North Branch Area Public Schools Superintendent Deb Henton and community relations coordinator Pat Tepoorten presented a district update to North Branch Area Chamber of Commerce members during a luncheon Nov. 12.

Henton said the presentation focused on three items: the continuation improvement plan, a construction update, and school and community partnerships.

Continuous improvement plan

“This is developed with input from virtually every stakeholder in our district,” Tepoorten said. “We talked to our staff, we asked our parents, we talked to students and we even asked the community at large to provide input.”

According to Tepoorten, the district is a rolling out two-year plan, which is updated every year due to changes in technology.

There are four goals in the continuous improvement plan, and the first is to prepare all learners for success in school and life.

Tepoorten said they have added field trips, expanded social and emotional supports, created flexible learning spaces, focused on college and career readiness, and expanded middle school electives, and they’ve had success in activities including DECA, FCCLA, volleyball, hockey, Robotics and Knowledge Bowl.

“We designed and relocated our area learning center (ALC),” Tepoorten said. “It’s now called the Norse Area Learning Center. They got a therapy dog and it’s going really great.”

The second goal is to raise accountability for all staff and programs.

“We need to be accountable to you, our students and our families,” Henton said. “We’re working on redesigning the high school. I know you’ve heard a lot about the fact that we need to get technical education back in the high school, so we’re working on doing that right now.”

Regarding safety and security practices, Henton said they are always looking at how they can make school safer.

“I like to tell the story about how I came to interview at North Branch Area Public Schools and I came early to the interview. I went into the high school and walked all over and nobody stopped me and said, ‘Who are you, and what are you doing here?’” Henton said. “Those of you that have been in the high school before know that there was an entrance that was put in the last entrance way that directed everybody into the school office after the start of school. That was part because of my experiences. It’s very difficult to think about school safety in this day and age.”

According to Henton, the district applied for a grant from the state to update the entrance at Sunrise River School.

“I’m very proud to tell you that we have over $300,000 from the state to update the entrance at Sunrise and that will be done this summer,” Henton said.

The third goal of the continuous improvement plan is to increase community engagements.

“This is something that’s very important to our school district and something we’ve been working on the entire time I’ve been here,” Tepoorten said.

According to Tepoorten, highlights include:

• Community presentation on drug use trends and implications.

• New businesses added to Project Lead the Way Advisory Board.

• Speakers list.

• Facility use fees revised.

• Embarked on enrollment campaign.

• New videos created to advertise the school district and kindergarten.

• Welcome packets created.

• Implemented online enrollment.

• Secured scoreboard sponsors.

• Expanded Viking Hall of Fame to include fine arts.

“We implemented online enrollment, which is a big deal and we’re really happy about that,” Tepoorten said. “If you know anyone who is thinking about enrolling at North Branch, let them know we have online enrollment.”

The fourth goal of the continuous improvement plan is to commit resources to district priorities.

According to Henton, the district reduced the budget by $2.4 million to meet the projected deficit. Also, the district administered a Brightbytes survey to students, parents and staff regarding technology usage, increased the number of security cameras, and implemented the promise of the bond.

“We cannot thank you enough for the three questions you passed in 2017. What a difference you have made in our district. It’s visible from the road and visible internally,” Henton said. “We want to make sure we give you everything we promised. There are spreadsheets that we go back to all the time to make sure that we are giving you what you said you wanted to have passed in this bond.”

Other extended learning opportunities include improving awareness of fine arts programs, hiring quality staff that advances the school districts’ vision and prioritizing class size progressions.

“We’ve had the same four goals for all of the 13 years that I’ve been here,” Henton said. “No matter how many School Board members I’ve worked with, which I think is up to 26 now, they have always wanted to maintain the four goals.”

Construction update

The district is in the third year of construction and Henton gave a summary of progress for each building.

North Branch Area High School

Projects include a learning staircase, fitness room, inspirational messages, culinary art space, auditorium updates, and new gym space.

North Branch Area Middle School

New floors, new cabinetry and new furniture (throughout all the buildings).

Sunrise River School

New tables and sound system.

North Branch Area Education Center

Painted lockers, benches, new windows, a new fire sprinkler system and an updated kitchenette.

Community partnerships

According to Tepoorten, the district applied for a $100,000 grant to create an apprenticeship program between North Branch Area High School and local businesses. This is an expansion of the relationship between the school district and Project Lead the Way Advisory Board.

“This is for students to get out into the workforce and actually be working long before they leave high school,” Tepoorten said.

Tepoorten said North Branch Area Public Schools is proud of their relationships with the community.

“We’re looking for any community members who have any expertise or experiences in life that they want to share with our students,” Tepoorten said. “This can have an impact on the education of our children.”

To volunteer as a community speaker, fill out the district’s online form at https://bit.ly/2Ook7qN.

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