Van Alstyne ISD trustees spent much of their Monday night meeting discussing the future direction of graduation programs as House Bill 5 will change the way districts handle high school students.
As reported in the Feb. 7 edition of the Van Alstyne Leader, House Bill 5 was finalized by the State Board of Education and revised the graduation program for incoming freshmen in the 2014-15 school year. A very general description of this bill is that it allows students the flexibility to follow their chosen academic graduation tracks. For instance, students could possibly choose a vocational track which would differ greatly from a STEM (science technology engineering and math) track which requires algebra II. The plan is similar to college life where students get to choose their own career path.
Van Alstyne High School principal Dr. David Brown spoke to the board, outlining the scope of the change.
“House Bill 5 is huge,” said Brown. “It has taken us multiple days to figure out what is needed and what we need to do.”
Though much educating of parents and students will be done in the near future, the framework of the change was laid out on Monday night. There will be two paths for high school students: Foundation and Distinguished Achievement. Foundation is the basics: four credits in English, three in math, three in science, three in social studies, one in physical education, two in a foreign language and one in fine arts.
The Distinguished Achievement plan requires students to get endorsements as part of the program. Endorsements are the equivalent of career study tracks and the district will have five of them: STEM (science technology engineering and math), business and industry, public service, arts and humanities and interdisciplinary studies. These endorsements will be run in conjunction with Grayson College. The Distinguished Achievement path will be the district’s proposed default plan, and all students taking this track will be required to have at least one endorsement. The number of endorsements are up to each individual district, and Spies noted that some districts have as few as one endorsement available. Students taking this track will also be required to have four years of math with one being Algebra II.
The majority of the endorsement curriculum will be done in students’ junior and senior years with the first two years mainly getting through the required core classes. VAISD Superintendent Dr. John Spies said that planning for the four-year path will start in eighth grade. On that note, the district will be holding meetings at a later date for parents and students in order to explain this new graduation program.
“We’re not just going to do the state minimum,” said Spies of the district’s direction. “I think this will get more parent involvement in the schedule.”
In other district news, school report cards are being sent out by the individual campuses. These can also be found on each campus’s Web site under the “Accountablity” link.
A budget amendment was discussed by Spies and the trustees. Spies stated that the district needs to add $17,000 to the Career & Tech department to match funding to the number of students in the program. A budget item — the Cub’s Corner fund balance — has a $40,000 amount and Spies suggested to the board that the money be spent on getting projectors mounted at the elementary school and getting a “master server” in the technology department to increase tech speed and efficiency. The budget amendment motion was passed unanimously, 6-0.
The board also voted to call for an election on May 10. Place 3, filled by Randall Moore, and the Place 4 seat of Debbie Nance are up. The school board election will be held in conjunction with the City of Van Alstyne’s election at the Van Alstyne Public Library. Early voting will be held at Van Alstyne City Hall.