Manhattan-Ogden elementary schools need more support in learning structure and social workers, six principals told the school board Wednesday.
Principals from six schools gave their annual reports, presenting their schools’ achievements and needs for the coming year.
Administrators from Woodrow Wilson, Marlatt, Ogden, Bluemont, Theodore Roosevelt and Lee elementary schools spoke.
Principal Deb Nauerth said she wanted 100 percent parent participation at parent teacher conferences this year, but she settled with 99 percent.
Nauerth said her school has had a good year so far, with community partnerships, educational standards implementation, and new clubs and employees at the school.
This year, the school has started a new club with the help of K-State, the “gentlemen’s club,” which they hope will help recruit boys for more diversity in education. Nauerth said she also does activities with students, like the Principal’s Pride Table, where she eats lunch with selected students, talks with them about the school and “feels like I get a pulse of the building.”
“One third-grader recently said he likes Woodrow Wilson and said the school board should keep giving us $100 a month,” she told the board. “I asked why $100, and he said, ‘It takes a lot of money to run a school and $100 is a lot of money. If they want to give us more that’s great!’”
She also said she’s trying a new policy for in-school suspension that keeps the students in the classrooms.
“The student’s parents are invited to spend the day with the child at school if they’re available,” she said. “When we tell the students that, they say ‘You can’t do that, they can’t be there, they have to work.’ We’ve gotten nice support for that. We hope it’s a one and done strategy.”
Nauerth said she also has been helping facilitate Saturday school for students who need a little extra help with their grades, especially if they know the student has the potential to earn better grades.
“We mix some fun into it when they’re done with their work,” she said. “I ask them what they want to do in school they never get to do, and almost every time they say run in the hallway, so they get to do that.”
She said the Wolves would benefit from a full-time social worker and a full-time Multi-Tier System of Support (MTSS) coordinator. MTSS is a system that categorizes students based on their behavioral, educational and emotional needs to help school officials address them.
She also said the school needs more resources — like curriculum guides — for the top tier of MTSS, or the students most in need of attention.
At Ogden, the need for more MTSS curriculum is a problem as well.
Principal Jim Armendariz said he teaches a math enrichment course for the sixth-graders. He didn’t want to jump into the seventh-grade curriculum, so he made up his own.
“I have to create a curriculum,” he said. “I had them figure out the interest on the bond issue and how much money the school would save if we didn’t pay a contractor. We had a lot of fun doing that, but it was something I had to make up. I couldn’t get that out of a worksheet.”
He also asked for more resources for MTSS, and said he wants to look into more in-depth science and social studies curriculum.
“I know the focus keeps us looking at reading and math, which are important and we need growth in those areas, but science and social studies are important, too.”
He said this year, the school celebrated its 100th anniversary, and are continuing to grow the Parents All Reading Together group, which encourages students and parents to read a book together. Last semester, the school read “Charlotte’s Web,” which culminated in a fair.
This semester, Panther families are reading “The BFG,” which will end with breakfast with the queen, played by Miss Kansas, who will talk with the kids about the importance of literacy.
He also said this year, the school was able to get permission from the state to give its Super Snacks to all kids birth through 18. Schools with a high percentage of free or reduced lunch population get funding for prepared snacks after school. Armendariz said he likes that the school gets to guarantee his students are getting three square meals a day. He also asked the state if it could feed the students who are in middle school and high school, since they are often hungry.
He said they are currently feeding about 100 kids after school each day, and the number is rising. Snacks include things like tuna and crackers, fresh fruit or Lunchable-type snacks that do not need to be cooked.
Principal Brett Nelson mostly talked about some of the Mustangs’ programs.
This year, the school has implemented a check-in/check-out system, where administrators identified kids who are “at-risk” based on indicators like grades and attendance, and paired those students with an adult in the school.
“They commit to checking in with their student or students at least twice a week,” he told the board. “They don’t talk about school, it’s a ‘How’re you doing, what can we know about each other?’ conversation.”
He also said the school installed raised planters and some students got the opportunity to garden. They grew sweet potatoes, which they harvested and the kitchen staff turned into sweet potato fries and pies.
Nelson said he’s seen improvements with MTSS as the school continues to get better with the system. He also said he’s looking forward to seeing money raised at the school’s color trot go to good use.
“The last piece of old playground equipment will be changed out over the summer,” he said.
Principal Beth Neitzel said her school is celebrating every day.
She said this year, Bluemont has been building diversity, has full classrooms in kindergarten and first grade, and recently got new equipment for its computer lab.
Neitzel also touted “Den Time,” a new program where students are separated into multigrade groups where they do activities, which she said helps foster a sense of community.
“It’s really cool for the students to have these connections and for the little ones to see their old den brothers and sisters in the hallway,” she said.
This year, Neitzel asked for a full-time MTSS coordinator to help work with the teachers and help with lessons. She also said she’d like to see more funding for the extended-day learning program. Currently, she has to use some money for transportation to get the kids home after the tutoring program ends for the day.
“I have to spend about $2,700 of my budget on transportation, and I have to think about, ‘Is that best for the students going toward transportation to get time with teachers after school, or would that be better on personnel during the standard school day?’”
She said the school has also been working with students on decompressing and monitoring their feelings more. Neitzel said some teachers have dedicated areas where students can go take a minute to gather themselves if they get overwhelmed.
Andrea Tiede said she likes sharing with the other principals what her school is doing, and she likes when they copy her.
This year she used a website for parents to signup for parent teacher conferences, which other principals are going to start using.
Other principals also were excited to try Tiede’s new teacher professional development program, in partnership with K-State. Teachers do projects toward their professional development in courses they want to study.
“Instead of bringing everyone in for a lecture on language arts, which is probably great and useful for everyone, now my P.E. teacher can learn about what she wants to, and my music teacher,” she said.
The teachers earn credits toward renewing their licenses. Tiede said she’s had teachers learn more about social-emotional well-being and Spanish so they can talk more effectively with students’ parents.
The Teddy Bears are also doing a check-in/check-out policy this year with teachers and at-risk students, similar to the program at Marlatt. They also implemented Wings, a program targeted at boys that’s similar to Girls on the Run.
Tiede said the school has started inviting parents to a special gym class to spend time with their kids.
“It’s a fun way to show parents what their kids are doing and they realize how long it’s been since they’ve really played,” she said.
Mindy Sanders told the board her school could benefit from another social worker, or anyone trained in behavioral support, like a counselor or a physiologist.
Until then, she said the school has been having fun with its new garden club, the revived basketball club and a new art club.
She said a parent took the initiative to start the garden club, which grew sweet potatoes, tomatoes and other vegetables with Riley County Extension agent Gregg Eyestone. She also said her art teacher started the art club, which has “a mile and a half” waitlist. In the club, kids sew, do pottery and whatever else interests the students.
Sanders said the Longhorns have also been working on a “Sunshine Project,” where students are writing get-well notes to sick staff members, thank you notes to teachers and students and helping improve the community feeling of the building.
She said she wants to have more competitive salaries for paraprofessionals and substitute teachers.
“I have subbed 24 days for my teachers this year,” she said. “I love it. It gives me the opportunity to be in the classroom, but we need to recruit and get people who are good and retain them. Sometimes, they’re willing to drive 15 or 20 minutes down the road for $3 or $4 more dollars. I was worried about flu season, though.”