FLY gets go-ahead; MPS hears tech update

MARSHALL – During the Marshall Public School board meeting Monday, Superintendent Klint Willert notified board members that the district’s flexible learning year (FLY) application had been approved by Brenda Cassellius, Minnesota Department of Education commissioner.

Twenty-three of the original 25 school districts, including MPS, chose to submit a joint application for a second three-year FLY application. Canby and Tracy Area Public Schools voted to opt out educational collaboration.

“We received a preliminary letter letting us know that the application was approved,” Willert said. “We can expect a formal letter next week.”

Willert also brought forward a draft of a student school board representative application form, which will assist administrators in selecting a student representative to begin serving in August. After meeting with students from the Honors Society, student council and Cultures in Power, Willert hopes applications will begin to filter in, with the hopes of identifying a student representative by the end of April.

“I wanted to share this draft with you to get your thoughts,” he said. “I tried to align the application to the MSBA (Minnesota School Board Association) scholarship application that is out there for students.”

Willert also shared words of praise for seven teachers recently nominated for various awards. Marcia Ivers (business education), Marty Brandl (math), Becky Genrich (special education), Wayne Ivers (music), Mary Noyes (language arts) and Dawn Sterzinger (math) were all nominated for consideration of the WEM Outstanding Educator award. Rick Purrington, Marshall High School social studies teacher, won the award during the 2010-11 school year. In addition, MHS agriculture teacher Jason Kaare was a top six national finalist for the Great American Teach-Off competition.

MHS will also be hosting a two-day clinical for Southwest Minnesota State University student teachers on April 4-5.

“We’re real excited to see that partnership continue,” Willert said.

First-year technology teacher Theresa McCoy engaged board members in her presentation about technology at Marshall Middle School. Using Prezi, which she referred to as “a powerpoint on steroids,” McCoy explained what her focus was in teaching technology to the middle school students.

“My main purpose is teaching them to be good digital citizens,” she said. “I also think it’s important to learn about digital literacy and information literacy.”

Digital citizenship is about learning how to use technology and the Internet responsibly. Lessons McCoy teaches include cyberbullying, etiquette, digital footprint, Internet safety, copyright, creative commons and fair use.

“I do these lessons with each grade,” she said. “Everybody gets the same thing.”

McCoy said she explains to the students that everything they do can be copied and that’s why they need to protect it. Between snap chat, instagram, texting and Facebook, students seem to have “very active digital lives,” she said.

“I ask them if they accept friend invitations from people they don’t know,” McCoy said. “It’s amazing to see so many of them raise their hands. I remind them that one of the first things their parents taught them was to not talk to strangers. It’s the same online.”

Board members were then introduced to Voki, an Avatar that a student created.

“My digital footprint is important to me because my parents and future employers can see it,” the character said.

Technology literacy, using online tools and applications to collaborate, share, create, inform and enrich, is another focus, McCoy said. All students are introduced to Microsoft Word, Powerpoint, Excel and Publisher, along with an online keyboarding program and paint program. They also spend time creating with Avatar, Abstract Art, Graffiti Name Creator, Imagination and Word Clouds.

“Everything they do hits on the standards,” McCoy said.

Information literacy is being able to locate information from a variety of sources, evaluate information for accuracy and credibility and use information to understand, explain, persuade and create, McCoy said.

“I do lessons on how to search,” she said. “I want them to learn how to do it properly.”

While the students are quickly catching on, McCoy pointed out that there was not enough time to teach everything students need to learn in the technology age. She also suggested teaching students at a younger age because technology is not going away, she said.

In action items, the board approved a time change for the April 15 meeting. The meeting is now set to begin at 4 p.m.

The board also approved the five other action items, including authorization to Southwest ABE Marshall Region to seek a grant from the Otto Bremer Foundation to update technology and initiate a lending library of technology equipment in the amount of $123,441. In the past, grant requests in excess of $10,000 have required board action.

In addition to approving the seniority list for 2012-13 and personnel items, the board voted to approve the termination and non-renewal of 14 teaching contracts. Many of those contracts include personnel who were hired under variances or on a probationary basis.