The St. Michael–Albertville School Board met to hear citizen’s concerns regarding the potential displacement of an STMA Chinese teacher, recognize outstanding students, learn about activities at the Middle Schools and the High School, and hear the report of the Middle School Assessment Committee.

PUBLIC COMMENT

A group of parents and students spoke on behalf of Sonny Wang who has been teaching Chinese at the high school.

Because of a change in the law she will no longer be able to teach next year as she has been teaching as a non-licensed community expert and does not have the required license. She has been successfully teaching for 11 years and has built the program from 16 to 60 students. STMA Superintendent Ann-Marie Foucault explained that if the district were to retain her it would be breaking state law. The administration has explored possible loopholes but has been unsuccessful.

State Representative Eric Lucero was present to talk about the results of the legislative session which ended recently. He had been informed of the licensing issue late in the session and had tried to get some kind of adjustment to the law but was unsuccessful. He may be able to find other legislators whose school districts are also losing key employees who can band together to find a remedy but the law cannot be changed unless there is a special session.

Director of Administrative Services Douglas Birk assured the audience that “none of what is happening to this staff member has anything to do with her performance, we would keep her on staff if we possibly could.” He said that the previous exception path is no longer available and a change in law will be required.

RECOGNITIONS

In other news, four times a year art students from every level of the district are chosen by their teachers and their art works are displayed in the district office.

Those whose creations will be displayed through the summer were recognized by the STMA School Board. School Board Chairperson Drew Scherber said that the district “fully embraces the arts and recognizes that a vibrant and robust arts education program is critical to a complete and balanced education.” Two of the district’s art teachers were present and thanked the school board for their consistent support of the arts. Erin Settegren, art teacher from Fieldstone Elementary said “It is a joy to be an art teacher in this district.” Those whose art works are being displayed are Lainey Jerulle, Jade Resner, Esma Ali, Angelika Mehes, Cadence Feld, Bih Nde, Diego Medrano, Helen Hankkila, Lily Edgar, Autumn Vossen, Karli Johnson, Lincoln Gerten, and Kendra Behrens.

Twelve high school students received Courtesy and Respect Awards for the spring trimester. They were nominated by various departments and voted on by all the high school staff members. They excelled in academics by learning to the best of their ability, in decision making by demonstrating good judgement and common sense, in activities by participating to the best of their ability, and in conduct by demonstrating courtesy and respect. Those receiving the award were Ava Lenneman, Blazden Mueller, Marah VanVooren, James Lyke, Ashlyn McClintock, Maiya Hofmeister, Kelsey Kocon, Nicholas Eicher, Anna LaRose, Lindsay Rohr, Elizabeth Libbey, and Will Manderfeld. Principal Robert Driver thanked the parents because “you have raised great kids”. He thanked the students who “have stood out and made a difference.”

LEGISLATIVE UPDATE

In more news, Superintendent Foucault reported on the results of the recent legislative session.

She was glad that school districts will receive a 2% increase in the amount of per pupil aid in each of the next two years, but pointed out that this across the board increase will magnify the difference between districts receiving the lowest amounts like STMA and those receiving the most. She said that the state will increase the amount to fund mandated services for special education students, but will still fall short of the amount needed to cover the mandates. The district may be able to receive a onetime payment to fund equipment for student safety.

QUALITY COMPENSATION

In further matters, teacher Matt Amundson reported to the school board on the Quality Compensation program known as Q Comp, which is in its fifth year in the district. Amundson is on leave from classroom teaching to head up a group of seven teachers who act as instructional coaches at each school. Teachers throughout the district were asked about the effectiveness of the program. Most felt that the coaching helped them develop professionally.

Each teacher is part of a Professional Learning Community and they said that these groups had positive impacts on their teaching.

SCHOOL ACTIVITIES

Continuing from the board meeting, the Activities Directors from the Middle Schools, David Holler and Ryan Antony, spoke about their programs and asked the School Board to raise the activity fee for next year to $150.

They would like to hire more head coaches in order to provide more opportunities for participation. The Middle School teams will continue to participate with other schools in the “Mississippi Eight,” but the conference will be split into two divisions so travel times will be shorter and therefore transportation costs will be lower. The STMA Middle Schools have high participation rates in all activities. The Activities Directors are responsible for academic and fine arts programs as well and think that activities provide their students with connections to the school community, to their fellow students and to caring adults.

High School Activities Director Keith Cornell spoke to the School Board about the “Why We Play” program, a national movement sponsored by the NFL. School Boards are required to learn about this program so their district can be a member of the Minnesota State High School League.

Cornell showed a video which said “The purpose of education-based programs is the human growth and development of students and connecting them to caring adults in their learning community.”

Because most students will not become professional athletes or even college competitors, the aim is “to provide students with growth that will sustain them beyond physical skill development and the ability to play and win a game.” Cornell sees all the activities offered at STMA as, “extensions of the classroom, we’re trying to connect kids with another caring adult.” He added, “For sure, the goal is to win, but winning is not our purpose.”

ASSESSMENT COMMITTEE

Lastly, the Board heard a report from the Middle School Assessment committee which looked at all aspects of the Middle Schools and came up with recommendations for the schools.

In 2009 the district created Middle School East and Middle School West for students in grades five through eight. At that time they considered having a girls’ school and a boys’ school or using one building for grades five and six and the other for grades seven and eight.

Looking back they believe that the present choice was the right one and should be continued. To provide strong connections, they have divided students into groups of about 120 students assigned to a team of four teachers. To provide for individual needs and desires they try to provide a variety of options so students can explore from a “buffet” of choices.

As the buildings age, they need to be maintained and enhanced to meet current expectations. The committee would like to see staff diversity increase to match changes in the student body. They recommend updated technology to enhance education and provide for greater security. Even though the population of the district has been growing each school has room for about a hundred more students.

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