NORTH CRAWFORD - At the meeting of the North Crawford School Board on Thursday, Nov. 16, it was apparent that the board and staff had put the hard, and much-delayed, work of budgeting and planning behind them. The focus was on updates on progress with key school year initiatives, sprinkled with a little good financial news and a discussion of longer-range planning.
One key initiative that staff has been working on is improvement of report cards. The work has begun with elementary report cards as a pilot, being used to refine the presentation and information of student results, before rolling it out school-wide.
“Safe to say, the elementary teachers are not very happy right now with the first iteration of the new format report cards,” elementary principal Julie Kruizenga said. The school had just completed the first parent-teacher conferences of the year, and it was apparent that more work needed to be done.
Holly Jones, instructional services coordinator, has been leading the effort to upgrade report cards, working closely with teaching staff.
“We started with the first grade as our guinea pigs,” Jones said. “We wanted to broaden the report cards to go beyond the old format of just receiving a simple letter grade in a subject, and include a more complete assessment of the kids including things that speak to a child’s social and civic attributes.” Jones emphasized that the district is committed to graduating “awesome people.”
Jones reported that she planned to meet with first grade students in the next week to go over the new report cards with them to make sure the students themselves understand what is on them. From there, the project will move on to upgrade report cards for other grade levels.
“It’s a building year, and we need to work with parents and students to get them up to speed on the new format.”
Jones went on to report on progress in acclimating teachers and students to the new reading curriculum introduced this school year.
“It’s going full-steam-ahead, and the teachers are collaborating with each other,” Jones said.
The next curriculum area Jones plans to focus on will be science.
“Tomorrow I am meeting with junior high school teachers to start discussions about goals for an upgrade of the district’s science curriculum,” Jones explained. “This is all part of the district’s greater curriculum mapping project.”
Middle and high school principal Toby Tripalin reported that he had taken a group of students to a ‘Leadership in Sportsmanship’ conference the day before, and had received great feedback from the students.
“The goal of the conference is to build a culture of leadership in the student body,” Tripalin said. “We will hold follow-up meetings to continue to build on the experience.”
Board member Judy Powell questioned whether the conference had incorporated the notion of ‘resiliency’ into the information presented.
“Resiliency is a big new thing,” Powell noted. “The idea is that the culture of leadership will hold up whether times are easy or hard for the students, and I think that is crucial.”
Tripalin reported that he would be holding meetings in the near future with the guidance staff to continue to familiarize themselves with the ‘Career Cruising’ software, and that it is a bit of a quiet time in sports, with fall sports having concluded and winter sports just getting started.
“All the winter sports are up and running,” Tripalin reported.
No one was happier to report results from the planning put into the 2017-18 school year than North Crawford School District Superintendent Munson, when he shared participation data from the school’s foodservice program.
“Comparing participation numbers between 2016, and 2017, we served 310 more lunches in September, and 528 more lunches in October, than in the same months in 2016,” Munson enthused. “Participation is trending up, and it seems the changes we made to the program are working.”
Emerging from a closed session in advance of the meeting, the board quickly voted to hire for two new positions – a new Director of Special Education , and a LTS Special Education Teacher.
The open portion of the meeting kicked off with a district showcase featuring Scott Schellhorn, secondary learning disability teacher in the high school. Munson praised Schellhorn for the “phenomenal job” he was doing with the high school and middle school students.
“Scott has been instrumental in helping the district to address the challenges we’ve faced this year, and he has helped other teachers,” Munson said. “His ability to de-escalate students when they are having trouble is tremendous.”
Schellhorn thanked Munson and the board, but was quick to note, “I can’t stand by myself. The whole staff helps, and I couldn’t get anything done without my paraprofessionals, Chanda Chellevold and Heidi Stovey.”
Kruizenga reported that she would be meeting with the PBIS team later in the week to work on upgrading playground supervision.
“We often don’t have time to meet with volunteers, because when they’re working, that usually means that the teachers and staff are doing something else,” Kruizenga said. “We will take the opportunity to divide up the playground and give people sections to supervise. We’ve been experiencing some rough play, and there have been some injuries. We have a lot to talk about.”
Tripalin reported that he is making good progress in holding ‘Educational Effectiveness Meetings’ with teachers. The meetings are held with all new teachers for the first two years, and with veteran teachers on an annual rotation.
“We look at their self-evaluation, professional goals and long-range objectives for their students,” Tripalin explained. “The intent of the meetings is to be able to understand their perspective on their classes, and to make sure that they have the resources they need.”
Looking to the future
In the board goals adopted for the 2017-18 school year, the board agreed to hold two ‘community engagement’ meetings to support the district’s long-range planning.
“Before the next meeting, the homework assignment for the board will be to come to the next meeting with a list of 8-10 names of individuals to be invited to the January 2018 community engagement session,” Munson said. “Your selection should strive to represent a balanced cross-section of our community – from business people, to retired citizens, to young folk just starting their families.”
Munson also reported that he is continuing to stay engaged with other administrators in the Ridge and Valley conference around the topic of ‘Eight-Man Football.’ With declining enrollment in all conference schools, it is a subject that continues to come up and may become inevitable in future years as student populations continue to decline in number.
“Eight-man football is very common across the northern part of the state, and is played in the states of Minnesota, Iowa, Illinois and Michigan,” Munson explained. “It hasn’t penetrated much into the southern part of Wisconsin yet, but it’s probably just a matter of time.”
Munson explained that he is remaining engaged with other superintendents in the conference because of a concern about keeping the conference together versus having to reach out in a broader geographic area for other schools playing eight-man football.
“I’d hate to see the traditional, long-standing rivalries in the conference get broken up,” Munson said. “North Crawford will be able to field an 11-man team for the foreseeable future, but I want to keep all of our options open.”
Munson believes that there is potential that some members of the community may be dissatisfied with eight-man football as being “not real football.” He emphasized that many other teams in the state, and in surrounding states had made the transition successfully.
“If it comes down to it, then before we make the final decision, I would want to hold a community engagement session around the issue to give people a chance to express themselves,” Munson said. “Ultimately, this will be a decision for the board to make.”
Munson reported on two developments that would impact the district’s revenues for the school year – High Cost Special Education aid, and re-applying for an after school CLC grant.
Munson reported that North Crawford School District Business Manager Demetri Andrews had learned of another category of aid for school districts who had special education students with annual costs to the district in excess of $30,000 per year. He reported that the Wisconsin Department of Public Instruction would refund 90 percent of the cost to the district in excess of $30,000, and that he expects that the district will receive $25,000 in unexpected aid before the end of the school year.
Munson also reported that he believes that the district is experiencing a significant gap by not offering an after school program. He said he plans to re-apply for a CLC grant to fund an after school program, and received permission from the board to contract with Carol Roth of Starfish Consulting to write the grant for a fee of one percent.
Munson also reported that there is a problem with the way that the new concession trailer had been wired. CNC in Viroqua, which is the middle man between the district and the manufacturer, Stealth Trailers, had been very helpful. Stealth Trailers will pay for CNC to contract with a local provider to rewire the trailer in time for spring sporting events.
In other business, the North Crawford School Board:
* heard from elementary principal Julie Kruizenga that gingerbread house building would take place on December 7; and
* received a report from district administrator Brandon Munson that the Veterans Day programs had gone very well, and that he anticipated continuing to develop the programs more in the future.