St. James Plaindealer - St. James, MN
  • SJ School Board hears from MN Dept. of Education Director over Northside grant

  • With the approval of the revision, the Board voted to accept the early retirement of four staffers. The staff who will take early retirement are John Becker, Beth Christiansen, Michael Huss and Carol Goodeman. The Board also accepted a leave of absence for the 13-14 school year from Laura Dorn. After t...
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  • The St. James School Board held its regularly scheduled meeting on Monday night at the Armstrong Media Center. The Community Connection presentation before the formal Board meeting was used by Steve Dibb from the Minnesota Department of Education (MDE) to discuss how the MDE is working with the staff of Northside Elementary to manage the Federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) the school received at the start of the school year.
    Dibb explained the MDE got a waiver from the Federal Government regarding the average yearly progress (AYP) standard.
    MDE proposed to the Federal Government a new accountability system called the multiple measurements rating (MMR).
    After the standard was devised, Northside Elementary was identified as one of the schools in the bottom five percent and was eligible for a Federal grant.
    Dibb said SIG was the largest grant program he’d ever been associated with in his 35 years of education.
    MDE is required to monitor the SIG money Northside receives. As part of that monitoring, Dibb visited the school on Feb. 11, prior to the Board meeting. He conducted classroom walk throughs and met with SIG-related staff.
    He explained the personnel requirements of the SIG programs were necessary because the additional staff positions have been demonstrated to be among the best practices needed in the effort to turn around schools.
    Other requirements of the SIG that Dibb talked about were the need to increase learning time for students. There were several options Northside could use to increase learning time.
    It is a data driven program according to Dibb. The SIG provides an opportunity for the teachers to collaborate.
    “We focus on making detectable changes in classroom instruction that is reflected in measurable student achievement. The focus has to be on what’s best for kids,” according to Dibb. He said it will require hard work to improve student achievement at Northside.
    Another MDE staffer, Mary Jenatscheck, said, “The staff is working hard. At time they feel a little overwhelmed. It’s so much change and it’s so fast.”
    Dibb said that what he saw earlier in the day at Northside was ‘great instruction’.
    In its regular Board meeting, the School Board approved the payment of the bills for January in the amount of $840,587.81.
    The Board also approved and accepted gifts in the amount of $16,611.58. Most of the money came from the District 840 Foundation, but the Fraternal Order of Eagles and money from a baking pan sale for the food scholarship fund also made contributions.
    Mary Richard presented a summary of revenues by fund and source and of expenditures by fund for review by the School Board.
    The Board approved a revised memorandum of understanding pertaining to the offering of early retirement incentives to members of the teachers bargaining unit. These retirements would be effective at the end of this school year.
    Page 2 of 2 - With the approval of the revision, the Board voted to accept the early retirement of four staffers.
    The staff who will take early retirement are John Becker, Beth Christiansen, Michael Huss and Carol Goodeman.
    The Board also accepted a leave of absence for the 13-14 school year from Laura Dorn. After the leave of absence this will turn into a retirement for Dorn.
    These are very senior teachers. Christiansen is the most senior teacher on the District’s roster. She began her teaching career in August of 1970.
    Becker is the second most senior teacher on the roster having started his career in August of 1974. Dorn is the sixth most senior, Huss the 24th and Goodeman is the 26th.
    Chairman of the School Board Bill Brown said these were essentially career people who were retiring.
    Brown continued that these professional educators had a combined 163 years of teaching service to the St. James community. On behalf of the Board he expressed his heartfelt thanks for the work they have done.
    The Board also approved an environmental consulting agreement with Harbo Consulting Agency of Lake Crystal. This is a three year health and safety service management contract. The amount of the contract will be paid annually in the amount of $18,444.00.
    The Board also approved a CRIC budget, several other administrative procedures and two work agreements.
    Board Superintendent Becky Cselovszki reported that a community meeting has been scheduled for Feb. 27, at 6 pm in the Armstrong Auditorium to discuss options in school conference participation.
    High School Principal Ted Simon talked about the new state educational standards students will have to meet to graduate. This starts with the current sophomore class and he distilled it down to, “Every kid will need to take chemistry to graduate.”
    The number of units needed to graduate remains the same at 52, but the number of required courses goes from 34 units to 36 units. Simon detailed how the high school will schedule science course offerings so students will meet the new requirement.
    Northside Principal Karla Beck presented her monthly SIG report to the Board. It touched on the MDE visit by Steve Dibb.
    The report also indicated Northside teachers continued to meet for their required 90 minutes of Professional Learning Communities (PLCs) each week.
    She said that, “Veteran teachers were learning new things and that all teachers were going to see each others data.”
    She reported on some Northside math and reading test results that showed improvements for second and third grade. They were essentially flat for fourth grade. Fifth grade had flat math scores and improved reading scores.
    The Principal also presented a chart that showed oral reading fluency improved for grades two through five.
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