Site councils deliver reports to school board

By Bryan Richardson

Six of USD 383’s school principals addressed their accomplishments and needs to the school board Wednesday in the second of two site council reports.

Here is a summary of what those principals told the board.

Bergman Elementary
Principal Lori Martin expressed pride in the work done to get the school off the “on watch” list. In 2010, Bergman and Anthony Middle didn’t make adequate yearly progress in certain areas, which caused the state to place them on the list.

Martin said 400 hours of work went into putting together the 73-page integrated improvement plan required by schools that missed AYP. She said the process has taught the teachers to work smarter.

“It’s the end result of a lot of unity and working together for a common mission,” Martin said.

Amanda Arnold Elementary

Principal Larry Liotta said the important thing for a school to develop is its culture. “It is the culture of a school that creates the climate of the school,” he said.

While maintaining the culture, Amanda Arnold’s demographics have experienced changes. The percentage of minority students is at 29 percent for the 2011-12 school year, up 13 percent from last year. The Hispanic population increased from 3 percent to 10 percent.

Amanda Arnold’s status as one of three non-Title I elementary schools in USD 383 also factors into an identity. A school is considered Title I if its free and reduced lunch population is above the district average of 35.8 percent.

Liotta said the school’s non-Title I status doesn’t mean that educating the students is easier. He pointed to statistics such as 23 percent of second grade students needing assistance reading, as proof of that.

“Just because students come from a middle income or high income doesn’t necessarily mean they know how to read,” he said.


Northview Elementary

Principal Shelley Aistrup discussed the constant communication that teachers use with each other to help students in the area of state assessments. Northview is the only school to meet standards of excellence for all grade levels and building wide for reading, math and science.

“Every single year for the last several years, we’ve gone up in reading and math,” she said. “That’s not by accident, that’s by a lot of hard work.”

Aistrup noted that her teachers didn’t “teach to the test,” or simply just go over test items in lessons.

“We’re teaching students to think, problem solve and comprehend,” she said. “The strategies we’re using with them, they can use the rest of their lives.”


Manhattan High

As a school that’s expanding in size due to construction, principal Terry McCarty says he hears the complaints from students about the amount of walking across the building.

According to McCarty, the passing period time is working out perfectly. McCarty said students have just enough time to walk to class, and there’s no congregating as there had been. “It’s helped a lot,” he said.

Despite the accomplishments of MHS including being named to the High School Challenge List among the top 1,900 schools in America for the third consecutive year, the school is now “on watch” for missing AYP for students with free and reduced lunch status in math.

Manhattan High’s status as one of the district’s three “on watch” schools left McCarty confused. “I have hard time believe that you can make standards of excellence, but you didn’t make the big picture,” he said. “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”


Anthony Middle

Principal Vickie Kline touted the help that professional development provides for teachers and ultimately, the students.

Kline talked about a workplace management system used at the beginning of the school year, the Fish Philosophy: play (making sure teachers and students have fun), make their day (good conversations), be there (being at work physically and mentally) and choose your attitude (starting off the day with and maintaining a positive attitude).

“We had some KSU leadership that came in and talked about this Fish Philosophy and how you can make a difference for one another and students,” she said.

Kline said the challenge has been to internalize the concepts and continue to keep up the work.


Eisenhower Middle

Eisenhower is working toward becoming a STEAM (science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics) engine, principal Greg Hoyt said.

Hoyt said a multitude of things can be attributed to improved performance including the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, implemented in 2005.

“It’s a huge difference, especially for a kid that’s 12 or 13 years old, as to whether or not they can focus on that math lesson or social studies lesson, or if they’re worried about what going to happen in the next transition period,” he said.


Board comments

Board members throughout the meeting talked about the need for everyone to mobilize and advocate for the district’s needs such as funding and better transportation options.

Board vice-president Dave Colburn said it’s important for everyone to make feelings heard about the proposed school finance formula reform. However, the discussion wasn’t just limited to state legislature.

Board president Doug Messer said parent participation at schools might be easier with better public transportation. The City Commission rejected a proposed fixed bus route during the summer.

Messer said he would like to see more people advocating for the city and county to work together on this issue. “When we have these problems we know will continue with growth, we need to mobilize people,” he said.

Board member Darell Edie mentioned the discussion about the growing number of students from low socio-economic, or free and reduced lunch, homes. With the proposed removal of a cap on local property taxes, he said the district will have to consider this population when setting the budget.

“There are a lot of things we’d love to do for the schools,” Edie said. “We just have to be careful about that.”

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