Board discusses teaching methods

The Mexico Board of Education met Dec. 17, for a brief meeting, lasting from 6-7 p.m.
The Pioneer in Education awards were bestowed to recipients before the meeting, and in the opening comments the winners were congratulated. The Board members also took time to congratulate the children of Mexico schools who participated in the various Christmas pageants that took place over the holiday season, and on the successful Eugene Field reading program.
Prayers were sent out to Taylor Carr, the 8-year-old victim of an October car crash, who has recently regained movement of her limbs.
The Board discussed recent research done by Mexico teachers to attempt to improve reading teaching methods. Mexico schools' goal is to improve the rigor of student understanding and reading comprehension.
Teachers were sent to other school districts to research how they may more effectively teach reading comprehension. Though it was found that most of the surrounding districts have similar problems, it was suggested that special needs students be more often blended with mainstream classes so that the special needs students can learn from and with their peers.
Board member Dr. Elwood Rice motioned to survey Mexico's teachers about the comfort of their classrooms. Rice said he has received several complaints about classrooms being too cold. Board member Beverly MacFarlane said she has also received complaints. The motion failed.
Among the resistance to the motion, Board member Robby Miller, who has not received complaints, encouraged the Board to allow the system in place to do its job. Currently, all district room temperatures are under the control of a central operator who can alter the rooms' climates remotely. All rooms are set to be between 71 and 72 degrees.
"You can't make everyone happy," Miller said. "If the room temperature is raised, someone will be too hot. If it is lowered, someone will be too cold."
Mexico schools' attendance record was a Board concern. The district goal is for students to attend 90 percent of classes over the course of the school year. Only 83.65 percent of high school students are meeting goal, which was the lowest percentage among Mexico schools. MacFarlane encouraged students to attend school as much as possible, though it can be a trying task in the winter months.
The 2013-2014 school calendar was set at 167 days with 14 days set aside for professional development, to train faculty on new in-class teaching methods. This calendar won over an alternative 171 day school year with only 10 professional days. Concern was made over the loss of four school days for professional development, but the Board voted to try the schedule for one year to decide if additional professional development days may benefit students in the long run.
The Board also discussed a four-day school week schedule. Montgomery County schools, among others, have switched to this schedule, with high public and administrative approval, but the aboard wants to wait for hard evidence of increased student achievement before considering the switch.
Superintendent Kevin Freeman said, "Our decision to change to a four-day schedule will be based on student achievement and not financial cost." One of Freeman's major concerns is school employees who would lose needed wages due to the loss of a workday, such as bus drivers and cafeteria workers. Mexico does not plan to make such a switch in the foreseeable future.
In new business, the Board of Education Budget Workshop was set for 6-8:30 p.m. Jan 8, 2014. The Legislative Forum was set for Feb 18, 2014.