School board sticks with policy

FAIRMONT – Fairmont Area School Board was questioned Tuesday on the fairness of its PSEO policy – post-secondary enrollment option – but the board stood firm.

Classes through the district’s Advanced Placement, Honors, and College in the Schools programs are weighted, so they bear more significance on a student’s grade point average than regular classes. An A, for example, might be worth 5 points toward a student’s GPA in one of these advanced classes, while an A in a regular class is worth only 4 points.

Dr. Scott Burtis argued before the board that college-level courses are more difficult than regular high school classes, and the grades of students in the PSEO program should be weighed accordingly. Burtis has a daughter enrolled in the PSEO program, and while any change the school board might make in its policy would not impact his child, he felt it important nonetheless to speak his mind in hopes that future students could benefit from a policy amendment.

There’s more at stake than GPA bragging rights, in Burtis’ opinion. College admissions offices look at students GPA and class rank, which is determined by GPA, and scholarships can depend on a student’s GPA, he pointed out.

Burtis had previously presented his case to a committee, which recommended the school board keep the PSEO policy as is. The school board stuck with that initial recommendation Tuesday night.

According to school board member Nicole Green, the district has done its homework. In a survey of 34 other schools’ policies, Fairmont found only one other district that weighs PSEO classes.

One reason Green said PSEO classes aren’t weighed and other advanced classes at Fairmont Area are is because of the district’s involvement in the Advanced Placement, Honors, and College in the Schools classes, all of which are taught by Fairmont Area teachers.

“We have no control over the content that’s taught in PSEO,” Green said.

She also pointed out that PSEO classes include college electives, like bowling, for example, which Burtis agreed should not be weighed. Burtis suggested the district look at PSEO classes students are taking and weigh them accordingly.

Finances are another reason Fairmont Area doesn’t weigh PSEO classes. The district loses state aid for each student that uses the PSEO program. Post-secondary college classes are free to the student, but paid in part by the student’s high school and taxpayers.

“There should be some incentive to keep them in our schools,” Green said. “Dollars translate into teachers.”

Burtis asked if the school is using its PSEO policy as disincentive to enroll in the program, which he believes is unethical.

“No,” Green said. “The incentive for PSEO is two years of college free.”

She also countered Burtis’ argument about the significance of weighted classes for students applying to colleges.

“A student who gets an A- will still get an A-,” she said. “A college will see that when they look at the student’s transcript. The grade doesn’t change, just the GPA. … Most schools look at coursework and ACT scores.”

In other business, the school board:

o Approved hiring Kim Niss as the junior and senior high principal for the 2013-14 school year at a salary of $96,045. Niss has been a math teacher at the high school since 1988, and has a master’s degree in educational leadership and a K-12 principal license.

o Approved hiring Jamie Goebel as the assistant principal at the junior/senior high school at a salary of $81,816. Goebel has been K-12 principal of Rothsay Public School the past two years. He has his master’s degree in education, a K-12 principal license and an education specialist degree.

o Approved hiring Jonathan Olson as a high school math teacher to replace Niss.

o Approved hiring Mandy Fletcher as a high school business teacher.

o Approved a three-year contract with IEA for environmental management services. The first year cost will be $15,800, followed by $16,211, and then $16,635. The school will pay the company through funding allotted for health and safety.