Test scores, insurance highlight discussion

Test scores, insurance highlight discussion

Posted: Saturday, September 18, 2010 8:53 am

The Messenger 09.16.10

Preliminary test score results and changes to insurance premiums were the top items of discussion at an early-morning meeting of the Union City School Board today.
And while school board members spent a considerable amount of time during today’s meeting reviewing those two issues, administrators explained meetings are still taking place to understand all the changes that are occurring.
The Union City School Board held a rare morning session at the Municipal Building at 7:30 today due to scheduling conflicts. The meeting lasted nearly an hour because of the reports on student test scores and an update on changes that are taking place to insurance premiums and insurance coverage in the school system.
In regard to the student test scores, Curriculum Coordinator Vicki Wilkinson briefed the board on preliminary results that are coming in from tests that were given to students in grades 3 through 12 last school year. She explained that the state has adopted the national levels for test proficiency, and that has had a major impact on how student scores are being interpreted.
Students are tested in a variety of areas, including math, science, English and reading, and the test scores are used to help school systems identify at-risk students and then provide them with help to bring their proficiency levels up.
“The bar has been raised,” Mrs. Wilkinson told the board.
Through the test scores, students are ranked individually and in groups on four levels of proficiency: below basic, basic, proficient and advanced. The Union City School System already has invested in several programs to help at-risk students, according to Director of Schools Gary Houston, who said tutoring is available and teachers have access to curriculum coaches to help them adapt their lessons to address students’ needs.
Meetings are taking place this fall between administrators and teachers in the system, according to Houston, who said he and his staff are looking at whether to mail out letters to parents explaining the changes taking place, or whether to use the Oct. 7 parent teacher conferences to explain the changes.
“Basically, what it (the letter) is saying is, ‘It’s tougher this year,’” Mrs. Wilkinson told the board.
Also, the school system is monitoring student progress on a daily basis to help determine what steps can be taken to help at-risk students.
As for the changes taking place in medical insurance premiums and coverages, a detailed report to board members revealed that the school system will continue to pay for 82 percent of the cost of premiums. Due to more than $10 million that was paid out in claims over what was taken in through premiums across Tennessee in the state-sponsored insurance program last year, insurance premiums are increasing, according to board secretary Camille Mobbs.
She updated the board on the insurance changes, along with finance director Carol Flood. Their report was dominated by a complex array of options and premiums being offered by Blue Cross and by Cigna. At issue is whether Cigna will continue to cover treatment at the local hospital, where Blue Cross is covering treatment, but at slightly higher premiums.
Mrs. Mobbs informed the board that currently there are more staff members covered by Cigna, but that may change if that company’s coverage is no longer accepted at Baptist Memorial Hospital-Union City.
Depending on which plan and which tier of coverage within the plan an employee selects, their cost for their share of the premium may increase or decrease, Mrs. Flood  explained.
Also during this morning’s school board meeting, the board approved the hiring of Chuck Reedy as a non-faculty assistant girls softball coach at Union City High School. Board approval was also granted to the revised board policy that establishes the procedure for board elections, which will come up in December. On a related matter, it was announced at this morning’s meeting that Chase Bowling has been appointed as the student representative to the school board. Although he was unable to attend today’s meeting, he is expected to begin his student-term on the board next month.
Bowling, a senior, is the son of Darren and Dawn Bowling and is actively involved in sports at UCHS and is a member of the school’s Top Ten. He is working toward attending West Point Military Academy after graduation.
Houston described Bowling as “an outstanding student” and said, “We’re looking forward to Chase being with us.”
In other action, the school board:
• approved the state-mandated filing of fund raising petitions and financial reports from various school support organizations in the school system, specifically the Union City High School Booster Club Inc., Union City Band Parents Club and Union City Schools PTO Inc.
• elected board members Ellarine Moses and Curtis McLendon as the delegates to the upcoming Tennessee School Boards Association convention. That convention is scheduled to take place in November in Nashville.
• was given an update by Houston on the work that has been completed on the new track surface at UCHS. He also advised the board on a community-wide pep rally that will take place tonight at UCHS in preparation for the upcoming UCHS-Obion County Central High School football rivalry.
“It’s an asset to the school system … and to the community,” Houston said in reference to the new track.
• decided to change next month’s board meeting to Oct. 4, due to scheduling conflicts. Also, the board’s orientation meeting was changed to Sept. 30.
Absent from today’s board meeting for health reasons was McLendon.

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