Marshall School Board approves continuation of FLY program

MARSHALL – At its regular meeting Tuesday, the Marshall School Board unanimously voted in favor of continuing the flexible learning year (FLY) for the next three school years, pending a final decision from Minnesota Department of Education Commissioner Brenda Casselius.

Like each of the 25 districts in the FLY consortium, the Marshall School Board was required to make an individual decision based on the district’s best interests. Those districts approving the resolution to move forward with the second three-year FLY application will submit one joint “Improving Student Achievement Initiative/FLY” application to Casselius in the next two weeks.

“I think there are pros and cons, but there are more pros than cons,” board chairman Jeff Chapman said. “I really like the semester break and the natural breaks that align with PSEO and down the road, it’s going to match up with the Southwest Minnesota State University schedule.

“And instead of just judging test results, it’s also helped out teachers network with other teachers. There’s lots of positives there.”

First-year board member Curt Kovash said he’d also received a lot of feedback from people.

“If I talked to 10 students, nine of them loved it,” Kovash said. “They loved the semester break and getting out in May.”

Casselius is expected to give an answer by March 15. If Casselius gives the go-ahead to the FLY consortium, the 2013-14 school year will begin Monday, Aug. 19, followed by Monday, Aug. 18 for the 2014-15 school year and Monday, Aug. 24 for the 2015-16 year.

In addition to re-structuring the school year to allow for more instructional days before high-stakes state testing rather than having those days afterward, FLY districts are also expected to continue coordinating staff development activities, thus improving instructional quality and student achievement.

“As I look at the consortium test scores, I see a lot of positive stuff in there,” Kovash said. “Reading scores are up, and math, I think we need more data yet because they changed the tests. I agree with Jeff that the professional development is really, really positive.”

In conjunction with the FLY approval, the board also voted to approve a draft of the next three upcoming school year calendars.

“I hear a lot more schools are looking to implement the FLY calendar,” Kovash said. “That has to be a good sign.”

During a presentation Tuesday, Sandy Carpenter, Dana Moore and Stefanie Hebig Scarset gave an overview of the Marshall Middle School PBIS (Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports) program, which is a schoolwide approach to improving student behavior. The main goal of PBIS is to reduce unwanted student behaviors and to increase instruction time, effectiveness and efficiency.

PBIS, which is in its third year of a three-year training and implementing commitment, dates back to 2008, when PBIS investigation began. A year later, a PBIS foundation was built, highlighting pride, respect and responsibility.

“It started with a grant the first year, but since then, we’ve been self-funded,” Carpenter said. “We work the concession stand and other small stuff.”

Moore said he appreciated that PBIS is an approach.

“It’s completely data-driven and done through education,” he said. “It is teaching, not some pre-packaged program. We teach the students how we want them to behave.”

The trio, who are all part of the PBIS team, have noted improvements already.

“It is working,” Scarset said.

Moore said that one of the strengths is that data is being collected and analyzed.

“It lets you know so much more about what is going on in your building,” he said.

Four MMS students are also part of the PBIS team and create videos which teach proper behavior to their peers along with other activities.

“The students help with bulletin boards, celebrations, concession stands, websites and videos,” Scarset said.

“It’s definitely a team effort,” Carpenter said.

In the future, Carpenter said she’d like to see the system advance to include individual behavior training, just like Response to Intervention does for students who are falling behind academically.

Marshall Adult Basic Education (ABE) also received approval from the board to seek a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation for up to $150,000. ABE is seeking the grant to update technology, including hardware and infrastructure upgrades that would assist with utilization of technology.

In other business:

The board approved a joint powers agreement with the Minnesota Department of Commerce

The board also approved a final budget for fiscal year 2012-13, along with personnel items.