NOTES ABOUT THE DISTRICT
This week, I would like to take time to review a number of separate, brief topics. They are not at all related, just issues that have crossed my desk or are timely topics.
BUS DRIVER APPRECIATION
Last Wednesday, February 22, was declared by Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton as Bus Driver Appreciation Day. It was designated as an opportunity to recognize and appreciate the people who serve as school bus drivers!
We certainly appreciate those who transport ROCORI students to and from school each day of the school year. Many of the drivers also help with shuttles, transportation for school activities, and field trips within the school year.
The role of school bus driver is very challenging! The drivers, as an extension of the classroom, are often the first and last school representatives students see in a given day. They are the “greeters” for the district when students get on the bus in the morning. They have opportunity to wish students well as they return home at the end of the school day.
The primary task of bus drivers, of course, is to drive school bus—to get students to and from school safely. Within that task, drivers are expected to connect with students, monitor student behaviors and activities while the bus is moving, watch traffic around them, and keep the bus running according to the scheduled times.
ROCORI School bus drivers are employed by Richmond Bus Company or Voigt Bus Company. We contract with both bus services to transport our students. Both companies, and our drivers, have strong records of providing quality transportation services—and we very much appreciate the work that is done!
Thank you for the great work and service to our students!
STUDENTS WITH DYSLEXIA
Over the past year, we have had considerable discussion within the ROCORI School District about services to students with dyslexia. Although the issue of dyslexia has been a concern for as long as I can remember, the impact on students has risen to a higher level of attention in the past couple years.
Last spring, representatives of school administration met with a group of parents of students affected by dyslexia. The meetings were focused on a few issues—primarily bringing more attention to dyslexia, the impact that it can have on students, efforts to support students, and encouraging the district to research and plan for to better meet student needs.
Dyslexia, much like other issues affecting students, has a wide range of effects and impact on learning. For some students, they are able to accommodate what they experience on their own and adjust to their needs. For some students, dyslexia causes students significant challenges for learning.
Since our meeting with parents, the district has taken a number of steps to improve our ability to assist students. Initially, we looked at different ways that we can apply 504 plans to students to help identify steps that we will take to intervene and assist students.
We have encouraged staff members to learn more about the condition of dyslexia through some staff development opportunities. Some teachers have engaged in training specifically related to addressing the needs of students with dyslexia. We have had staff members engage in training related to the Barton instructional approach as well as recent training in the Orton-Gillingham strategies. At training opportunities, like the Academy Day held in January, we have had break-out sessions focused on the needs of students with dyslexia.
We certainly have additional work ahead. The staff members who have been specifically trained in various strategies are being asked to share their learning and strategies with other staff members. In particular, our Title and “at-risk” teachers have started to meet to plan ways to share information, strategies and ideas within their particular programs as well as across the district.
Although it certainly takes time to learn, incorporate, and expand our understanding and processes with issues like dyslexia, there are concerted and specific efforts to strengthen the work that we do for students.
WINTER ACTIVITY SEASONS
As the month of February draws to a close, our winter activity seasons also come to the end of their seasons! The winter activity season is different than fall and spring in that many of the activities begin and end in staggered fashion.
In order to accommodate all of the state tournaments and contests, the start and end to activity seasons occur at different times. Most of the seasons, from the start of practice to the end of the state tournament, are about 16-18 weeks in length, but some start as early as mid-October and others begin through November. This kind of start also means that seasons conclude beginning in early February and continuing to the end of March.
Because of the staggered schedules, some of the winter activity seasons have already witnessed their state tournaments. Dance, wrestling, girls hockey, and some of the fine arts programs (one-act play, for example) have already gone through playoffs and the state tournament. Other events are just wrapping up the regular season and will enter playoffs into March.
We have had very good and competitive activities through the winter. The Dance teams (High Kick and Jazz) advanced to the state competition. Other individuals have had great seasons as we have witnessed a new record for career wins in wrestling (Nick Warne) and a new 1,000 point scorer in basketball (Derek Thompson). Overall, it has been a full, competitive and successful winter season.
Several educational organizations with whom the ROCORI School District is affiliated encourage “days at the capitol” during the months of March and April. The district is a member of Schools for Equity in Education (SEE), the Minnesota School Boards Association (MSBA), and Minnesota Association of School Administrators (MASA). Each of these groups encourages interaction with legislators during the legislative session.
On March 7, a group from ROCORI will participate in the SEE Day at the Capitol. During the course of the day, efforts are made to meet with Representative Jeff Howe and Senator Michelle Fischbach—the legislators for the ROCORI School District. The goal of the trip to the Capitol is to support and encourage legislation that would positively affect the ROCORI School District.
In addition to the visits with our legislators, our group will travel with other area SEE schools to connect with legislative leaders. For the most part, we attempt to advance the legislative platform of SEE—but do so demonstrating the effects and impact of legislation on the ROCORI District.
Later in March and in early April, district representatives will attend the MSBA Day at the Capitol and the MASA regional capitol visits. Although each day is sponsored by different organizations, many of the topics and issues are the same. All three organizations support legislation to improve school funding. All three organizations emphasize equitable approaches to school funding so that students across the state are treated in an equitable manner. All three organizations encourage more complete or full funding of special education needs—to reduce the need to use general fund resources to meet special education requirements.
Our desire, in each situation, is to share what is happening in the ROCORI School District and to let legislators know how their actions affect, and hopefully, assist us in ROCORI.
As I have shared before, late winter is an incredibly busy part of the school year. As with the winter activities, we have many events unfolding with each “season” drawing to a close. During this time, we also begin to shift our focus to the next school year and beyond. This part of the year is one of the most exciting and yet also demanding portions of the school year!