Herald and Journal, Dec. 20, 1999

Lt. governor visits HLWW schools

By Andrea Vargo

Graduation standards were the chief topic for questions directed at Minnesota's lieutenant governor Mae Schunk during a discussion with HLWW teachers Monday.

Schunk visited with classes and teachers at Humphrey Elementary School and toured the Howard Lake facility.

She took time to sit down and listen to the concerns of some of the teachers.

Most of the questions were written for her to read at a later date, but history teacher George Montgomery addressed the graduation standards as they apply to his classroom.

"We feel we are required to do these (standards) packages above and beyond the regular curriculum," he said.

The wording is geared more toward sophomores in college, rather than high school students, said Montgomery.

"You should not consider the standards as something additional to your curriculum. They should be embedded in it," said Schunk.

Because the curriculum is structured to teach the Civil War in eighth grade, and the standards package does it at the sophomore level, it is taught on top of or instead of the regular curriculum, said Montgomery.

If students are supposed to complete standards packages, how are they supposed to take any college level courses asked one teacher.

Schunk told the teachers that there are also waivers for students who are in college level courses. If they are already working above their grade level, they don't need to do some of the standards.

Applications for those waivers should be made after the first of the year, she said.

Waivers could apply in other cases, too, Schunk told the gathering. If students absolutely can't graduate with 24 standards, maybe the administration could decide that 21 is reasonable. Again, an application for a waiver needs to be made.

The graduation standards should have been instituted at the kindergarten level and followed through the system, but since it started at a higher grade level, waivers have been offered to help ease the situation, she explained.

Software is now available for teachers to use in grading and record keeping, said Schunk.

School Board Member Ken Zimmerman mentioned the need for more money for summer school for students who fall behind in their work.

He also wanted to know if more money could be made available to schools to do maintenance work on their facilities.

Schunk told Zimmerman that an extra $1.18 billion was put into education this past year.

"Education has been cheated, but we can't make up for it all in one year," she said.

"We need to get businesses involved with providing resources or work," Schunk said.

Healthy and vital communities can't happen without education, she said.

"I wish I could write you a check for what you need," said Schunk.

"We'd accept it," Zimmerman replied.

"I left my checkbook at home," Schunk laughed.

Schunk told the administration and board members that teachers need plenty of staff development time.

Teachers need to learn, too, she said.

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