Six of USD 383’s elementary school principals spoke to the school board Wednesday about various accomplishments and needs. The site council reports from the principals produced many factoids about the past and current school year.
Principal Larry Liotta said among the school’s first-year programs is art enrichment for a select few students. Approximately 12 autism students receive their own art period weekly.
There are two additional art periods per week over the noon hour for 20 to 24 “highly competent art students.” Classes are split into two groups: kindergarten through third grade and fourth through sixth grade.
“The children’s self-esteem and confidence levels are rising,” Liotta said. “It’s a neat way to recognize kids.”
A common theme throughout the night for all principals was a need for more staff development, which Liotta said is especially important with the changing landscape with national common core standards and technology. “If you don’t start doing things differently in staff development, we will be behind,” he said.
This week is Bullying Awareness Week, and principal Lori Martin took the time to mention the school’s efforts to address the problem.
In a November 2011 survey, it was reported that there was a 10 percent decline in students who have been the victims of some form of bullying. Martin said there has also been a reduction in office referrals.
Martin said she gives credit to the work of the teachers in the classroom. She said the school is addressing the bystander effect this year. “We haven’t completely eliminated bullying, but certainly we’re working toward that,” he said.
This year, Lee faces the biggest change of all the elementary schools with a district-high increase of 133 students. The school received an influx of students because of the redistricting efforts to get more students to Lee after construction made it a large elementary school.
Principal Nancy Kole addressed some transportation issues that students have. She said bus riders need more time to eat breakfast and get to class on time.
Kole also said she was concerned about the amount of hazards that students who live in apartments on Garden Way have to face when walking to school. According to district policy, the apartments can’t have bus services because it is within 2.5 miles of the school.
The board and administration indicated it could be a future item of discussion.
Principal Brett Nelson presented overall improved state assessment scores to the board.
This past spring, the percentage of students who were proficient or higher in reading for all students (97.3 percent), free and reduced lunch (97.1 percent) and students with disabilities (94.7 percent) improved from 2011’s all students (91 percent), free and reduced lunch (81.8 percent) and students with disabilities (85 percent).
In math, all students (95.9 percent), free and reduced lunch (94.1 percent) and students with disabilities (94.7 percent) improved from 2011’s all students (86 percent), free and reduced lunch (72.7 percent) and students with disabilities (72.5 percent).
Nelson attributed the changes to teachers’ hard work after they “hit the ground running” at the start of last year. “Something we worked hard on as a building is to differentiate education and make sure we meet the needs of every student,” he said.
Principal Shelley Aistrup said the school continues to provide new ways to participate in before and after school programs. She said she’s also pushing for getting older children involved.
“We’re trying different ideas to pull in the fourth, fifth and sixth graders because they’re at that age where parents think they can go home and take care of themselves without a problem,” she said.
These new programs include a fantasy football league for children in those grade levels. Twenty-five students meet once a week to participate in the league.
Aistrup said there’s also movement to creating an indoor soccer club that meets once a week to help target the same age group.
Principal Andrea Tiede said it was a better feeling for her Wednesday than it was last year. Last year, most of the school was housed in mobile units as the school underwent extensive renovation that addressed structural issues.
Considering the struggles of last year, Tiede said it was exciting to see the students’ assessment scores. Theodore Roosevelt received standards of excellence for all grade levels and building wide for reading, math and science, the only USD 383 school to do so.
“To have that kind of success gets to you a little bit,” Tiede said.