With a focus on literacy, Isanti Intermediate School-School for All Seasons have implemented new initiatives for the 2019-2020 school year.

During the Cambridge-Isanti School Board meeting Sept. 19, Isanti Intermediate-School for All Seasons Principal Mark Ziebarth, along with academic coach Sarah Edwards and teachers Kaylee Simonton and Rachel Olson, shared with the board three initiatives they have started this school year to help increase student outcomes in the area of literacy.

“The goal of Isanti Intermediate School and School for All Seasons in 2019-2020 is to improve student outcomes in the area of literacy through the implementation of three programs: classroom libraries, PRESS and benchmark workshop pilot,” Ziebarth said. “We decided to have our main area of focus as literacy after last year’s MCA scores.”

Edwards explained each literacy classroom has a selection of books for students to read independently to help them improve their reading skills and to encourage all of their students to become a community of readers.

With the help of fundraising dollars, each IIS-SFAS literacy classroom now has over 200 books for students to read.

“About a year and half ago, we started trying to create a culture of literacy within our building,” Edwards said. “We are also working with teachers to take time one-on-one to learn about each book with each child.”

Edwards also noted a highlight of the classroom library process is to provide independent reading time each day and for teachers to discuss the books students are reading with students.

Olson is excited about the classroom libraries.

“These libraries are designed to instill a love of reading into the students as well as find books they can build upon,” Olson said. “We try to help the students navigate their interests but also find books that fit their reading level.”

Olson explained the students all have “dinner” books, which they read to build their comprehension and understanding of reading, as well as “dessert” books, which are more for encouraging a love of reading.

“With these classroom libraries, the students are able to get a taste of both worlds,” Olson said.

Simonton discussed the benefits of PRESS, which stands for Path to Reading Excellence in Schools Sites. PRESS is a research-based framework for reading intervention in elementary grades, sponsored by the University of Minnesota. PRESS is a targeted intervention model to help students meet grade level standards and will be implemented in grades 1, 3 and 4 for class-wide interventions.

Simonton explained alternative delivery of specialized instructional services and title teachers will also use PRESS for small group interventions.

PRESS provides skill-based, targeted interventions in phonemic awareness, phonics, fluency, vocabulary, and comprehension.

“We’ve done a lot of hands-on literacy and have played some games as well,” Simonton said. “We can really see how much the students have grown through this intervention. Just after 10 days, you can see the growth they were able to achieve.”

Ziebarth touched on the final intervention, which is the benchmark workshop, literacy pilot. Ziebarth explained benchmark workshop is a literacy curriculum that uses the workshop model and includes reading, phonics and writing components.

He explained one teacher from second grade and two teachers each from third through fifth grade are piloting the program. He explained during the teachers’ professional learning community time, the piloting teachers meet to touch base on the implementation of the program and what’s working.

“This will be part of our professional development this year,” Ziebarth said.

2020 proposed budget, levy

Director of Finance and Operations Christopher Kampa discussed the preliminary 2020 property tax levy. He explained the preliminary levy needs to be certified to Isanti County by Sept. 30, with the final levy needing to be adopted by the board at its Dec. 19 meeting.

Kampa explained school taxes are determined by state statutory formulas (including a mix of state aid and property taxes) and voter approved bonds and operating referendums. He said 85% of the district’s general fund revenues come from state aid, with 10% coming from property taxes.

For the 2020 preliminary levy, the general fund is seeing a 1.82% increase, the community service fund is seeing a 6.16% decrease and the debt service fund is seeing a 6.56% increase, for a total levy increase of 3.56%. Kampa noted the preliminary levy can only be decreased, not increased, for the final levy.

Kampa said revisions are still being made that may change the total levy amount.

The district’s truth-in-taxation meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Dec. 3 at the Performing Arts Center at Cambridge-Isanti High School. The meeting will be held jointly with the city of Cambridge and Isanti County.

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