Amboy High School seniors, Zach Piper and Rachel Vaessen, initiated a discussion about weighted grades at the Amboy Board of Education meeting on Jan. 24. Speaking on behalf of the senior class, Piper and Vaessen said they were unsure why dual enrollment classes were not weighted and decided to ask the board for clarification.
Piper said he and Vaessen both took AP (Advanced Placement) last year, and the AP classes were much less demanding than the dual enrollment classes they are currently taking at Sauk Valley. “You spend more time on homework with Sauk classes than you would on an AP course at the high school,” he explained. “We’re doing twice the amount of work and we’re not getting the same benefit of having a 5.0 scale for that class.”
Vaessen said they quickly learned the difference in expectations between high school AP classes and the classes at Sauk. “Our English teacher [at Sauk] always liked to tell us what the definition of a college credit hour was . . . For every hour in her class we had three hours of homework to do on our own time,” Vaessen said. “In one week, we would have six hours of homework for English and another six hours for our other [dual enrollment] class.”
Vassen said her AP class last year, although challenging, was much less demanding on her time and more flexible for the students. “If we were all sick, then our due dates for [assignments] in the AP class would get pushed back,” she said. “At Sauk, our teacher really doesn’t care if we’re involved in sports or get sick, it’s due when it’s due.”
Vaessen told the board she feels Sauk classes should be weighted and Piper agreed, saying that AHS students who take Sauk classes are better prepared for college. “I’m going into premed at UIC and my freshman year I’m going to be swamped with courses,” Piper noted. “I’ll have the benefit of having taken these Sauk courses.
“Last year a lot of the seniors were complaining about it, so we decided to bring it up to the board,” Piper continued. “People need to understand that issues need to be brought to your attention - just complaining doesn’t do any good.”
Board president Lori Setchell thanked the students for their input and said their arguments in favor of weighted grades would be discussed further by the board. “We’ll get back to you,” she said.
Piper, who is student council president, also reported on several student council activities that have been completed this year. Their next big project will take place Feb. 15-17 as hosts of the National Leadership Experience and Development Conference to be held in Lombard. “This is a program of the National Association of Secondary School Principals that brings students and advisors from National Honor Society, National Junior Honor Society, and National Association of Student Councils to be together for a wonderful program of leadership skill development,” Piper said. “Students attend from all across the nation as well as from other countries.”
Piper said about 1,300 students and 300 advisors are expected to attend. They will all receive training and tips from the president of the National Association of Secondary School Principals on ways to help their schools. “We’re very excited and honored that we were chosen to be the host for this event,” Piper said. “We thank all of you, our parents, and all the faculty and staff at the high school for their support.”
Also presenting during the meeting was Central School kindergarten teacher, Linda Klein, who spoke about her recent trip to Washington, D.C. Klein’s daughter, Jessica, was involved with organizing the volunteers who decorated the White House for Christmas last November. Klein was able to spend a week in Washington visiting the monuments and museums and then attend a reception at the White House with her daughter.
Klein brought along a photo book made by her daughter showing the decorating process at the White House. “There’s no bigger honor than to be able to do this,” Klein said. “It was a very wonderful trip.”
Superintendent Jeff Thake told the board he is closely watching pension reform as well as implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Thake said he will be in Springfield Feb. 26-28 and at that time, he hopes to get clarification on the cost shift in pension funding.
Regarding the Affordable Care Act (ACA), Thake said the district should probably expect a roughly 20 percent increase in the cost of healthcare next year. “There are things that have not materialized yet as far as what the ACA is going to mean, but I am in constant communication with our brokers as to what it is going to look like,” he told the board.
Thake noted that the district continues doing a good job of being conservative and staying within budget. “Our expenditures are actually down from previous years, as of the end of December,” he said.
Principal Ron Gruber, Amboy High School, reported on statistics from the Sauk Valley Community College Dual Enrollment program, which were compiled by Glenn Sauter. Gruber said 70 percent of students in dual credit courses in 2011-12 earned an A or B. There were 70 total courses taken by AHS students in 2011-12 and 96 percent were successfully completed for credit. “That’s good to see,” Gruber said. “They’re working hard to earn those grades.”
