SOME NOTES ACROSS THE DISTRICT
I would like to take time this week to cover a few brief topics. Most of them are not related, but are ideas that have generated questions, been placed on my desk, or are issues that we have on-going.
ACADEMIC ACHIEVEMENT PROGRAM
At the end of the school year last year, we learned that our Academic Achievement (formerly labeled Gifted and Talented programming) coordinator was leaving the district for a family move to the Fargo-Moorhead area. Leigh Dornfeld had been in the district for a number of years and had worked hard to build a quality Academic Achievement program.
After Leigh’s resignation, we posted the position and attempted to fill the role during the summer prior to the start of the school year. We did not receive any applications from candidates with experience in this role, certification in Academic Achievement, or a number of years of direct classroom instruction. As such, we were not able to fill the role.
During the course of this year, we have had a number of programs operated by different teachers and staff members. We have worked, through the Curriculum Department, to maintain programs that we were able. We have also kept the position as an open position during the year.
After the start of the calendar year, we began in earnest to seek a candidate for next school year in the Academic Achievement role. We have received some applications for the position and will begin our selection process in the near future as we are in the stages of assembling an interview team.
It will be a positive step for students in the ROCORI Schools to be able to fill the Academic Achievement position for 2015-16. Although we have a number of ideas on structuring or restructuring the role, we will look to secure a teacher for the position and then determine how to use the candidate’s skills.
Over the last few weeks, information about the preschool programming for 2015-16 has been coming together. We know that our structure for the current year was somewhat experimental in nature—with a significant expansion of transportation services as well as introduction of four-day classes. We have been reviewing the current year structure to determine what worked well and what needs to be adjusted.
We know that we will not be able to offer the same transportation options in 2015-16 as we offered this year. We have had special routes for early childhood programming this year, but the times required to make this work have not been ideal for the classes and program. In addition, the transportation has proven to be a very expensive investment which has been meaningful but has not accomplished all the goals we desired.
In planning for next year, one of our core questions has revolved around the issue of transportation. We know that we have to change the structure but have been exploring our options as to what that looks like. Although it is not ideal, we have determined that the best option for transportation at the beginning or end of the day would have to be our regular routes.
Transportation other than the regular routes would either have to occur BEFORE the regular routes (meaning that early childhood students would have to be on the buses and at school prior to 7:00) or AFTER the regular routes (which is the situation we encountered this year). The same would be true at the end of the day. Neither of these options works with the time schedule in which we would like to conduct early childhood classes.
Using the regular routes in the morning and afternoon means that we are not able to transport three-year old students. It also means that a four-year old would be required to have a “bus buddy.” Again, this is not ideal, but it is a means to provide transportation to students who might otherwise not be able to get to school.
We are expecting to provide transportation in the middle of the day to bring students in for the afternoon and take students home from the morning classes. This mid-day run is primarily intended for the preschool students (four-year olds).
As for classes, the staff has been working hard on class options. We know that we want to provide classes in early childhood programs with a two and half hour block of protected, direct instructional time. The question, and registration will demonstrate the needs, is whether the classes are offered two, three, four or five days each week.
Early childhood class registration was conducted in the week of March 9. This does not mean that the classes are full or closed, yet, but it will be the information we use to structure and schedule classes for next year. Registration will continue, but the best options to enroll in preferred classes and times are with early registration. Again, these will help determine our direction.
CONTACT BOARD MEMBERS
Over the last few weeks, I have been asked about the opportunity community residents have, on a regular basis, to provide feedback to the members of the School Board. There are many options for community residents to make connections with board members.
The most direct method to communicate an issue to board members is the opportunity for citizens to speak at the regularly scheduled board meetings. We have two school board meetings every month and the opportunity to speak is included in each agenda. This, of course, is a very formal means of communicating with the board, but the Board is always inviting feedback with the opportunity at every meeting.
If residents prefer a less formal setting than at board meetings, there are a number of opportunities to connect with board members throughout the year. A good example would be the Community Showcase held this past weekend. The school district has annually had a booth at Showcase, with board members as the principal representatives, in order to receive feedback, comments, and information from residents.
Board members are also willing and able to receive communications through phone calls, email messages, letters and other notes. If contact information for board members is difficult to find, the staff in the District Office is always willing to forward or convey information to the board.
Board members are also available in the public as they are residents of the district and they conduct business, have family activities, shop in our community, attend religious services and events, participate in community events, and are generally “in the community.” Board members are very approachable and open to communication from residents of the community.
KINDERGARTEN NEXT YEAR
Much like preschool registration, we conducted kindergarten registration on February 17. We have had more than 80 students register for 2015-16 kindergarten sections, but we also know that there are more students in the community who have not yet registered.
We would invite parents and family of next year’s kindergarten class to make connections with our elementary school sites to register for classes next year! The sooner we have students register, the better we are able to plan and build program for the students coming in!