Independence gets top overall score on state report card

by Laura Bednar

Sept. 20 board of education meeting

Ohio Department of Education Report Cards, which measure a school district’s performance, were issued and Independence received an overall five out of five stars. Director of Curriculum and Technology Integration, Mike Pennington gave some highlights of the report.

In the District Performance Index, which measures student performance on the Ohio state tests, Independence received 102 out of 107 possible points in 2019, which Pennington noted was “pre-COVID.” Testing was not required during 2020 due to the pandemic. In the latest report card, Independence scored 99.5 out of 107.

The maximum possible score is calculated by taking the average of the highest 2% of performance index scores that year. Pennington explained that the total points possible changes based on the number of students who take each test.

“COVID had a hit on student performance,” he said.

The high school had a 100% graduation rate, earning five stars. However, the district dipped in the “progress” category, with four stars at the high school, two at the middle school and three at the primary school. The report card defines progress as “the growth all students are making based on their past performances.”

Pennington said, to him, these ratings mean the district needs to ask, “How do we make sure what we’re teaching is aligned with the standards that those tests are looking at?”

He said IReady was a tremendous help, which is the district’s reading and math benchmark tool for grades K-8, given three times a year. He said teachers use the data to see where students are not meeting certain efficiencies.

The district received five stars across the board for gap closing, which measures the reduction in educational gaps for student subgroups. The middle and primary schools received five stars for achievement, and the high school received four stars.

“When you look at testing and where we’re at and some of those achievements, we are vastly above the state average,” Pennington said.

Cuyahoga Valley Career Center

David Mangas, superintendent of CVCC, updated the board on the school. He said Independence student enrollment in CVCC courses is trending upward after it dipped during the pandemic. According to him, there were 30 students enrolled for the 2020-21 school year, 39 for the 2021-22 school year and 55 for 2022-23.

Career specialist for grades K-12 in Independence, Amanda Jaronowski, doubled her time in the district in 2020, and Mangas said CVCC gave her an additional 98 hours this year.

“We see the value of that and want to increase the support,” said Mangas.

CVCC Board of Education annually awards $30,000 to each partner district to cover career awareness and instruction expenses. Independence utilizes these funds to support the computer science course.

The presentation included a list of new program ideas, which “have come to us through conversation with our community members,” according to Mangas. Some of these were landscape design and hardscape, animal science, entrepreneurship, robotics and environmental and park services.

Mangas said it would take two to three years for a new program to come to fruition. He added that the CVCC building is at capacity and if a new program were added, the building would need more lab space.

Board member Lynne Laski asked about creating a welding program at CVCC. Mangas said basic welding was usually included in existing programs, like machine technology, automotive service and power equipment.

Superintendent remembered

Board member Carrie Sears said former Independence Superintendent Guy Stella died on Aug. 31. He was 90. He began his career at Garfield Heights High School as a music director, and the band was asked to perform multiple halftime shows during Cleveland Browns football games. He later became the principal at GHHS.

He then became principal of Independence High School and moved up to superintendent for the district before retiring in 1993.

“He hired teachers that are still in our building now,” said Sears.

In other news

  • Certified substitute pay was raised to $135 a day, effective Sept. 21.
  • The board approved the tuition rate, which is set by the state, at $15,578 for the 2022-23 school year. Superintendent Ben Hegedish said tuition is paid in circumstances such as a student being placed in the district by court order.
  • The district planned to offer the COVID-19 vaccine and booster shots to staff members on Oct. 28. ∞