Gowan named Apple Distinguished School
Gowan Science Academy has been designated an Apple Distinguished School, Crane School District board members learned Tuesday evening.
The school was notified earlier in the day of the news, Superintendent Laurie Doering said during the board’s meeting. She said that Gowan is among 400 schools in 29 countries that have been honored with the designation, according to the Apple website. Gowan joins two other Arizona school districts and one other state school in being named.
“This recognition allows our teachers limitless opportunities to collaborate with other Apple Distinguished Schools across the United States as well as internationally,” said Gowan Principal Jamie Haines. “It benefits our students as teachers utilize best practices in technology integration every day in their classrooms. We will have an opportunity to showcase our teacher’s implementation of best practices that attribute to incredible student success.”
Applications to become Apple Distinguished Schools are by invitation only, Apple says on its website about the program. The recognition is for two years.
Assistant Superintendent Dr. Michael Hoffman gave a presentation on the district’s A-F letter grades, which were released to the public on Monday.
“In Crane, we had 60 percent of our schools were either A or B,” he explained. All of Crane’s schools met the state qualification for the “performing” grade.
Hoffman noted that the state did not aggregate data on a district-wide basis, so districts as a whole will not get grades.
Board President Dan Farar and Clerk Jim Colby asked Hoffman how the grades were derived, with both expressing frustration at the complexity of the scores.
“My own personal feeling is, I think, it has more to do with the fact that they don’t really want anybody else outside the test community to really understand the scores,” said Colby, a longtime board member.
Chief of Finance and Operations Dale Ponder gave three presentations, one on remaining bond cash, another on Results Based Funding and another on the Classroom Site Fund Performance Pay Plan.
A $10 million bond was approved by voters in November 2014, Ponder said, and projects began late the next spring. Closing costs for the sale of the bonds amounted to $25,000.
As of June 30, the district has a $446,877.55 cash balance that funding projects being wrapped up this week. Those projects were expected to cost $452,717, but will come in under the $446K amount, Ponder explained.
Board member Brenna Paulin thanked Ponder for the prudent use of the funds.
“I would just like to say congratulations on getting a lot of bang for our buck, I’m impressed that you were able (to do that).”
“Yes, thank you. It totaled nearly about $18 million,” he said. “So we stretched a $10 million bond by almost double through the state grants as well as Apple.” (The district received a $5 million Apple grant in 2014.)
Paulin also questioned if district staff had received feedback on the 20172018 Classroom Site plan, which was approved by 83 percent of the district’s certified staff. While the plan does include monetary increases for teachers meeting certain goals, it also increases the number of professional development hours required to earn the funds.
Doering explained that after the vote, the district added more variety in the ways teachers could fulfill the requirements (Twitter chats, audio training, etc.). Teachers were also informed that they could fulfil 30 hours for $800, or do the new 36 hours for $1,000.
School Nutrition Director Michael Clark and Director of Curriculum Abby Pemberton gave a presentation on the district’s Student Wellness and Smarter Lunchrooms programs, noting that the lunchroom at Rancho Viejo and Salida Del Sol were the first to be honored in the Smarter Lunchroom program.
The board also approved the district’s plan on its Results for Performance funds, which board members discussed at length with administrators. Crane’s proposal is to pay teachers $4,000 of the funds, as the state requires the majority of the funds to go toward teachers.
Crane also met with other districts in the area who expressed concern that the state program will result in teachers “following the money, wherever the money is at,” Ponder said.
Colby said the program lends itself to creating more teacher retention problems than exist now.