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District 518 employees may get free event passes

WORTHINGTON -- Regular District 518 employees should be admitted to school events for free next fall, the District 518 Board of Education's Operations Committee decided Tuesday.

A policy will be developed and the full school board will have to vote on it before the free admission would go into effect, likely in time for the beginning of the 2011-2012 school year.

"The (Bill & Melinda) Gates Foundation came out with a report on teacher quality, and one of the things was that students who feel that their teacher takes an interest in them -- and one of the ways (to take an interest) is events like this -- they score higher (on standardized tests)," said Linden Olson, chairman of the Operations Committee.

The move could cost the district $3,000 to $5,000 in staff admission fees, but the free passes may also bring in money from the spouses and children of teachers who will attend the games.

The Gates Foundation's initial findings from the Measures of Effective Teaching Project found a correlation between student achievement and student belief that a teacher cares and tries to understand how students feel about things.

Concerns about the change centered around the school staff members who are paid to attend the games and provide supervision for students, who earn $20 or an event pass for their work. Some community members also supervise at events in exchange for event passes.

Because of the question of whether the school would have to retroactively pay employees who have already worked at events, and due to the need to fulfill employee contracts, District 518 will begin offering the free passes in the fall, provided the full school board approves the policy.

In other news Tuesday, the Operations Committee:

* Recommended a resolution that would, if the board passes it, authorize a one-time levy reduction of approximately $1 million.

The reduction in taxes would be made due to an increase in the school's fund balance after energy efficiency measures, increased enrollment and conservative expenditures.

* Discussed the food service program's compliance review, which was generally positive.

Out of approximately 1,100 applications for free and reduced meals, only six were marked incorrectly. During an entire lunch period at Worthington Middle School, only one lunch was given that was not compliant with state standards -- because the student had only taken two of three components. In addition, a fruit snack on the a la carte menu did not meet guidelines and will be replaced.

The Operations Committee will recommend to the larger board that the food service software be changed and updated, increasing efficiency and replacing old equipment. Should the school board approve the recommendation, the cost for the first year, including the new equipment, will be $10,291.60, and after that, the school will pay $5,541 a year for the new software.

* Agreed to request new bids for transportation contracts, because the old contracts are coming to an end.