which has earned the 2011-2012 “Leading Chapter Award” from the NFL’s northern district.
• Recognized the work of Mitchell High School Yearbook adviser Deb Everson and her 2012 yearbook staff, which received a National Yearbook Program of Excellence designation from Josten’s for the 2011-2012 MHS yearbook. The award places MHS yearbooks among the best for meeting deadlines, sales and coverage of student events.
Everson said the book “A Picture is Worth 2012 Words” was MHS’s first all-color yearbook. The award places Mitchell in the top 1 percent of all U.S. high school yearbooks.
Everson said this year’s yearbook will cost $65 until January and $70 after. About half the student body purchases a yearbook.
• Approved MTI supplemental budgets that allowed the addition of an instructor to the Farm and Business Management program.
• Approved change orders for the construction at the MTI Trades Center.
• Toured the Middle School at the conclusion of the business portion of the meeting.
• Also approved, as part of a consent agenda, the following personnel items:
Resignations: April Bierema, Child Development Center instructor, effective Nov. 7; Mari Hoeltzner, food service, Longfellow Elementary, effective Oct. 19. Extra-curricular resignation: Sean Moen, boys’ and girls’ golf coach, effective immediately, pending suitable replacement.
Early retirement: Greg Girard, director of buildings and grounds; Hugh Holmes, math teacher, Mitchell High School; Yvonne Palli, MHS principal, all effective at the end of the 2012-13 school year.
Retirement: Don Fredericksen, L.B. Williams Elementary custodian, effective Nov. 30.
Transfer: Joyce Star, food service, LBW, to food service at Longfellow Elementary, 5.5 hours daily, effective Nov. 5.
New hires (extracurricular): Samantha Dvorak, assistant gymnastics coach, $850, effective for current school year; Christy Wittstruck, assistant gymnastics coach, $2,128, effective Oct. 29; Jordyn Heath, assistant girls’ basketball coach, $1,680, for the current school year.
New hires: Jerika Hansen, food service, Mitchell Middle School, three hours daily at $9.99 an hour, effective Aug. 21; Audrey Schrank, food service, Longfellow, 3 hours daily at $9.99 an hour, effective Oct. 22; Steven Kazena, Mitchell Technical Institute, part-time at $7.50 an hour, effective Oct. 15; Thy Chum, food service MTI, part-time at $7.70, effective Oct. 16; Terrence Hall, farm business management instructor, MTI, $29,437.50, effective Nov. 13, and Brittany Lawrence, CDC, part-time at $8.50 an hour, effective Nov. 8.
Change in hours: Tina Zard, from part-time to full-time CDC instructor, $7,548, effective Nov. 8.
MTI adjunct faculty: Ron VanderHeiden, ADBC welding, $2,040, effective Oct. 23.