Good morning, Dr. Mitchell. Are you here?
We still have a few minutes before we start at 10:30.
Okay I will wait and be ready
Good morning, everyone. Welcome to our Live Chat with Dr. Tim Mitchell, superintendent of Rapid City Area Schools.
Dr. Mitchell, What do you think of the Legislature’s education reform bill?
I am an opponent but am still working with a group of stakeholders to make modifications to the final bill so that it can most benefit the teachers and students of South Dakota
What do you want to change?
We would like to see the Math/Science (Market-based) portion look at scholarships at the college level versus stipends to new teachers. If it has to be stipends could they be less than the $8000 and for longer than five years to really get the commitment. Could some money be allocated for experienced teachers to be mentors. We are still trying to determine what local control will be allowed for the Top Teacher Reward. I beleive teachers need due process and I like local flexibility as to the evaluation model. There is more but we need an extended conversation on how this will all work.
The Journal editorial board this morning criticized HB 1234 for modifications to the bonus pay proposal for math and science teachers, i.e., $8,000 for new teachers for the first five years. Do you agree with lawmakers who want to boost pay only for new math and science teachers?
We have asked for local flexibility. There is a shortage that has been documented statewide as to Math/Science but many districts have issues in other areas. The market is different at the local level. I understand the need for Math/Science and would support the concept in a different format as mentioned in my previous post but other areas need to be addressed. We also need to address the base pay of all teachers as part of a solution.
We have a question on the same issue from a "retired teacher."
This is the concern that I have heard expressed many times since the amended version of HB 1234 has been offered. I agree with them and do have real concerns as to how this will impact the other teachers. There are principles of incentive programs that need to be looked at here. All teachers need to have the opportunity to get the incentive, they all need to understand why some do and some do not and the base needs to be sufficient to start with. These are not being addressed in the current plan.
Dr. Mitchell, as to the Rapid City Area Schools District Budget: You have been meeting with the public at meetings in the district’s middle schools. What is the response to your administration’s budget proposal?
Most of the concerns have to do with the elimination of common plan time at the middle school and the reduction of about 30 FTE. We have also had discussion on some of the other recommendations. We have had good conversations and testimony has been passionate as to where the district should be going in the future. No one likes to have the conversation but we are attempting to the best of our ability be fiscally responsible and committed to our mission. I think it has been a good process so far.
Some people have complained that the middle school changes take away planning while adding more students for teachers. That seems counterintuitive to improving student achievement. What will be the effect of the changes on students and teaching staff?
We have tried to outline an alternative approach. This goes to the column I submitted this Sunday as to the Professional Learning Community. We have tried to communicate a way to compromise and get all K-12 teachers collaborating during the proposed Early Release. The research base does point to this alternative as a way to make professional learning the way to increasing student achievement for the entire distrcit
David Pyle has a question regarding tenure.
I agree that there are some issues with eliminating continuing contract. I believe that everyone wants fundamental fairness and due process. We need to not allow arbitrary release of teachers. It is not the answer to ridding the system of bad teachers. I hope we can come to an alternative and not just eliminate this provision.
"kevin" has a question regarding how income disparities of students might affect teacher evaluation.
Hopefully-and the assessment and evaluation system used to make the determination have not even been developed yet-It would be based upon a growth model-but I truly believe that the alternative is a skill-based incentive system. Teachers receive the incentive based upon the work and effort they do to build their own capacity to meet the individual needs of the students they work with. Not just based upon student results. If they are doing the best job they can and we can show the efforts they have made on the behalf of the students this should be rewarded.
Are there more teachers planning to take early retirement because of the merit pay proposal and Rapid City district’s middle school reorganization?
We have been notified that about 50 teachers have taken early retirement. They do not have to give us a reason why but this is a larger than average number. We did anticipate the numbers would go up because many of our teachers are reaching retirement age. Teacher retire for many reasons but some have expressed to me that frustration as to what is going on at the district and state level had led them to make their decision.
"sd mom" raises the sports vs. education argument.
We have supported pay for play but we are in the minority as to move this issue forward. All the activities account for about 2% of the overall budget and this year this department gets the largest percentage cut at 7%. The entire program costs about $2 mill dollars and if we cut them all it would only be half of the cut we need this year.There are benefits to having these programs as to keeping students in school and student who participate have higher student achievement. These programs also bring in a small amount of revenue. We also have to consider Title IX and have equal access to girls and boys as to the programs we offer.
Dr. Mitchell has an 11:30 appointment. Is there anything that you would like to add, Dr. Mitchell, before we end our interview?
I think these were all great questions that get to the point as to what are some key issues as we try to move the RCAS forward into the 21st Century. I appreciate the ability to communicate and listen to others about these issues. The entire community needs to stay involved as to these issues and contact our legislators to let them know how you feel. The district continues to advocate for more education dollars so we can have a program that meets the community needs. We want your involvement, support and trust as we work through these difficult budget issues.
I apologize for not getting to everyone's question. Thank you for joining us this morning, and thank you, Dr. Mitchell.
Thank you for giving me this opportunity and maybe we can do it again soon!!!