Herald and Journal, May 24, 1999

HLWW social studies curriculum in good shape

By Andrea Vargo

Amazed and pleased were the words teacher Pam Halverson used when describing the amount of graduation standards material that is already contained in the Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted (HLWW) curriculum.

Halverson addressed the HLWW School Board last Monday to give a report on the school's social studies curriculum.

The report showed the school district has many strengths and meets the state requirements in many areas, but she made recommendations to the board she felt would move the program towards excellence.

Quite a few of the recommendations were aimed at the elementary level, such as starting some of the enrichment activities in kindergarten.

Maps and Internet accessibility were among some of the resources needed by the younger students, she said.

Curriculum writing is needed to address the parts of the standard not being covered by the state packages, but she felt a local writing team would provide better results for the district than following a state package.

Basic skills tests

All the components are in place to make sure students in the school district pass the basic skills tests in the future, but those programs have not had a chance to work through the system, said HLWW Superintendent Riley Hoheisel.

This was in response to the statement by Principal Dean Wessman that only 66 percent of the students passed the reading portion of the basic skills tests.

Wessman felt that was not nearly good enough, and wants to raise that to 70 or 80 percent.

In the writing test, 88 percent passed, and 75 percent passed in mathematics, he said.

One interesting thing, noted Wessman, was the way the math tests turned out.

Last year, students had difficulty with a certain kind of math problem. Those types of problems were stressed after last year's tests.

This year the students did well in those, but fell down in the kind they did well on the year before.

"They just flip-flopped," said Wessman.

He hoped next year would be a better balance, but it does prove the students learn what teachers are teaching, he said.

Basic skills resolution

A resolution was passed requiring all students in grades 10 and 11, who have not passed the basic skills test, to attend classes and retest in the summer.

"Students don't seem to realize if they don't pass the basic skills tests, they don't graduate," said Wessman.

Eighth and ninth grade students have the opportunity to go to summer classes, he said, but it is not mandatory.

The mandatory attendance is something the board wanted to stress, so parents would know the board was doing everything it could to help the students.

"We are going to require the parents of students who do not attend to send us a letter stating why the student should not attend summer school," said Wessman.

He said he felt the board needed to make a strong statement that would address the seriousness of the situation.

Citizen's proposal

A proposal for an innovative, money saving school design was presented to the school board by Bob Williams of Victor Township.

It is the same plan proposed for a new school in Grand Meadow in southeastern Minnesota.

According to the information from the Grand Meadow School District, the monolithic dome construction has a proposed savings of 18 percent or more over conventional construction, plus there are no architect design fees for the structure.

Bruce Klaehn, Superintendent of Grand Meadow, stated the calculated heat loss for the dome is 60 percent less than the rectangular equivalent. This was extimated by Minnesota Design Conditions, a research facility.

Estimates propose that lights and other equipment will virtually heat the building, even at the most extreme conditions.

Maintenance, safety, and durability are some of the other features stressed by Klaehn. He noted the Grand Meadows building will be available to the public as a storm shelter.

When presented with the alternative dome style for the school, 60 percent of Grand Meadows residents voted for the new facility.

Contingent on a $1.5 million grant from the state, the building should be complete and full of students by 2000.

Job description

Some board members expressed concern that the list of duties contained in the job description for a needed guidance counselor was overwhelming for one person.

Included was a teaching assignment, and that caused the most concern.

More emphasis on career counseling for students was stressed by Chairman Jim Raymond and Board Member Charles Weber.

They also wondered why the guidance counselor was so involved in the mental health team.

Hoheisel stated it is the way this position works best for most schools, and the person chosen as guidance counselor will also probably have the capability of teaching a psychology class for a semester.

The board was asked to review the job description and contact the administration with any changes it wanted.

Hoheisel said the interview process will start in a week or two.

Other business

- Board Member Michael Steckelberg was the lone dissenter in a vote to recognize a moment of silence in school for the World Day of Prayer next May.

Said Steckelberg, "I just want to go on the record that I am opposed to this. I feel school is not the appropriate place for this."

- Hoheisel will be the Central Minnesota Athletic Conference chair for 1999-2000.

- The drama department was commended for raising over $1,100 in free-will donations for the refugees in Kosovo, with a free performance of its spring play

- Letters of resignation were received and accepted from teacher Michael Bates and para-professional Karen Wojciak.

- The 1999-2000 school calendar was approved. Students will go two days in June as make-up snow days. If more are required, they will be taken from the Easter week vacation days.

- Three members of the high school teaching staff have volunteered to teach reading skills to students for 15-20 minutes, several times a week.

- Two students asked the school board to designate summer school classes as "basic skills" classes to give the classes more emphasis.

- A school board election will take place in November. Six terms are over, and only four of those spots will be filled. Reorganization of the school board will possibly not take place until January, 2000, because of the elections.

- A school bus was struck in the rear bumper by a car last week. Hoheisel said a witness told him that all the lights were on and functioning properly. No students were injured, he said.

- Hoheisel told the board a grievance has been posted by a teacher about a job assignment and change of grade level.

- Principal Julie Millerbernd asked parents to fill out the report card contained in their school newsletter for the school. They should return it to the Howard Lake Elementary School by May 28. This will help guide the administration and staff in providing the best education for the students.

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