Principals report to school board

By Bryan Richardson

Principals discussed both accomplishments and struggles of their elementary schools Wednesday during the USD 383 school board’s site council meeting.

This was the first of two site council events, with the second scheduled for January.

The principals at Bluemont, Lee, Marlatt, Ogden and Woodrow Wilson elementary schools provided an update on the happenings of their schools and answered questions.

During the meeting, principals frequently mentioned their appreciation of the additional professional development and collaboration time given to elementary teachers this year.

The school board approved a two-year plan in the spring, increasing the amount of time that teachers can use to collaborate:

• 2012-13: Five early release days, three professional development days and 300 planning minutes per week

• 2013-14: Eight early release days, eight professional development days and 330 minutes of planning time per week

• 2014-15: Sixty minutes of collaboration time per week added to the 2013-14 changes

Bluemont principal Kathy Stitt said the built-in time away from students has actually allowed teachers to understand them better.

“We can sit down and have uninterrupted time for almost three hours during early release time to look at data,” she said.

Marlatt principal Brett Nelson said new staff members have benefitted by using the additional time to ask advice of veteran teachers.

“They’re so worried about getting their plans done and copies done,” he said. “Well, this is a time where they can put all of that aside and get with their experienced colleagues.”

Nelson said teachers also are benefitting by having three years of classroom performance on Measures of Academic Progress (MAP).

MAP is a test that USD 383 students take multiple times during the year — a tool to measure what they’re retaining and where they might continue to struggle.

“It’s really important to look at that trend data,” Nelson said. “Not just what you did that year, but look back and see how we’ve done over time.”

Lee principal Nancy Kole said her school is still adjusting to the growth from renovations.

Enrollment increased from 320 students in 2011-12 to around 450 students currently.

This also has affected the number of students from low socioeconomic status, jumping from 53 percent in 2011-12 to 60 percent this year.

USD 383 and districts nationwide receive federal Title I funds to provide services for students who at risk academically.

“We’re trying to keep up with everything,” Kole said. “It’s a struggle. If we could add anything, it would be more Title I support.”

One trend discussed at the meeting was the increase in younger students throughout the district.

At Lee, 51 percent of 450 students are in kindergarten through the second grade.

Woodrow Wilson principal Deb Nauerth said 21 kindergarten students are being transferred to Bluemont due to a lack of space.

“Force transferred” students take buses to their original school, then other buses to their transfer schools.

Nauerth said the district should monitor the situation as growth on the eastside of Manhattan continues.

“We can’t predict what our enrollment will be, but it’s something that’s shifting and changing,” she said.

Board member Pat Hudgins expressed concern that it’s the youngest students being bused to Bluemont.

“Something has to change, because our littlest guys have to do the most movement on the bus system to have a school day,” Hudgins said.

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