The Mobridge-Pollock School Board heard the district’s principals report on the specific goals and strategies they have set to enhance the learning environment in their respective schools.
MPHS Principal Mike Busch told the board the goals for staff were based on connections with the students. He said the staff is working to create a learning environment through relationships with the kids everyday.
Busch said the staff is working on boosting attendance with positive incentives with a goal of 90 percent attendance in 2017-2018.
He said the staff has not yet implemented the Saturday School but are planning it for next semester.
Busch said he is pleased that the two math instructors are working together to build a strategy to improve the test scores in the high school. One of those strategies is take pre-tests in order for the students to get comfortable with testing procedures and hopefully do better on testing day.
MP Upper Elementary and Middle School Principal Erin Dale told the board her staffs are focusing on four goals including proficiency in math and reading, and growth for all students.
She said they are reviewing new math curriculum, extended blocks of time for certain classes and student interventions when required. She said the new strategy is holding the teachers and Dale accountable for student progress.
Dale said creating a positive school climate is important to attendance and progress is being made. One program that has had a big impact is the Big Brother, Big Sister program.
Dale said the goals in the middle school include academic growth. With math being a focus, staff has implement exploratory math in the sixth grade. Instructors are also working with smaller groups to give students more one-on-one time.
Dale has also asked each teacher to take more time to monitor three students in a class that are not showing the improvement in that class.
She said attendance is really improving and classes are in a competition for the fewest tardy students. Dale said positive incentives are being used to encourage these actions.
She also explained the staff continues to connect with the community through special events such as family nights and the parent breakfast.
Freeman Davis Principal Jill Olson told the board goals have been set for math and reading score improvements. She said the goal is to increase the percentage of students in the top two tiers out of four of the benchmark scores to 25 percent.
Programs that are being used to reach set goals are taking the kids with the highest needs into smaller groups for more hands on instruction, sending reading logs home with the kindergartners to record the number of books or the minutes of reading together for each family.
She said the staff has implemented 30-minute intervention groups for kindergartners and extended period in the first and second grades to 90 minutes.
Mobridge-Pollock Superintendent Tim Frederick asked the board to pay attention to what is happening on the national level when it comes to education. He said the new 529-tax plan allows parents or grandparents to put aside $10,000 a year for a child’s education. It used to be for college education but now in may be used for any education. He said this might give the advantage to those who can afford charter schools. He explained that when students leave a public school for a charter school, their state aid goes with them.
He said the new state-aid formula, based on attendance on the last Friday in September, hurts districts like MP that have a mobility factor in the student population. The district has added 10 students since the September deadline.
He said he is concerned that with the regulations of the funding formula, the district will be forced to spend down their general fund balance and then run into trouble trying to sustain programs now offered at the school.
MP Board President Eric Stroeder told the group if they want to continue offering the classes and programs they currently offer, the board may have to find ways of funding those programs.
Frederick told the board the district must also pay attention to teacher salaries. It is important that the district be competitive with salaries because it is located in North Central South Dakota.
“We have to show growth in our teacher salaries,” he said. “We have to take care of the teachers who are in our district.”
Frederick challenged the board to demonstrate to the patrons and students of the district the types of leaders they are. He said he wants to create a program for the board in which they focus on positive changes.
The challenge will focus on board members going outside of their regular duties, such as attending school activities (not just sporting events) and professional organizations, participating in local education workshops, working with local committees like the advisory board.
He asked them to take a tour of the building during school hours to see the changes made in the learning environment and student participation in outside programs.
“This is a very different school system than when we started,” he said.
Stroeder volunteered to work with Frederick to set up the challenge for the board.
– Katie Zerr –