Herald JournalHerald Journal, April 12, 2004

Fleischacker helps to teach ‘reading, writing, arithmetic’

By Jenni Sebora

“Lectura, escritura, y aritmetica,” might be a phrase that Patty Fleischacker of Winsted is familiar with, since she is the principal at a migrant summer school program in Glencoe during the summer.

After all, “reading, writing, and arithmetic,” is exactly what children from Hispanic heritage learn at the school.

The program is designed to give migrant children some continuity in their education and to bridge the gaps created by their families’ moves from state to state, based on the agricultural work available.

“Families come to Minnesota to work the peas and corn,” Fleischacker explained.

Fifty to 75 students, ages six to 16 attend this school. Most students are from Texas, whose parents work in the agricultural industry. The students must qualify for the program based on the families’ job-related mobility status.

Students learn basic academics, reading, writing, and math. They also work on life skills and social skills.

The older students do volunteer work such as helping out at the food shelf, as well. In addition, students are served meals during their school day.

The program has been in place for six years, funded from a federal grant that the Minnesota Department of Education administers.

It is one of a number of programs that are part of the Federal Migrant Basic Grant program (MEP).

The school typically runs from June to late July, five days a week.

Besides Fleischacker’s position as program director at the school, there are four grade-level teachers and a bilingual family involvement liaison who communicates with the parents.

Many of the parents speak little or no English. Most of the students are bilingual.

“There may be one or two students who do not know English so we also focus on vocabulary and life skills,” Fleischacker stated.

Fleischacker said that the goal of the program is to prepare the students for graduation.

“We are trying to better lives so the students can grow and give back to the community,” she said.

One of the highlights in her involvement in this program was when one student was so impressed by the local food shelf after volunteering there, that he had his own food drive and brought the items he collected to the food shelf.

As the program director, she acts as a disciplinarian, custodian, teacher, food services, field trip, and speaker coordinator; and test compiler. Fleischacker stated, “The students call me ‘principal.’”

As Fleischacker conveyed, she has to be a “Jack-of-all-trades.”

Fleischacker has been with the program from its origination six years ago.

She has been an elementary education teacher for seven years, six of those at Helen Baker Elementary in Glencoe, which is where the program takes place.

“I got involved in the migrant summer school program because I was looking for a summer job,” she said.

Her principal was the coordinator of the program at the time and offered her a job as a teacher in the program.

After a few years, the principal quit the coordinator’s job and offered it to Fleischacker. She accepted, and has been working in this position ever since.

As coordinator, Fleischacker oversees the whole program. Most of her time involvement is spent prior to the program’s start date, organizing and preparing. She conveyed that this summer she has already put in over 100 hours of work time in preparation for the program.

When the program is running, she works about six hours daily.

She also works three to four days after the program is completed for the summer, compiling test scores of the students.

Students must take pre- and post-tests for accountability reasons.

The Minnesota Department of Education wants to see improvements in the students’ test scores in the basic academics. If there isn’t improvement in test scores, a grant may not be awarded to the program for the following year, Fleischacker said.

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