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North Crawford discusses playhouse and district report card at board meeting
North Crawford

NORTH CRAWFORD - North Crawford Playhouse Director Camille Smith made an empassioned plea to the school board at their meeting on November 20 about the future of the program. Smith took over the director’s job after iconic director Rob Ghormley announced that he would step down.

Smith’s comments to the board addressed where the Playhouse had been, and where it is going in the future. She reported that after Ghormley stepped down, she had come out of retirement to fill the directors role to ensure that the school’s great theater tradition would be kept alive until another permanent director could be identified.

“North Crawford is known for its theater program,” Smith said. “The school and the students benefit from having this program by the increased creativity and coginitive development of students who participate, through increased open enrollments into the district, by facilitating students to secure theater scholarships for college, and through funds raised from costume rentals.”

Smith said that the theater program provides a place in the school for the ‘square pegs that don’t fit in a round hole,’ and a sense of belonging to a family for those whose family lives are not all they could be.

“I know for a fact that participation in theater has prevented a few kids from committing suicuide,” Smith said. “And for others it has been a way to turn a disengaged kid into a kid that is interested in pursuing their education.”

Smith told the board that she is recommending high school social studies teacher Joe Ferrito as the next Playhouse Director.

“Joe has the formal background in theater to be qualified for the job,” Smith explained. “But he also has something equally or more important – he has a kindness about him and also an approach of inclusivity that makes him an ideal candidate.”

Smith is recommending that Brent Schwert continue as the assistant director and stated that she will also continue to lend a helping hand. She reported to the board that she is working with Middle School/High School Principal Toby Tripalin and the teachers in the district who teach or direct all of the school’s arts programs on a way that students can earn a letter in the arts similar to the letters earned in athletics. This would include forensics, band, chorus and more, in addition to theater.

Report card

In his district administrator’s report to the board, Superintendent Brandon Munson cautioned them to take a measured response to the district report card recently released by the Department of Public Instruction. Both the district and the high school’s report card score indicated they are “meeting expectations,’ while the elementary’s score shows they are “exceeding expectations.”

“It’s normal and natural to compare our district to other districts in our area,” Munson said. “But each district is very unique, making such comparisons less useful than they may seem, and there are always many aspects of a district’s performance that aren’t captured by ACT test scores alone, which is the primary thing the report card score is based upon.”

Munson said that ACT test results don’t show the multiplicity of ways that North Crawford is “educating the whole child every day.” He said that a district’s score could be impacted even by something such as a junior class that is dominated by  kids who do not plan to pursue secondary education after high school. 

“Although all juniors are now required to take the test, for those who know they are not continuing on to further education, it can be hard to get them to take the testing seriously,” Munson explained. 

Munson used the example of a recent career exploration field trip that tech ed teacher Aaron Keenlance had taken a group students on. The field trip allowed that group of students to learn more about the career of being a heavy machine operator.

According to Principal Toby Tripalin, “some kids never give me even the slightest glimmer of what a career after graduation might look like for them.” He said that it had been “wonderful to see some of those same students return from the field trip excited about a possible family-supporting career after graduation.”

Munson reported to the board that he intends to write an article for the local newspaper that explains the district’s report card, and helps community members understand what it does and does not mean.

Elementary report

Elementary Principal Amanda Killeen shared formally with the board that she expects to be out on maternity leave, starting in February. She announced that in her absence, Mrs. Hardin would step in as principal for the elementary school.

“The teachers report that they are very happy that Mrs. Hardin will be filling in because she is someone they know and respect,” Killeen said.

Killen also reported to the board that she is “overwhelmed” by the generosity of businesses in the community who have stepped forward to support the new ‘book of the month’ initiative for the elementary school. The program will allow for the purchase of  books to be given to children to keep so that they will have reading materials in their homes.

“Due to the generosity of area businesses, we are already filled for the remainder of this school year and half way through the next,” Killeen said. “Books given to children will be labeled to indicate which community business helped to provide it to the child.”

MS/HS report

Middle School/High School Principal Toby Tripalin brought a proposed modification to the student handbook before the board for their review and approval. This modification would allow Triplain to use removal of cell phone privileges during the school day for students who are not responding to the other disciplinary measures the district employs.

“Confiscation of cell phones will never be the first step in our disciplinary process, but I believe it will give me a tool that might allow me to get through to kids that aren’t responding to other disciplinary measures,” Tripalin said. “I propose a stepped approach where the first time, they’ll lose phone privileges for a week, then a month, and finally if nothing else works, they will be banned from having their phones during the school day.”

Tripalin also reported that the school’s Veterans’ Day observance had been a great success.

“It was amazing to see all the pictures from students who have military veterans in their families,” Tripalin said. “I also learned that we have many staff members with veterans in their families, and we will include them in the recognition next year as well.”

Public input

North Crawford student parent Travis Yonker spoke during the ‘public input’ section of the agenda. The point Mr. Yonker wanted to make is that the uniforms for the girls volleyball team  seemed “too short, tight and revealing” to him. 

“Why does the school think it is okay for the girls to wear volleyball shorts that are less than underwear?” Yonker asked. “I believe that wearing those shorts makes some of the girls feel uncomfortable.”

Principal Tripalin reported that when the school had received the J.J. Watt grant to purchase new uniforms, he was allowed to select from just a few different styles of shorts.

“I selected what I thought were the most modest among the available options,” Tripalin said. “However, the district allows the girls to wear their own shorts as long as they match the uniform if they prefer.”

School Board President Mary Kuhn told Yonker, “we’ll be sure to look into your concerns.” School Board member Jill Stefonek said “we should definitely make the girls aware of what their options are.”

Propane concerns

Superintendent Munson told the board that the new propane bus refueling station from Premier Co-op is now at the school and should be up and running soon.

President Kuhn asked Munson if he thought that, with the propane crisis with farmers needing to dry their corn and beans, the district would continue to have access to propane to run their buses.

Board member Terry O’Donnell responded that he believes that the district should have no problem securing propane to run their buses. He did acknowledge that “things are really tight right now.”

Other business

In other business, the board:

• honored cross country runner Helen Carstens for competing at the state meet for the third year in a row

• heard that the holiday concerts will take place on Monday, Dec. 16, with middle school at 7 p.m., and high school at 8 p.m.

• heard that Amanda Killeen, Liz Bransky and Toby Tripalin will attend a ‘technology in education’ conference in Minneapolis in December

• heard that Superintendent Munson attended a training about working with the Baird Financial Forecasting tool, and is working on financial forecasting for the district

• heard the district is looking at possibly contracting for speech and language teletherapy services as they have not been able to recruit any part time assistance for Mendy Biege.