By Linda Scherer
LESTER PRAIRIE, MN High marks were given to Lester Prairie’s sophomores and juniors on their recent MCA II state test scores; coming in above the state average in both reading and math.
Superintendent Greg East announced the test results to the school board at last Monday’s meeting.
“We are above the state average in both tests (math and reading) for our high school, and it has been a long time since Lester Prairie could say that,” East said.
For the MCA II math scores for the 11th grade, the percentage went from last year’s 33 percent to 57.5 percent of the students passing. The state average is 57 percent.
“That is over a 74 percent increase. That is amazing,” East said. “I was hoping for a 2 to 4 percent increase with the changes we brought, and we got 74 percent increase from one year to the next.”
The 10th grade reading scores went from 67 percent one year ago to this year’s 80 percent, with the state average at 78 percent.
East wasn’t sure what the outcome of all of the other classifications of the sub-groups were, but didn’t seem too concerned when he added, “This is amazing. This needs to be shouted from the rooftops,” East said.
The improvement in test scores East attributes to principals, teachers, students, and parents, who have all worked very hard to meet the state average, and actually beat it.
The entire staff at Lester Prairie has been working with data-driven decision-making since October.
Data-driven decisions are based on student information such as academic performance, attendance, and demographics.
With action plans in place, the staff has been moving forward in teams with the goal of improving last fall’s state test scores.
“I am hoping grades three through eight will be just as positive,” East said. “Then, we will really have something to take to the folks who are wondering if small schools are still doing a good job.”
Christine Mattson, school counselor, MCA II testing coordinator and district assessment coordinator, reported to the board that all of the ninth graders had passed the Minnesota assessment writing test.
“The results were astonishing, and due to the diligence of the students and the determination of language/arts teacher Julie Olson,” Mattson said.
Mattson also reported that 92.5 percent of the 2008-09 seniors graduated, and 89 percent of them were seeking higher education in a four-year college or a two-year technical school.
Budget update and review
The board approved unanimously a Minnesota Tax and Anticipation Borrowing in the amount of $350,000 for cash flow purposes.
It was approved after the board had read a memo drafted by Springsted Inc., working with the Minnesota School Board Association, helping districts to determine how much cash flow borrowing they are eligible for.
The memo from Springsted stated the governor could possibly use his unallotment authority to implement the current payment shifts from 90/10 to 73/27.
“If the governor enacts a property tax shift in addition to the payment shift, it could lower the amount of cash received by districts to 64/36,” according to the memo from Springsted.
East referred to the memo and said “the aid borrowing resolution now becomes not only important, it becomes vital,” East said.
Technology update includes new server
Network training by Tech Check for technology computer science teacher Kim DeBruyckere and Secondary Principal Scott Fitzsimonds took place at the school, recently.
As part of the training, Fitzsimonds and DeBruyckere were able to update the server operating system. Since then, positive results have been seen including greater gains in efficiency and effectiveness, Fitzsimonds said.
To improve the system even more, Fitzsimonds and DeBruyckere worked on a proposal with Tech Check to purchase another server for the food service program.
The need for an additional server was proposed because the heavy use of the food service program and all the data it has to track was causing the system to spike and crash.
The state agreed to the proposal, wanting it done this fiscal year.
The money will be coming from the excess balance in the hot lunch fund, at a cost for the server and software of $4,986, according to East.
Finally, additional funding was built into the 2009-10 school budget for technology needs.
“We have nothing for new computers or anything, and as per our last meeting discussion as well as past history, usually the district has budgeted $20,000 to $25,000,” East said.
The board approved $20,000, with plans to revisit the amount at a future date based on possible budget cuts.
Principal reports on school activities
Elementary Principal Pam Lukens told the board she is working on a summer school schedule, the staff needed, and materials.
Summer school is scheduled for the last week of July and the first two weeks of August, hoping to miss some of the construction that will be going on in the school.
Fitzsimonds reported on the summer youth program that has 10 students employed through Central Minnesota Jobs in Training Service.
They have been getting work experience with custodians, doing community work, and career training through various projects. The grant, which is about $17,000, is from federal stimulus funds.
Fitzsimonds will be selling some surplus items in the main entrance of the school beginning Thursday, June 18 from 7:30 to 10 a.m.
Items include a golf net, golf pad, Nordic track, chalkboard, bulletin board, three file cabinets, and a frying pan.
All items are priced to sell. If items are not sold by June 30, they will be disposed of.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• approved a contract for sixth grade teacher Michelle Martig for the 2009-10 school year. Martig is to replace David Klitzke, who retired after teaching at Lester Prairie for 35 years.
• approved a half-time music contract for Terri Schuft-Helland. Fitzsimonds called Schuft-Helland “dynamic,” with both instrumental and vocal backgrounds. “She has a lot of great ideas and was working within a school of similar size. She comes highly recommended,” Fitzsimonds said.
• was informed by East that Holy Trinity has paid its bill for winter sports pairing and will soon be sent a bill for spring sports pairing.
• declared outdated items listed as surplus from Lukens and Fitzsimonds to be disposed of.
• accepted the list of donations received for the 2008-09 school year totaling $12,729.
• adopted the SW/WC Service Cooperative’s Total Special Education System (TSES) manual. The TSES manual is required by the state, with all of the board policies located in one binder.
• was informed by Lukens that special education services for severe autistic children and transition will be moved from Glencoe to Cosmos. Students who require these services will be bussed from Lester Prairie to Cosmos unless something closer can be found to provide the same services.
• renewed the city/school district contract for the 2009-10 school year for the city park at a 2 percent increase. The concession stand and facility together was $57 more than last year, a total of $2,857.
• approved the contract for McLeod County public nursing for Early Childhood Services (ECS) at a cost per child of $41, and per hour cost in the school at $36. Both costs are up $1 from last year.