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School board discussion (copy)

Baraboo School Board members discuss new business in July 2017. The board approved a new graduation policy Monday that requires seniors to complete an exit interview and portfolio before receiving their diplomas. 

Baraboo High School seniors will be required to complete a portfolio and exit interview before receiving their diplomas.

The Baraboo School Board approved the new graduation expectations Monday despite reservations from several board members.

While they agreed the experience would benefit students, staff and community members, critics said withholding diplomas from non-willing participants is “onerous” and could lead them to record false information throughout the process.

“There are a lot of kids just busting their butts trying to get their diploma,” said board member Sean McNevin. “I think there might be an opportunity where some kids aren’t, or can’t or don’t participate, and withholding the diploma almost seems punitive over something like this.”

Students’ portfolios will be a “capstone” comprised of career planning exercises and documents they complete during their time at Baraboo High School. They’ll also be required to participate in a 10-minute interview in May of their senior year with school leaders that focuses on their time at the high school and future plans.

“I think it’s important to note, too, that the senior exit interview portfolio process is an extension and end product of all the academic and career planning steps and scope and sequence that we go through with all of our students,” said District Administrator Lori Mueller. “Some of it will start even in middle school.”

The Baraboo School District initiated a pilot exit portfolio and interview process last school year using a sample size of 12 seniors. District leaders said they’ve been in contact with neighboring school districts that have enacted similar programs, and making the process a graduation requirement will help it achieve 100 percent participation.

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“There’s a lot we can do as a staff and a board to accommodate every student’s need when it comes to participating,” Mueller said. “I think we’ll have a few students who we’ll have to nurture along the way, but our goal will be to make sure that everyone has success with the process.”

Board members asked if seniors’ portfolios would be complete with only one year to participate in the mandated program. Baraboo High School Principal Glenn Bildsten said students already have completed some aspects of the portfolio through the district’s career planning website.

“It won’t be as robust as it will be for the current freshmen and sophomores who will have the four years, but as we saw from our seniors that went through this process last year fairly quickly, these are documents and these are exercises that they’re doing already in Career Cruising,” he said.

School board members Kevin Vodak, Doug Mering, Mike Kohlman and Tim Heilman voted in favor of the new policy, while Gary Cummings and McNevin voted against it. The new rule will take effect for the coming school year.

“Some kids will probably not have the greatest exit interview, but I’d say it would be reasonable to get them all though an exit interview,” Kohlman said. “I think making it a graduation requirement is going to capture the largest portion of students that we possibly can.”

In other business, the board:

  • Approved 2018-2019 milk bid from Dean Foods
  • Approved funding for pool starting blocks
  • Approved student academic standards
  • Approvaed 2018-2019 Wisconsin Rural School Alliance membership

Follow Jake Prinsen on Twitter @PrinsenJake or contact him at 608-963-2441.

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