Chesterton Tribune



Duneland officials blast state's 'flawed' A-F accountability system

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Duneland Schools fared well in the Indiana Department of Educations most recent grading results for school accountability, but administrators aired frustration over how the state currently measures a schools performance.

The (current) formula for A-F is flawed, sad Duneland Schools Superintendent David Pruis. Schools are rewarded when they show student advancement, but are penalized if no improvement is shown which can harm schools if they are already performing at a formidable level.

You drop a letter grade if you dont show any improvement. I dont get it, Pruis said.

Accountability grades were released on Nov. 5 after being embargoed by the DOE for a few weeks. The board was given a report card charting the results of the nine Duneland Schools by Assistant Superintendent of Instruction Jim Goetz.

The school corporation showed improvement in all areas, Goetz said, most specifically at Westchester Intermediate which went from a C grade to an A, and Chesterton Middle School which improved from C to B.

Goetz said CMS attempted to appeal their grade because new students came into the school from out of state and had not taken the ISTEP testing, yet they were part of the students included in the total.

Administrators wanted those students to be taken out of the common denominator but the state ended up denying the appeal, he said.

The school district as a whole earned an A grade this year, a shift upward from the B grade it received in 2013. The strongest schools were Jackson and Yost Elementary.

Were very happy with them, but not satisfied, Goetz said. There will be new standards coming in next year that will be a challenge for Duneland teachers and administrators, as they are net yet known, he said. We dont know where its going to be going.

Pruis said he listened to State Superintendent of Public Education Glenda Ritz this week and hopes the future system will measure a true growth factor that is easier for school officials and the public to understand.

Whatever changes are initiated, Pruis said Duneland is poised to adapt to the changes. The primary drive of the school district is to improve the abilities of every student, he said.

Concurring was board member Kristin Kroeger who said the Duneland schools yearn to raise the bar and that if there are changes, the board will be interested in them.

The Indiana General Assembly will convene a few days before the boards next meeting on Wednesday, Jan. 14, said Board President Ralph Ayres.

$1.5 million moved to

hold insurance costs

The board voted unanimously Tuesday to allow administrators to move $1 million out of the schools General Fund and $500,000 from the Referendum Fund to prevent employee-paid premiums from spiking in their health insurance for 2015.

Employees would have seen a double digit increase in insurance costs because of new regulations in the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act and more claims incurred due to increased participation in the plan, said Pruis.

Under the healthcare act, the out-of-pocket maximum for a marketplace plan is $6,600 for individuals and $13,200 for families in 2015, but the goal is to stay below those margins, Pruis said.

Since employees cannot be provided with compensation increases, Pruis said, the administration felt it would be unfair and unreasonable to institute additional health insurance costs on the backs of the employees, Pruis said.

There will be no major adjustments to the plan from 2014, Pruis said. According to the Duneland Schools self-insured health plan with Anthem, out-of-pocket limits for in-network providers are $750 maximum per individual with an overall deductible of $250, and $1,500 maximum per family with a deductible of $500. Out-of-network provider maximums are $1,500 per individual with a $500 deductible and $3,000 per family with $1,000 deductible.

Before the boards vote to renew the insurance plan, Pruis told the board that money is not going out of schools funds. We are transferring it to ourselves in our self-insurance fund, he said. This is one way to avoid a minimal increase to our employees. We consider this to be our best option. Were not going to be taking any more from our health insurance fund, at least not this year.

Board member John Marshall said in agreement, Its the right thing to do.

The plan will begin on Jan. 1 and the enrollment period deadline has passed.


Also on Tuesday, the board welcomed news of $21,107.50 in donations to the school district from June to November 2014.

Duneland Chief Financial Officer Lynn Kwilasz said Dunelands donors this year included the Duneland Education Foundation, local PTOs, and Kappa Kappa Kappa.

We very much appreciate the support our donors bring to the Duneland Schools, said Kwilasz.

Pruis expressed his gratitude, mentioning that the contributions are used to keep various programs available for the students. There are all kinds of opportunities we wouldnt have otherwise if it werent for these donations.

The board approved an updated agreement with the Northwest Indiana Educational Services Corporation. The measure carried no financial responsibility or extra burdens for the school corporation, Pruis told the board, just necessary updates.

Kwilasz was also given approval by resolution to close out all end-of-the-year accounts for 2014 and to conduct transfers in school funds so they balance out before Jan. 1. She said she will report any modifications at the boards January meeting.

CHS gives back

Much has happened since the board met in November, Pruis said, but he kept his comments to student achievement highlights.

The CHS Student Council raised $1,000 in their Trick or Treat and will donate the amount to Dunebrook Community Partners which brings aid to victims of child abuse and neglect. Another $1,000 was raised by the high school for the local food pantry, said Pruis, adding hes proud that CHS students give back, give back, give back.

CHS student newspaper Sandscript and its yearbook Singing Sands both earned honors this year from the Indiana High School Press Association.

Pruis gave congratulations to students in the CMS orchestra and band who were picked as representatives in the 2014 Indiana Bandmasters Association North All-Region Honor Band on Nov. 22 and 23.

Pruis said the 42nd Madrigal Dinner this year put on by the CHS Music Department sold out all five performances and was well received by all who attended.

Ayres said he asked the Madrigal director and found out that CHS has the longest streak of any school anywhere of hosting Madrigal Dinners.

Pruis concluded by wishing everyone in the Duneland community a safe, healthy, happy holiday season.



Posted 12/10/2014




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