School board fills staff positions

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The Mobridge-Pollock School Board Monday, Aug. 11, approved contracts for four positions and heard reports on a changes in learning and possibly funding policies on the state level.

The board approved hiring Dr. Rose Henderson as the new head volleyball coach (see story in sports section), and Kara Piatt as assistant volleyball coach, Victoria Hyder as the new elementary music instructor, and Caitlyn Brousseau as the Title I instructor at Freeman Davis. Current Title I instructor Tanya Huber will move to a fifth-grade instructor position.

The board also approved volunteer football coaches Jim Cerney and Nate and Jason Bauer. These volunteers will be required to take special instruction in order for them to fill those positions.

 

Changes in education

After hearing a report from M-P Middle School and High School Principal Joe Lenz on progress reports on college and career readiness in the district, the board heard superintendent Tim Frederick and board member Eric Stroeder report on the recent Associated School Boards of South Dakota. They said the tone conference was different with an emphasis on preparing students for careers and life beyond school and researching funding inadequacies.

“To me preparing our students for the ACT tests is not the only path,” said Frederick. “More districts are using the National Career Readiness Certificate and schools that are similar to Mobridge-Pollock are having success with it.”

Frederick said one example called mass customized learning implemented by the Harrisburg School District, which is transitioning to personalized learning plans for every student. These plans include a more flexible schedule for students to pursue their interests and get one-on-one help from teachers, according to an explanation of the program.

The former set class periods are replaced with 20-minute segments of learning time.

That means a student can spend as many time segments on a class as necessary one day, and spend less the next.

With flexible modular scheduling students in the Harrisburg district will learn the same standards as other South Dakota students, but have more control over what they study.

With the mass customization, they just won’t be reading or researching the same material as their peers.

The students are followed closely to determine if more time is needed on certain subjects in order for the students to understand the material. Advisors watch to ensure students do not fall behind in some subjects.

Students who are good in one subject may use the time that they would normally spend in that specific classroom on another subject in which they need more study time.

Each student has an individualized education plan. Frederick said in Harrisburg the students have no ceiling or bottom on their education. They are allowed to continue to grow, not having to wait for other students.

“We have already implemented some of this type of plan, but we need to study it more,” said Frederick. “Schools that are succeeding are diving in. We will learn from what happens this year and move forward. We don’t want our students to be career ready, we want them to be life ready.”

 

Capital Outlay study

Stroeder is involved with a state committee that is researching capital outlay inadequacies in state policies. With the changes in valuations of both Ag land and owner occupied properties, there are concerns about changes that could occur on the state level.

According to Stroeder, Senator Larry Rhoden is pushing for change, saying capital outlay created a system of inequity among school districts. Not all public school districts are able to utilize capital outlay funds. Several bills were introduced in the 2014 Legislature that called for the steady reduction in the percentage of capital outlay funds a district can flex to help offset general funds until the flexibility provision expires in 2018. Those bills died in committee, but Rhoden is still pushing to change the capital outlay system.

The Mobridge-Pollock District used some capital outlay funding to purchase a new bus and help with utility and insurance payments last year.

Frederick urged the board to use caution when spending capital outlay, as changes could mean less of those funds for M-P in the near future.

He said because valuations of Ag land in both Walworth and Campbell counties is predicted to increase (as much as 25 percent for Ag land) the formula on which capital outlay is figured could change. He said if the valuations increase by 10 percent or more, instead of using the mil levy to determine capital outlay funding, the Consumer Price Index (CPI) is used. That would drop the levy from $3 per $1,000 to the CPI of $1.63 per $1,000. Currently the land valuation in Walworth County is $193 million, which means $580,000 in capital outlay funding for the school district.

With the 10 percent increase, the outlay funding would be $720,000. But if the CPI is used in the funding formula, the increase would be $9,000.

“The bottom line is that our capital outlay isn’t going to grow under that circumstance,” said Frederick on Tuesday. “It is my job through presenting that to the board, they are made aware they need to watch spending. We don’t want to tap into capital outlay too much because of the uncertainty.”             - Katie Zerr -

 
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