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Chelsea School District Superintendent Evaluation; Strategic Planning Survey

By Crystal Hayduk

The Chelsea School District (CSD) Board of Education has completed its annual evaluation of Superintendent Mike Kapolka, giving him an “effective” performance rating, and renewing his contract through June 2027.

With members Laura Bush and Jason Eyster absent, the school board approved Kapolka’s evaluation at its meeting on Nov. 27.

Eric Wilkinson, school board president, said the board is satisfied with Kapolka’s accomplishments during his first full year on the job. Highlights during the past year include negotiating a three-year agreement with the Chelsea Education Association, the teachers’ bargaining unit; planning the reopening of Pierce Lake as an Early Education Center; and formulating a long-term budget for the district. Kapolka’s relationship building, adaptability, and approachability have significantly improved community relations.

In Kapolka’s superintendent’s update, he said the school district’s strategic planning survey will be open until Dec. 8. It is requested that all district stakeholders, including students, parents, alumni, staff, and community members complete it. Knowing stakeholders’ thoughts on district strengths and needs for improvement help guide the district’s future. The survey is available here.

Michelle Hilla, director of curriculum and instruction, led a presentation updating the board about the first district goal to “incorporate the portrait of a graduate profile across all learning environments to develop globally competitive graduates.” This goal further addresses academic, social, and emotional branches. She was assisted by Nick Angel, Chelsea High School (CHS) principal; Casey Wescott, North Creek principal; and Lisa Nickel, director of special education.

Hilla said the district met the academic measure of students scoring in the top 10% in the state on all M-STEP subtests. CHS juniors achieved scores in the top 2% on M-STEP (social studies and science) and the top 3% on SAT. Students in grades 3-8 scored in the top 5% on M-STEP.

Hilla said the district is pleased with the percentage of students showing average to above average growth, but the data to make comparisons within the state and county are not accessible. She said it is important to look at students who aren’t exhibiting the desired level of growth and determine what interventions will ensure growth for all students.

Nickel addressed the social branch, which helps students become culturally conscious citizens who act with integrity. Staff have had access to professional development focusing on trauma-aware teaching, self-care and wellness, and promoting a safe and supportive school climate—all of which contribute to social learning for students.  

Groups with a social focus are available to students at all grade levels, and participation numbers can be tracked.

Angel and Wescott discussed the emotional branch, which helps students to be confident, reflective, and empathetic. At the elementary levels, Wescott said much of this is done through the development of relationships, school assemblies, and networks of support.

Angel said older students utilize relationships, but also a wide variety of formal groups.

The district uses the BESS (behavior and emotional screening system) tool with a goal of more than 80% of students indicating a strong sense of emotional wellness. Last spring, 85% of students scored in the low-risk range. The needs expressed by students were used to create groups at the secondary level. Wescott said the BESS scores indicate a snapshot in time, so are only one indicator staff use to determine emotional needs of their students.

The presentation can be viewed on the meeting recording (linked below) from timestamp 10:38 to 26:12. The corresponding slideshow is an attachment to the agenda.

CHS art teachers, Carrie Hillis and Claire Popovich, proposed a new art class to begin next year. The course, introduction to sculpture, would allow students to explore three-dimensional art in a variety of forms, expanding opportunities for “creative expression, artistic critical thinking, and problem solving,” they said.

Hillis and Popovich would co-teach the course, if approved, to give students access to the unique expertise of each teacher. Introduction to sculpture would replace the introduction to jewelry and metals course; and would cost less to run.

The board is expected to vote on the course in a future meeting.           

During the two opportunities for public input, three parents addressed the board. The first expressed her concern that permitting symbolism (specifically the rainbow pride flag) is a slippery slope and should not be displayed in a public school.

The second thanked the board and district administrators for supporting a variety of student interests and for their positive example to students of volunteerism in the community. The third said she is concerned about the tone of some public commenters at school board meetings, which may suppress discourse and discourage future potential board members from running for office.

A videorecording of the meeting is available to view here.

In other board news:

December Secondary Students of the Month (Beach Middle School student Monroe Roath and CHS student Sonja Schemahorn) were introduced. (Related story will be published soon.)

The board accepted the district’s final audit for the fiscal year ending June 30, 2023. Gabridge and Company, the accounting firm that conducted the audit, issued a clean, unmodified opinion. (Related story here.)

In individual action items, the board approved updates to the following policies: online/blended learning program, care of students with chronic health conditions, weapons, school safety information, and free and reduced price meals.

Upcoming dates:

There will be a school board work session at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 11 in the board room at the Washington Street Education Center (WSEC).

There is no school Dec. 25, 2023 through Jan. 5, 2024 for winter break; school resumes on Jan. 8.

The next regular school board meeting will be at 6:30 p.m. on Jan. 8 in the board room at WSEC.

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