When Hurricane Katrina struck, as it was when a tornado tore into Joplin, local academic recovery had to happen as much as anything else. So it will be in St. Joseph after COVID-19.

The Board of Education took several votes on Monday to approve the SJSD’s plan for making this happen. This is chiefly represented by the approval of Dr. Marlie Williams’ three-year plan to install new mathematics lesson plans in close consultation with curriculum advisers, teachers and other staff. Originally, a seven-year plan for making this happen was proposed, before further discussion revealed a shorter-run 3-year plan is needed to evaluate the effectiveness of the plan, in terms of academic achievement. The 3-year plan was ultimately approved, 7-0.

“If the resources are not working for us, or if the standards need to be revisited, having a long-term resource that you cannot shift away from is not a good situation to be in,” said Williams, assistant superintendent of academic services.

The extent to which teachers will have to apply the new curriculum in order to bring students up to standards will be determined over time.

As things stand, survey data presented by Williams and Dr. Kendra Lau, director of assessment and evaluation, indicates local students are about 1% below comparison school districts nationwide in mathematics. The same data, however, shows they are performing at a 5% better level in reading. There are other indications that the situation is not as bad as it might have been, considering how students went through much of the spring 2020 semester with essentially no form of education happening as planned.

“Some of the preliminary data is certainly suggesting that we have closed gaps, certainly in reading, even though reading was not as impacted by gaps,” Lau told the board. “But we are not in the place where, at a national level, the gaps are being seen in mathematics.”

The board approved Lau’s assessment plan, 6-1, with new board member Kenneth Reeder dissenting. Reeder attended his first regularly scheduled board meeting on Monday, alongside fellow newcomers David Foster and LaTonya Williams. They will serve for at least the next year with Board President Tami Pasley and Board Vice President Dr. Bryan Green steering the agenda.

In other news:

  • Per comments from Bethany Clark, director of elementary education, and Shannon Nolte, director of secondary education, the district has so far enrolled about 2,080 students in summer school, quite a bit shy of the goal of 3,800. The district is giving both in-person and virtual options for enrollment for grades K-8. All high schoolers enrolled in summer school will study virtually. Summer school commences Wednesday, June 2, and ends Thursday, July 1.
  • Graduation dates and times are officially set, with all scheduled to happen at the same time, 1 p.m. Sunday, May 23, for all three high schools. Like last year, Central High School’s larger graduating class will walk at Missouri Western’s Spratt Memorial Stadium. Lafayette High School graduates will walk at Krug Park. Benton High School graduates will walk at Sparks Field.

Marcus Clem can be reached at marcus.clem@newspressnow.com. Follow him on Twitter: @NPNowClem

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