Parents concerned about math class changes at middle school

Tuesday, August 25, 2009
Cape Central Middle School students left after classes in this file photo. (Kit Doyle)

Concerned parents approached the school board during a meeting Monday to address changes in math instruction at Central Middle School.

Starting this year, principal Mark Kiehne said he removed class sections for high-achieving math students. The curriculum for those classes was the same as other math sections but students were grouped according to their abilities.

"My philosophy is that fifth and sixth grade is too early to track," he said, referring to the student groupings.

Before making the change, district curriculum coordinator Theresa Hinkebein said she consulted with other districts about their practices. One out of 11 schools in Cape Girardeau, Scott and Bollinger counties tracks sixth-grade math students, she said. The majority start grouping students in later grades.

Four parents spoke at the meeting expressing their concern about the change.

"I believe all kids need to be taught to their level, whatever that is," Adam Kidd said.

Keihne said the school provides other opportunities to challenge gifted students through an enrichment program and Math Olympiad, an after-school activity. There is also after-school tutoring and math tutoring during the day to help the students who are falling behind, he said.

Parents said grouping gifted students with other gifted students gives them an opportunity to push one another. Another parent said the issue should have been brought up sooner.

"I felt like this was something that should have been addressed in the spring," Stacey Boerboom said.

In other action, the board decided not to submit an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency for a grant to fund a safe room at the high school.

The structure was estimated to cost $2.25 million and the district would be obligated to fund 25 percent of the project, no more than $560,000 for the building.

It could be used as part of an event stadium at the high school, said Neil Glass, director of administrative services. He said he would pursue private donors to fund the district's portion of the project.

The grant would fund a structure that could include concession stands and locker rooms and would also double as a tornado shelter. The district would have to find sources of funding for other components of the stadium including lighting, bleachers and a press box.

Glass has been working to draft a long-term facilities plan for the district. He said the grant would be a cost-saving measure for an anticpated project at the high school.

"I feel like this is the opportunity of a lifetime," he said.

Three board members said there were too many unanswered questions to pursue the grant. Board member Laura Sparkman said she was uncomfortable with approving a project before the entire facilities plan is complete.

"I just think the timing is wrong for this right now," she said.

Glass said he received short notice for completing the grant, which is due to the State Emergency Management Agency by Sept. 8.

Board member Dr. Steven Trautwein said the tight schedule prevented the board from making an informed decision, especially without commitments from donors and a business plan.

"Five hundred and sixty thousand dollars is a bunch of bucks and we're hurting right now," he said.

Board member Kyle McDonald supported the measure, saying it was part of the original plans at the high school. The grant application was voted down four to two with McDonald and Luther Bonds supporting the measure.

abusch@semissourian.com

388-3627

Pertinent address:

301 N. Clark Ave. Cape Girardeau, MO

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