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By ZACHARY HALASCHAK
Daily News Staff Writer
Wednesday’s Ketchikan School Board meeting will likely revolve around two issues: Student health and nutrition and the results of this past year’s standardized testing.
There is one public hearing set for Wednesday’s meeting. It regards changes to the district’s nutrition and wellness policy that the U.S. Department of Education required in order for the district to receive federal funding.
Revisions to the policy were originally introduced back in July. Since then, an amendment has been added that would give Ketchikan School District Superintendent Bob Boyle more authority over policy by allowing the implementation of administrative regulations.
“What our changes were — we took a lot of things out of what would be policy and put it into A.R., administrative regulations,” Boyle said. “That gives the superintendent more latitude in how to apply the actual policy, but much of what is in the A.R. is prescribed by the U.S. Department of Education.”
Boyle explained that essentially the School Board believes its job is to “govern” the district, and his job, as superintendent, is to “manage” the district.
Some on the School Board thought that the original text of the revision was too heavy-handed in terms of mandating district policy, so they included an amendment with language that would give Boyle the power to adopt administrative regulations necessary to adhere to state and federal standards.
“This last go around is primarily a matter of procedures we think more truly reflect the Board’s governance process and the superintendent’s responsibility to administrate their governance and direction,” Boyle said. “(The language of the new policy) has already been read and approved, adopted previously; this is a second hearing.”
In addition, Boyle told the Daily News that he will be addressing the results of this past spring’s standardized testing during Wednesday’s meeting.
The Performance Evaluation for Alaska’s Schools (PEAKS) was a new standardized test introduced earlier this year to Alaska students in grades three through 10. PEAKS was designed to evaluate language arts as well as mathematics, but, considering that this is the first iteration of it, there has been some uncertainty over the quality and efficacy of the PEAKS results.
“Essentially, we scored better than the state in most areas but the state appears to have scored low,” Boyle said. “But we don’t know that. And the reason I say that is basically (the Alaska Department of Education and Early Development) got the standardized test, but they don’t know how good somebody is supposed to score on it. So rather than hire psychometric experts to determine a cut score, it was determined by committee and recommendations to the state Board of Education.”
But what if those committees and recommendations are not correct in their assessments?
“Well, that committee could be wrong — or they could be accurate,” Boyle said. “We don’t know what it means yet, it’s gonna take a little more time to study.”
“What we can be confident in, is that we scored well compared to others in the state and that should give us the confidence level because we have some really really good schools in the state of Alaska,” Boyle added.
In addition to addressing wellness policy and PEAK scores, Boyle told the Daily News that he will be announcing to the School Board that a captain has been selected for the district’s commercial fishing boat.
“James Castle has been hired to be the captain that will take our students out commercial fishing,” Boyle said. “He actually went to high school here in Ketchikan and has been a commercial fisherman for years.”
The fishing vessel, which is owned by the Ketchikan Gateway Borough, is part of a district initiative that allows students to learn about the commercial fishing industry through the hands-on approach of actually getting out on the water and fishing.
Also during the Wednesday’s meeting the School Board is expected to:
• Hear an update from Boyle, as well as a report from student member Michael Starr.
• Learn that DEED has approved the district’s FY 2018 budget.
• Convene a closed executive session to discuss KEA negotiations.
Wednesday’s meeting will be held at 6 p.m. in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly chambers. There will time for citizen remarks at the start of the meeting.