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DC Elementary Schools to move forward with kindergarten boost program
June 6, 2011

The program will help up to 15 kindergarten students catch up to their peers

By Jennifer Kotila
Staff Writer

DASSEL, COKATO, MN – The Dassel-Cokato School Board approved the concept of beginning a kindergarten boost program in the fall of 2011 at the school board meeting May 26, pending final approval of the budget including funding for the program.

The program was introduced to the board at its special meeting May 9, and will benefit up to 15 kindergarten students who are performing below their peers by providing them with an all day, every day opportunity.

Cokato Elementary Principal Lorene Force met with educators for a similar program in Annandale and learned more about how it can impact child-ren, she said.

Children who were placed in the program were followed through their school years, showing mixed results for how well the program works.

“Some people may think that 5 and 6 year old children are at a level playing field, but there is actually quite a difference in abilities for children in that age group,” Force said.

The kindergarten teachers are in the process of creating tests that can be used to test whether or not a child qualifies for the program.

The program will be a fluid one, that kindergartners can move into if it is determined they need the program, or out of as they no longer need it, Force said.

It was also noted the program is something needed at this time, considering there are 11 out of 19 children in one of the preschool classes at Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) who have been identified as having special needs, as reported by School Board Member Rebecca Clemens during the ECFE report.

Typically, only five of 20 children will be identified as having special needs.

DC students do well on MCA tests

Superintendent Jeff Powers reported that the results of the MCA tests have arrived, and the students in the DC School District did well.

In ninth grade writing, 98 percent of the students passed this year, an improvement over the 95 percent that passed in 2010.

Although the number of students exceeding in 10th grade reading fell from 49 percent in 2010, to 38 percent this year, those meeting the standards for reading rose from 35 percent in 2010, to 47 percent in 2011.

In 11th grade math, 31 percent of the students exceeded the standards this year, which was up from 21 percent in 2010. Those meeting the standards also rose from 35 percent in 2010, to 66 percent in 2011.

Powers also noted that the 2011 meeting of the Minnesota State Legislature ended at an impasse, and there would likely be a government shutdown.

The last time there was a government shutdown in 2005, it did not impact schools, and funding continued over the eight days the government was shut down, Powers said.

District transportation coordinator to retire

The council approved the retirement of Marilyn Howk as the district transportation coordinator effective Oct. 31, 2011.

Howk began her career as a bus driver, and has been with the district for a long time in transportation, said School Board Member Irene Bender.

Powers noted how difficult Howk’s job is, saying she would not be leaving until the end of October so she will be there to help at the beginning of the school year.

Policy changes for extra- and co-curricular activities

The school board had the first reading of two new policies regarding students in extra- and co-curricular activities.

The first policy change is to attempt to keep DC teams competitive by removing language which indicates that practice is not compulsory during school vacations, said Activities and Community Education Director Perry Thinesen.

The second policy change would be to clarify language in the academic eligibility policy so if a student falls below the academic standards, they would be ineligible from sports for two weeks, or until the end of the season, whichever is shorter.

DCRISC construction to begin soon

The building permit for the Dassel-Cokato Regional Ice and Sports Center (DCRISC) has been received, and construction will begin soon, reported School Board Chair Kevin Bjork.

The school is expecting a delivery of 10 semi-loads of construction materials Thursday, June 16, and the building will take six to eight weeks to construct, Powers said.

He also noted that the school board would be seeing a lot more items needing their approval in regards to the DCRISC.

Odds and ends

In other business, the board:

• heard from School Board Member Richard Tormanen that MAWSECO would be borrowing approximately $300,000 from school districts within the cooperative due to its inability to borrow money.

The money will be repaid next fall.

• heard from Thinesen that ECFE will be purchasing items such as a computer, new carpeting, and a laminator to spend down some of its fund balance.

He has met with Business Manager Tina Palmer to determine a safe amount to spend on the various items.

• heard the last student re-presentative report from senior Logan Benda, who thanked the board for the opportunity to serve with them for a year, saying he learned a lot.

• approved the employment of Michael Smith as the middle school music instructor and high school jazz band director; Johanna Hanneman as a seventh grade social studies and science instructor; Eric Sawatzke as the high school ag instructor and FFA advisor; Ashley Kelly as middle school sixth grade instructor; and Zach Holm as a bus and van maintenance assistant.

• approved lane changes for Todd Heinonen, Brice Berggren, Melissa Rudebusch, and Rachel Franklin.

• approved an unpaid leave of absence for Jim Stang for the 2011-2012 school year. Stang has been offered a principal position in Glenwood, Powers said.

• approved the assignment of Bob Kampa as the fall musical and one-act play director.

• approved the resignation of Steve Haataja as assistant football coach.

• accepted the donations of $100 from Mike Lhotka to the high school student support fund; a bench to be used outside the nurses’ office in the middle school from the family of Lanette Erickson; flowers and shrubs for the awards program, baccalaureate, and commencement from Cokato Nursery and Landscaping; $250 for Dassel Elementary from Laurie Nelson through Wells Fargo Community Support; $105 from Joel and Kelly Hillman for the Pro Dads Breakfasts in April and May; and various donations from several area businesses for the first grade bike rally at Dassel Elementary.

• approved the adoption of the fund balance policy.

• approved the 2011-2011 capital plan.

• approved a continuing contract for several teachers who have completed their probationary periods. Those teachers are Michelle Melquist, Sam Weber, Stacey Doering, Todd Heinonen, and Jodi Munson at Cokato Elementary; Katie Erickson at the middle school; Erin Holbrook as the high school German instructor; Derek Levno as the high school industrial arts instructor; and David Nord as the high school art instructor.

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