Teachers’ salaries, which have not changed substantially since 2008, were the primary focus for Principal Charmaine Robertson at Crocker’s June 30 board meeting.

The board also discussed, at length, student test scores and strategies for overall improvement. Additionally, the board learned that Crocker’s 2012-2013 budget is still in the works.

Robertson addressed teachers’ salaries as a problem for Crocker’s competitiveness.

“When compared with that of the RSD and with other schools, Crocker is not keeping up. There’s a $4,000 difference between us and RSD,” Robertson said.

Shaun Rafferty, secretary of the board that manages Crocker, suggested that Principal Robertson re-do the scale so that it is competitive.  He also suggested that she be authorized to deviate from the scale when hiring new teachers.

A liaison from the board will be chosen to give advice on salary specifics, and the salaries of the entire Crocker staff will be adjusted according to the new pay scale.

The new salary figures will likely influence the 2012-2013 budget, which has yet to be crafted, according to Brendell Deamer, CPA.

Financial figures related to the school’s move into a new building are still developing as well, Deamer said, and she hopes a nearly-finished version of the budget will be presented at the next board meeting on July 28. The board is aiming for a final vote on the budget at its August meeting.

With state test results in, Principal Robertson discussed her continued efforts to raise scores and to find the root of teaching problems as early as possible.

Out of roughly 40 third graders, Robertson said 22 attended summer tutoring to prepare for next year’s tests.

Crocker will continue to provide after-school and Saturday tutoring; however, Robertson noted, transportation is a problem for many families.

She stressed the need for better communication with parents and the importance of getting them to personally visit the school more often. Making quarterly student reviews mandatory for parents is being considered. The reviews are currently held between teachers and the principal.

In addition to increasing tutoring opportunities and attempting to strengthen communication with parents, Robertson said changes in the school’s curriculum could help improve student performance at Crocker.

The school will start direct instruction practices to target low-level readers in the classroom, and the Math curriculum will switch to a program called Singapore Math, which focuses more on problem solving and model building than other approaches.

Robertson also plans to implement more benchmark testing. Testing for the entire school would occur every two weeks in the upcoming school year instead of once a month.

Board members inquired if there was solid data looking at test scores of students who begin with Crocker versus those who transfer to the school. Members expressed concern that students who have been with Crocker for two or more years had some of the lowest scores on state tests.

Robertson said that she had put together similar comparison data in the past and that she would take a fresh look at it with the current scores.

“We take everyone. The low (scoring) kids; they need service too. The reality is we get a lot of third graders coming into the school who aren’t even reading yet,” Robertson said.

Robertson agreed with the board that finding the right teachers is key to turning the school around. She informed members that the teaching staff faces regular reviews and that instructors “that do not fit are no longer with the school.”

Principal Robertson expressed to the board that her “level of frustration is through the roof,” concerning her battle with test scores.

“It’s just a numbers game. It’s all just a bottom line number. Yet no one comes to see what we’re really doing here. In the classrooms, we’re busting our butts in here,” Robertson said.

A sympathetic board voiced unified support for the principal.

“Its our job to assist you in the narrative. We’re the little engine that could. We are going to take all students. We’re going to do it, and we have to articulate the narrative. It’s not just numbers, it’s words as well. We’re going to help you tell that narrative,” Rafferty said.

Chairwoman Grisela Jackson went further in expressing support for Robertson’s efforts.

“What I am most proud of is that our special education kids don’t leave us,” Jackson said. “That says something about the heart of this school and the mission of this school. I don’t think a lot of schools can say that. We support you in the direction we need to take with all of these different challenges. We want to be there. We want you to know we are here.”

Chairwoman Jackson noted the overall mindset of some parents may be the biggest challenge to overcome.

“Changing the culture is so important. School can’t be somewhere you just put your child for eight hours a day and they come home and that’s that. It can’t be like that anymore. There needs to be an evolution in the thought process somewhere,” Jackson said.

Jackson informed the board of a new state law requiring parents to attend parent/teacher conferences. The law also states that a board may decide on a punishment for non-compliance, so long as it does not negatively affect the student.

While the law is viewed as an exciting step for schools and administrators, there is skepticism as to how any form of punishment could realistically be carried out against a parent or guardian.

One successful area of student improvement appears to be the summer tutoring sessions, and Robertson observed that the small group size is a large factor.

Board members agreed that having two teachers or instructors in the fourth-grade classroom at all times would be an ideal way to lower the student-to-teacher ratio during the regular school year. The current fourth grade class has 26 students and one teacher.

At the meeting, board members from Crocker met with members of Encore Academy, which will be sharing space at 2301 Marengo St., to discuss shared services.

Based on the square footage that will be used by the two schools, Crocker will pay 56 percent of shared costs, and Encore will pay 44 percent. Thus far, the two schools will be sharing costs for a school nurse, janitorial services, food service and maintenance expenses for the heating and cooling system.

Rafferty noted that the money Crocker will save by sharing services with Encore Academy once they move into the new building could be used to hire more teachers’ aides. Robertson and other board members agreed to pursue the idea and agreed to speak with Deamer about financing the hiring of more aides.

Transportation is another major cost that the schools would like to split, however, with different start and release times, it does not appear possible at this time.

Jackson also informed the board that she has signed the letter of intent to renew Crocker’s charter. The first section of the application is due August 31, with the second section due in September.

The next meeting of the Crocker board will be held Saturday, July 28 at 11 a.m.