MP district chosen for pilot program
By Katie Zerr
The South Dakota Department of Education Teacher Effectiveness program is a research project through the University of South Dakota. The Mobridge-Pollock Middle School staff will respond to surveys and data requests and will be asked to participate in a focus group in the spring of 2014.
“I am really excited about this,” Frederick told the board. “The nice thing about the program is that all of our schools will receive the training and funding though the middle school staff will be doing the bulk of the work.”
The training will include sessions on professional practice and student growth. There will also be in-school coaching paid for by the State of South Dakota, for both administrators and staff. These in-school coaching days will be structured to meet the needs of Mobridge–Pollock schools.
The middle school staff will receive licenses for a software program called “Teachscape Focus” which will provide instructors and administrators with training on the South Dakota Framework for Teaching program.
The evaluation program developed through this research project will be used statewide in 2014-15.
The board also heard explanations from the district’s finance officer and principals on changes in programs and the student handbooks for 2013 -14 school year.
Finance Officer Kim Schneider told the board current meal prices for breakfast and lunch at the schools would need to be raised for the 2013-14 school year.
“We offer our breakfast and lunch program at a very good price,” she said. “But according to the pricing tool for the 2013-2014 school year, we should be increasing those costs by a minimum of 10 cents for lunch and five cents for breakfast.”
With board approval, the cost of breakfast for students kindergarten through fifth- grade will be $1.30 and $2.35 for sixth through 12th grades. Lunch prices will increase to $2.15 for kindergarten through fifth-grade and $2.35 for sixth through 12th grades.
“Even with the increase we are below the state average,” Schneider told the board.
Changes in student handbooks were also discussed with tardiness and absences among the most important changes.
Elementary Principal Jill Olson told the board the biggest challenges in the lower elementary are absences and tardiness.
“We need to help our parents make this a priority,” she told the board. “If parents don’t call us to let us know their child is not coming to school, we spend a lot of time tracking down the student.”
Students will be allowed four excused absences a quarter. They will also be allowed four tardies during a quarter. Olson told the board it is very important that younger children get into the routine of school early and not miss part of the morning schedule.
The handbooks will supply the information on what is an excused absence and what will be done if parents and children do not make attending school a priority. Olson told the board the administration is working well with new Walworth County State’s Attorney James Hare, who is concerned about truancy and the enforcement of the laws.
High School Principal Andrew Overland also discussed tardies and absences and how these rules would impact open campus for seniors. Since being late to one class during the school day can count as one tardy, students will get seven chances to get to class on time before detention is required.
He explained that excused absences would also be spelled out in the handbook, as some parents need to understand what does and does not fall under the excused absence rule.
There are also changes in the cell phone, prom and locker policies that parents will need to make themselves familiar with, Overland told the board.
These changes will also be updated in the middles school handbook.
Olson told the board that the summer program, Tiger Kids, made possible with a 21st Century grant, is working out well for the district. The program has two daily sessions, morning and afternoon, with 20 students in each session. There is an hour and a half for academics and hour and half for physical education each session.
Instructors Mary Ludeman and Shalena Meyer explained the program and activities in the both the morning and afternoon sessions.
Ludeman told the board each week of the program has a theme and students use iPads, which were purchased through the grant, to read books, watch videos and research animals of their choice.
Since the students range from kindergarten through seventh grade, Ludeman said there is a wide range of activities for the groups. The students are paired together, one younger with one older student, for some activities.
Meyer told the board the program incorporates a lot of hands-on activities that keep the learning fun. On Tuesdays, the classes go fishing as part of the physical education activities.
Partnering with members of the community is also part of the program. During the first week, the students took a trip to Pets N Stuff where owner Tami Schanzenbach gave them a tour of the store and information about each type of animal there.
Olson said there are a few slots open in the afternoon sessions in July and interested parents should call her office for information.
– Katie Zerr –