AHS will send two teams of teachers to monthly workshops at the ROE to help implement the Common Core State Standards. “It’s becoming increasingly evident that I can’t do this by myself and it’s going to take some teams of teachers to help with that,” he said.
Helping with English language arts are Liz Scriven, Amie Wiseman, Priscilla Soto and Erika Kelly. The math teacher leader group includes Janet Nehring, Cyndi Carlson, Chris Newsome and Deb Goy.
Gruber said the RtI Building Team and Problem Solving Team have weekly meetings scheduled and all faculty members are a part of those teams or the freshman transition team.
Senior Night for boy's basketball, band and chorus will take place on Thursday, Feb. 14. Gruber said Senior Night for wrestling was held on Jan.14 and eight students were recognized for their participation in wrestling and mat managers.
Gruber thanked George Schwamberger, girls’ basketball, and the wrestling teams for their work on the holiday basketball and wrestling tournaments.
Principal Mary Ann Redshaw, Central Elementary, said the Family Literacy Night Committee has been meeting and they are finalizing plans for rooms, readers and books. Family Literacy Night will take place on Thursday, Feb. 7. “A lot of activities are planned,” Redshaw said.
The PBIS Committee has planned weekly incentives for the third quarter incentive, which will be held on Friday, March 15 from 1:45-2:45 p.m.
Redshaw said the Young Authors Club continues to meet after school; however, next year students will be divided by grade level because of the large number participating. The Art Club and Science Club also meet after school.
Redshaw said she and Mr. Weidman met with Amboy Fire Department representatives, John McGraw and Scott Wittenauer on Jan. 17 to offer suggestions to improve procedures in case of a fire. In addition, the Lee County Sheriff’s Department stopped in to offer their assistance in forming a crisis plan in response to the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary in December.
Principal Joyce Schamberger, Amboy Junior High, said certified staff members attended the training on teacher evaluation presentation by the Lee/Ogle ROE. The School Improvement Team attended a workshop at the ROE on Jan. 11 and they continue to meet and work on the school improvement plan.
Schamberger said the School Leadership Team discussed ideas for motivation and incentives for students. As a school, they decided to have five classroom rules for every class:
1- Be Respectful
2- Be Ready (be prepared for class)
3- Be on time
4- Keep hands, feet and objects to yourself
5- Fill out your assignment notebook everyday
The group also decided on homework and a grading policy, by content area, for the school. They are still planning for a universal late homework policy throughout all grade levels.
Schamberger said 27 new Chromebooks (lap tops) have been ordered using money donated by KSB Hospital, Sensient Flavors, and Maplehurst Farms.
The fifth grade class won the Best Attendance Contest for December with a 97 percent attendance rate. They have earned a treat sponsored by the P.T.C.
The Student Council will sponsor a Family Movie Night on Friday, Feb. 8.
Schamberger congratulated 7th grade students who were to be inducted into the Junior Beta Club. They include Molly Ackert, Logan Winters, Justin Hart, Dalton McCoy, Kaitlin Tarr, Will Morrison, Emily Morrison, Katie Patterson, Mychala Dinges, Luke Schaver, Kallie Appleman, Luke Boppart and Reece Vaessen.
Thake said he recently learned of a training opportunity called “Attack Counter Measures Training,” in response to the shooting at Sandy Hook. He explained that this is a three-day session that trains school personnel how to fight back if a violent intruder is in the building. “There have been a lot of different responses about how to respond to a crisis. Some are over the top,” he said. “This one will equip us with some tools that we might not have thought about previously.”
Thake said he plans to attend the training, which is scheduled for the summer, and the information can then be taught to everyone throughout the district. “It’s definitely worthwhile,” he said.
The board authorized letting bids for buses, mowing services, drug/alcohol services and health/nursing services.
The next regular meeting will take place at 7 p.m. on Thursday, Feb. 21 at Amboy High School.