After numerous concerns from parents were raised over the past couple of months regarding the implementation of Summit Learning in the district, the Newton Board of Education heard some of the steps in the action plan administration is working on in response to that at its meeting on Monday.

Superintendent Deb Hamm noted some of the plan elements are still being ironed out, as there are a number of things staff is working to address. One of the concerns directly brought up by a parent at a recent meeting was the data sharing implemented as part of Summit Learning and how that may infringe on student privacy — and administration is currently working with legal counsel to sort that out.

"We want to make sure that we are following the state guidelines," Hamm said. "I can assure you that student data is not uploaded except as it is needed for actually utilizing the system."

Hamm did point out that USD 373 is utilizing the same agreement that all school districts in Kansas implementing Summit currently use. In regards to removing students from the data sharing system, there are also some questions from staff about how they would work around that — as it was noted the data has been an extremely useful resource for the individualized learning at the core of Summit.

Individualized learning was also brought up in regards to concerns over screen time (which the district is working to track the rest of the semester), special education and the implementation of Summit in different classrooms. Hamm said it is likely that, as with any curriculum, there are some different wrinkles with how Summit is used from classroom to classroom. While she said administration does not want to put staff in a box, they do want to set some shared expectations that will help with utilization of Summit throughout the entire building — as in the case of Santa Fe 5/6 Center.

Currently, Hamm said administration is looking to share an action plan of how the district can fine tune Summit Learning at the next school board meeting — a process in which USD 373 parents played a large role.

"We do appreciate all the time parents have taken visiting with the schools and sharing their concerns with us," Hamm said.

In other business, the Newton BOE:


Recognized board members Steve Richards and Toby Tyner for having attended Kansas Association of School Boards trainings.
Heard a report on the Santa Fe 5/6 Center Redesign, including what has changed and what is working at the Newton school.
Approved the consent agenda, including the previous meeting minutes, bills, adoption of the amended 2018-2019 budget, purchase of vehicles and approval of a lease with Motorola.
Learned from Hamm that the board's bond proposal has been submitted to the state board of education, but it was not placed on the agenda for February — meaning it will likely be discussed in March at the earliest.
Received a report on Hamm's listening tours from the fall semester in which she heard concerns (including shortages of substitute teachers, staffing concerns, etc.) raised by staff at each district building.
Had first reads of both a user agreement for technology at Santa Fe 5/6 Center and an agreement with Newton Medical Center for speech language pathology services.
Asked for more information on enrollment fees, which Hamm noted would likely be discussed when fees are on the agenda in about a month.