Concerned about the fast-approaching deadline when students will have to pass a standardized test to graduate from high school, the governing board of Amphitheater Public Schools approved a resolution June 22 that asks the state to cut the district some slack.
The resolution, aimed at the Arizona Department of Education, urges the state to give students the results of their Arizona Instrument to Measure Standards tests early - before each school year ends.
At its meeting, the governing board also approved changes to its policies regarding school trips and hearings for suspensions and expulsions.
Presently, results from AIMS tests aren't available until August. That creates a problem, since the district's main protection against poor test scores is an AIMS summer school program it launched in May. Low scorers on AIMS are invited to attend the program the summer after their test results arrive.
That means incoming 11th graders who have not yet been identified as needing help will not have a chance to attend the summer program, unless the state sends its test results earlier. Their senior year, 2005-06, is the first year seniors will have to pass AIMS to graduate from high school.
"If the community were to stand up and say we're not going to take this anymore, something might happen," board member Kent Barrabee said.
With that end in mind, the board also agreed to send copies of its resolution to other school districts, and invite them to join in the plea for earlier test results.
Amphi's policy about school trips saw a change, as the governing board approved a new rule that a chaperone whose way is being paid by students is not allowed to encourage students to go on a school trip.
The new policy also states that students and parents must be informed of the specific amount of their travel cost that is going to a chaperone, and of the total cost of the chaperone's expenses.
The suggestion for the rule came from board member Mike Prout, who said chaperones sometimes pressure students to participate in a trip because when more students go, there's more money to cover chaperones' travel expenses. Prout said students whose families can't afford the trip get hurt by the pressure.
"How do you guard our kids' self esteem if the whole class is going on a trip, he or she thinks, but his parents say they can't afford the $1,500 to go on that trip?" Prout said. "I think that's something we have an obligation to protect these families.
Governing board member Kent Barrabee voted against the policy change, after arguing that he could forsee times when students might need encouragement from chaperones to go on school trips.
He gave fifth-grade school trips that involved camping as an example. On those trips, scholarships are available for students whose families can't afford to pay their way, he said.
"This is the problem we get into when we stipulate things in a blanket way, because that's a very real situation," Barrabee said. "Some students are hesitant to go because they're afraid to be away from their family. They need some encouragement."
The new policy, which was also tossed around, discussed and tweaked in two previous board meetings, passed 4-1.
Amphi's policy about hearings for suspensions and expulsions also saw a change, as the governing board voted to stop sending certified letters to parents notifying them of a son's or daughter's upcoming hearing.
For years, the district has sent hearing notices by certified mail with return receipt requested. Associate Superintendent Todd Jaeger said many of the parents refuse to accept certified mail, and so don't learn about the hearings.
During the 2003-04 school year, the district held 300 long-term suspension or expulsion hearings, costing the district about $1,500 in postage. In a recommendation, Jaeger wrote that the certified letter policy may actually be hindering parents from finding out about hearings.
Staff will also prepare a pamphlet to answer parents' most common questions about the hearings. The pamphlet will be distributed to parents of students who have been suspended or are facing possible serious discipline.
In other news, the district approved its 2004-05 budget of $80.7 million. Also, the district completed negotiations with NWC River and La Cholla Inc. that will give it $1,200 each time new residents move into a 21.5-acre development that will be built north of River Road near La Cholla Boulevard.