Palestine hears another voice against change in grading scale

EAST PALESTINE – Despite the majority of teaching staff being in favor, more concerns were shared this week about the district’s possible grading scale change that was tabled at the June meeting.

Dan McKinstry, retired teacher and current varsity softball coach, told the board of education that if the district implements the change it will send a message to students that they are lowering their expectations.

Should the board make a decision soon, the change will not be implemented this school year.

“I have thought long and hard about this, and I am very upset … I don’t want to see us expect less of our kids, and I am afraid that message might be transferred. I just don’t want to see us lower our standards when we are at the top,” McKinstry said.

He added that the district shouldn’t “go the other way” when standards are being raised in other areas, like state testing.

Lower grading scales are also not appealing to colleges, and more college freshman are required to take remediation courses because they are struggling academically, he said.

“Very few of our students have to take remediation courses,” he added.

Board member Ron Novak, also not in favor of the change, said the district already has ways of accommodating students struggling academically and lowering scores shouldn’t be necessary.

While the district does not offer advanced placement courses, it does offer different levels of courses. “We accommodate students based on their needs,” he said.

The district’s current grading scale allows students to obtain an “A” with the lowest score of 93 percent while the lowest score to pass a class is 70 percent. The new grading scale would change the lowest “A” grade to 92 percent and lowest “D” grade to 65 percent.

Superintendent George Fisk asked the board to approve the change at the June meeting, hoping to have it in place for the new school year, but the board – with the exception of Rube Ginder – opted to table the matter.

Ginder said after that meeting he supported Fisk’s recommendation, but did not offer further comments. He also did not comment after McKinstry brought it up during the public portion of this week’s meeting.

Fisk replied that changing the scale does not mean the district is changing its academic “rigor,” and emphasized there is a difference between the two.

The district’s “stringent standards” come from quality teachers, he added, and reiterated the change was “overwhelmingly supported by the staff.”

The staff was briefed on the scale and asked for input before it was brought before the board. With no decision made, it remains tabled.

In other business, the board accepted the resignation of middle and high school assistant principal Christopher Canann, who left for a job outside the district. They then approved hiring special education director Justin Haren for the position, and combining the two positions to save money.

The salary for the positions alone were $54,060 and $45,000 and Fisk said combining them will result in a total salary of $70,000, saving $29,060.

Haren, a former Toledo resident, was hired as special education director in August of last year and was provided through the Columbiana County Educational Service Center.

He was working 2.5 days a week as special education director and hiring him for the full-time position will allow him to be on hand every day, providing more time to dedicate to that position as well, Fisk explained.

The board approved giving him a three-year contract for the combined positions.

In other business, Fisk said the purchase of the property at 914 Bacon Street is pending the completion of an environmental study and a survey, which was recommended by the district’s attorney.

The district is paying $1,885 for the study through RP Environmental of Mentor. The board agreed at the July meeting to purchase the property for $79,900 to house its 10 buses.

Two stall garages are already located on the property the district used about 20 years ago and is looking to use again since it switched maintenance providers.

The district housed its buses at Nulfco through the former provider but needed to find a new space after opting to go with OS Hill in East Liverpool, Fisk said.