Levy writing scores good, flu not bad

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School Board meeting

By Jenna McKenna

Results are in for FCAT writing tests, and the news is good. For the most part, county schools in all three grade levels performed near or above the state mean score for the test.

The state mean score for the writing test in fourth grade was 4.0. Yankeetown School was top performer in the county, with a mean score of 4.3 and 86 percent of fourth-graders scoring above both 3.5 and 4.0. Bronson Elementary was next, with a mean score of 4.2 and 87 percent of fourth graders scoring 3.5 or above. Williston Elementary and Cedar Key School both showed huge improvement, with WES going from 3.5 to 4.2 this year, and CKS going from 3.3 to 3.8.

Yankeetown again led the eighth grade cohort, with a district mean score of 4.9 compared to the state mean of 4.3. Ninety-four percent of Yankeetown eighth-graders scored 3.5 or above. Chiefland Middle School was next, with a 4.3 mean score and 93 percent of eighth-graders scoring 3.5 or better. Bronson Middle School raised its mean score from 3.5 to 4.1 since last year.

Cedar Key was tops in the tenth grade scoring, with a mean score of 4.7 (compared to the state 3.8) and 78 percent of students scoring 3.5 or better.

Chiefland High School was second, with a mean score of 3.9 and 78 percent of tenth-graders scoring 3.5 or above. Bronson High School fell from a mean score of 3.9 to 3.6 in the last year, and Williston High School fell from 3.7 to 3.3

“That's a job well done for the teachers and students in the schools that showed so much improvement,” said Levy County Schools Superintendent Robert Hastings.

“That should put those schools closer to making AYP (Adequate Yearly Progress, an FCAT measure of progress),” said Levy County Educational Association representative Cindy Roach.

Hastings said the testing information will be examined to help put in place remedies to help the struggling schools improve their reading performance.

In other school board action, the board again tabled an item concerning a contract for an actuarial review to determine the imputed value of unfunded liabilities on the district's balance sheet. Board member Paige Brookins questioned the cost to benefit ration of the analysis itself, which could cost more than $11,000, given that the district has had 15 consecutive years of qualified (successful) audits.

Finance Director Bob Clemons said the review was due to a new Governmental Accounting Board standard, and noted that one possible consequence of refusing to accept the contract for analysis would be a lower bond rating or higher interest rates should the district have a subsequent unqualified audit.

The board will question other school districts that have completed the analysis and then review the matter again.

In another item, the board passed with minimal comment a proposal to continue the student sports and activity insurance coverage with one modification.

In prior years, the district has maintained secondary insurance coverage for students with zero deductible. This year, a 14 percent premium increase would bring the annual premium to $80,927.

With a $100 deductible, the premium would fall to $68,788. The board believed impact to parents and students would be minimal, and approved the change unanimously.

“We are one of the last school districts in Florida to provide full insurance coverage to student athletes without making them pay (a premium),” Hastings observed.

Finally, Hastings advised the board that the school district had been in “constant contact” with the health department and state Department of Education concerning procedures for dealing with the threat of swine flu. Hastings said the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) had advised that the current strain of swine flu appears to be no more dangerous than the common seasonal influenza virus, and that closing schools in the event of an infected individual no longer seems warranted.

“That doesn't mean they've taken away our local control,” Hastings noted.

“Only that they don't feel it's necessary at this point.”

Hastings said that if a student or employee presented with flu-like symptoms, they would be immediately sent home.