By Starrla Cray
HOWARD LAKE, WAVERLY, WINSTED, MN Like many subjects, math class has changed with the times.
Howard Lake-Waverly-Winsted School District is planning to purchase new math curriculum for kindergarten through 12th grade, at a cost of about $151,490.
At last Monday’s school board meeting, High School Principal Jason Mix said that curriculum for each subject at HLWW is updated every eight years. For older students, an increasing number of lessons use digital textbooks instead of paper. At the elementary level, books are often “consumable,” with tear-out worksheets.
A few improvements the middle school/high school staff hope to make with the new curriculum are: more geometry content, eliminating “holes” in math content, and more rigor at the seventh- and eighth-grade level.
For elementary students, the new curriculum will help integrate technology, and provide age-appropriate material for kindergartners.
Mix noted that although good curriculum supports learning, it is ultimately the teachers who determine the quality of education.
Mix asked for a budget of $163,000 for the new curriculum, just in case the total comes in higher than anticipated.
Later in the meeting, Mix shared details from the district’s “unplugged week” earlier this month.
“It was a phenomenal success,” he said.
About two-thirds of students volunteered to not use their phones and other devices while in school for one week (unless they needed it for school work).
Participating students received a wristband, which was cut off if they were caught using a device during school.
Although some students immediately had their wristband cut off, 137 made it through the week and were then eligible to win gift cards and other prizes.
At the end of the week, students watched a mock crash, which illustrated the effects of impaired driving. (Coverage was printed in the May 15 edition of the Herald Journal, and a photo gallery is at photos.herald-journal.com.)
Board Member Charles Bush requested that the district ask employers from the community to speak to students about what they look for in an employee. He also requested lyceums about respect, ethics, and etiquette.
Superintendent Brad Sellner asked which students Bush would like to see attend, as Critters & Company already visits the elementary schools to speak about respect and anti-bullying.
Bush said he’d like to see the Department of Natural Resources be invited to speak. Elementary Principal Jennifer Olson said the DNR is invited to share fishing information every year, but it depends on scheduling if a representative is able to make it.
Other presenters have included authors, alumni, staff from the Wright Technical Center, war veterans, law enforcement, and more.
Middle School Principal Jim Schimelpfenig said he doesn’t like to see too many lyceums, because having students sit and listen has been shown to be less effective long-term than learning by doing.
Bush said the effectiveness depends on the age of the student, and the presentation.
Mix asked, “At what point do we put some of that expectation on the parents to teach etiquette, to teach respect?”
Bush answered that many families are not whole now, and it is not necessarily being done anymore.
“Where do we draw that line?” Mix asked, explaining that teachers are hired to teach, not to be full-time social workers or psychologists.
“Think how sad it is when we assume kids have this knowledge and they don’t,” Bush said.
Board Member Michelle Heuer said the teaching of respect and etiquette is “ingrained in the district” on a day-to-day basis.
Mix added that the HLWW’s Courtesy and Respect Award is one way the district recognizes exceptional students and encourages them to look for ways to be kind to others.
HLWW recently began using a new hiring software called AppliTrack. The system allows applicants to upload information digitally, apply to multiple districts, and be notified of future openings. The system saves applicant information for one year.
Sellner said that since making the change, the district has had more applicants than in the past.
Other software benefits include the ability to schedule interviews, obtain survey data from past employers, and send an applicant’s information to an interview committee for review.
Job postings automatically appear on an educational site through St. Cloud Sate University called EdPost, as well as a k12jobspot.com.
• High school: FFA has a chicken coop now, and soon plans to have chickens. Also, HLWW’s awards night took place May 15, with students being recognized for academics, athletics, attendance, and more.
• Middle school: The top eight students from each grade who read the most books this year get to go to Barnes & Noble in Minnetonka. The half-day trip includes a free smoothie from Starbucks, 20 percent off book purchases, and lunch at Pizza Ranch in Delano. Also, the eighth-grade Festival of Nations event for geography class will be the afternoon of Friday, June 2.
• Elementary schools: Fourth-graders participated in Woitalla Fishing Day at Waverly Lake May 17. Third-graders have been preparing for a wax museum that will take place the afternoon of Friday, June 2.
Odds and ends
In other business, the board:
• approved the resignation of Ariel Kocher as an elementary paraprofessional effective the end of the school year, the resignation/retirement of Eldora Miller as a high school paraprofessional effective the end of the school year, and the resignation of Gary Whitcomb as the assistant girls’ basketball coach effective immediately. The board also accepted the resignation of Molly Edward, who recently accepted the high school counselor position for the 2017-18 school year. Mix said Edward was unable to fulfill the position due to changes in her life, and she has apologized for the impact to the district.
• approved a three-year leave of absence for middle school teacher Travis Eldred. Bush indicated that he would like Eldred to be paid to train the teacher who will be taking his place. Middle School Principal Jim Schimelpfenig said the school already has a mentorship program with current staff, and he would not want new teachers to feel that they have to teach the exact same way as someone else. He added that the standards have already been set, and how to approach each topic is “the art of teaching.”
• approved the following employment recommendations: Rick Baumann as girls’ basketball head coach effective immediately (replacing Ed Kutz), and Ryan Peterson as girls’ basketball assistant coach effective immediately (replacing Gary Whitcomb).
• approved a student trip to Spain March 21-31, 2018.
• discussed parent involvement plans for the Title I program. According to the policy, “the goal is a school-home partnership that will help all students in the district to succeed.” Each fall, a meeting takes place for all Title I parents to learn about the policy, as well as Title I curriculum and assessments.
• heard from Sellner that the district received a quote for health insurance that is 12 percent lower than last year. He noted that this is a welcome change, after seeing rates increase drastically in recent years.