Principals from all district schools offered wide-ranging reports to the USD 383 school board Wednesday — discussing their schools’ progress and their needs during a special meeting devoted entirely to site council reports.
The last time the district’s various principals delivered these reports was in November of 2013.
Here is a summary highlighting key points made by each principal:
Principal Andrea Tiede said she has enjoyed her school’s implementation of co-teaching.
Co-teaching is a concept that utilizes regular and special education teachers working together to educate both groups of students simultaneously.
Regular education teachers Crystal Pralle and Lydia Huninghake, and special education teachers Whitney George and Melissa Huff work together on a daily basis.
Pralle and Huninghake work on math, while George and Huff work on reading.
“It’s so exciting to sit in that classroom and see all of our kids in there working,” Tiede said. “The teachers worked collaboratively. It looked flawless.”
Tiede said her biggest need is to provide more math support for the school. She said more of her school’s resources go towards reading.
“I wish we could do for math what we’re doing for reading,” Tiede said.
During the meeting, other principals also brought up how the reading performance outpaces the math at their schools.
They said there’s an increased emphasis on reading.
“It’s not socially acceptable for any adult to go to a party and say, ‘I can’t read,’” MHS principal Greg Hoyt said. “But it’s perfectly socially acceptable to say, ‘I’m not a numbers person.’ ”
Principal Shelley Aistrup mentioned two big demographic changes at Northview.
Both the free/reduced lunch and English as a Second Language (ESL) populations have increased during the past three years.
Free/reduced lunch population grew from 54 percent in fall 2011 to 68 percent in fall 2013.
Aistrup said it’s important to keep providing the proper services for these children.
“We just make sure we’re supporting the whole family and not just the child,” she said.
Northview also has 75 students of its Northview and College Hill Preschool students enrolled with ESL status during fall 2013. This is an increase from 61 students in fall 2011.
“We’re finding more non-speakers than in the past at the preschool level,” Aistrup said.
College Hill’s ESL population has increased from 15 students in fall 2011 to 28 students in fall 2013.
Aistrup said a future need for the school might be bringing in an Arabic speaker as an aide to help students brought up in that culture.
“(We want to help them) to continue building depth in their first language as they learn English,” she said.
This year, Bergman adopted a lunch-only midday break, moving away from the practice of allowing students to go outside when they’ve finished lunch.
Students still have normal recess with their classes.
Principal Lori Martin said survey data showed that the majority of the school’s discipline referrals and bullying incidents took place on the playground during lunch recess.
She said the students also rushed through lunch and would often be hungry at the end of the day.
“We were just grinding and gnashing our teeth over what we were going to do,” Martin said.
The school decided to dedicate its lunch schedule to 30 minutes of lunch in the cafeteria without going outside to play during the period.
Rather than go outside, students who finish eating early are allowed to visit with their neighbors, visit the school store, and help with the duties associated with serving lunch.
Martin said there hasn’t been one discipline referral from the cafeteria lunch this year.
She said an audit shows that there has been a 75 percent drop in food waste compared to the previous school year, adding that parents have said their children aren’t hungry at the end of the day anymore.
“That’s pretty powerful, when you think about all of the initiatives to give better nutrition to our children,” she said.
Principal Larry Liotta spoke about two new initiatives to help improve the school’s environment for students.
One initiative is called Silent Panda, which Liotta said involves identifying 45 children within the school who could use some extra role modeling in a one-on-one environment.
He said spending time — perhaps twice a week —being friendly with a child helps create a bond.
“I think that’s helpful,” Liotta said. “These are children that are either new to Amanda Arnold or that we’ve identified as really needing that type of person.”
The school also has Principal Lunch Bunch this year.
Every month, Liotta eats lunch with two to three students from each grade level in the conference room.
He said he gives the opportunity for students to leave early.
“So far, no group has left the lunch early,” Liotta said. “We talk a little bit about bullying and things that are on their mind.”
ANTHONY AND EISENHOWER MIDDLE SCHOOLS
Anthony Principal Vickie Kline gave examples of how the school has utilized outside resources to fund some of its activities.
Kline said the school received more than $11,000 during the first semester in donations from individuals, businesses and the AMS Booster Club.
She said the teachers have been writing grants for various activities, such as chess club, diversity art mural project and math family fun night.
“Our teachers have been relentless over the years,” Kline said.
Eisenhower Principal Tracy Newell spoke about the school’s changing faces, a problem that the district schools have with a highly mobile military community.
The student mobility rate, which counts students who change schools, is 11 percent at Eisenhower.
“One of the main concerns that all schools have is that students in your classroom today won’t be the students in your classroom tomorrow,” he said.
The enrollment in Advanced Placement (AP) courses has reached a record high.
Principal Greg Hoyt said MHS has 411 students in AP classes through the fall.
That number represents a jump of 102 students from last year’s AP enrollment of 309.
Students aren’t required to take the AP test if they’re enrolled in an AP course. Most actually do take the test.
An AP test is graded on a scale of 1-5. Students with a three or above on a test typically get college credit for the class.
Hoyt said the effort to teach an AP course is time-consuming, and that would continue to be the case as the school seeks to increase those opportunities.
“One of our biggest challenges right now is staffing those courses,” he said. “Teachers have challenging jobs in those student populations that they teach.”