Board talks track, MCAs, referendum

MARSHALL – Marshall School board members covered a wide array of items at its regular board meeting Monday – from approving the submission for the Race to the Top grant to discussion on the track and field complex.

Superintendent Klint Willert informed the board that bids for the track and field complex had come in higher than they had anticipated, so a process of re-engineering the project is currently under way.

“We, the school district, will be meeting with the representatives from Southwest Minnesota State University to review that re-engineered work, with the intention that it still goes up for bid again this fall,” Willert said. “It may change the timelines somewhat in terms of a substantial completion; however, we are still committed to making this project a reality because the feedback I continue to receive is positive. And we know we have to do something with our track, so we’re continuing to move forward with that.”

Curriculum director Amanda Grinager led the board through an overview of the 2013 Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment results. When comparing the district’s overall reading results, for grades 3-8 and 10th, MPS was at 61.4 percent proficient, which was well above the state average (57.8 percent).

The third-grade scores fell slightly below the state average, as did seventh- and eighth-grade students. Fifth- and sixth-grade students were well above the state average reading score, as were 10th-grade students. The biggest area of concern was noted in the fourth-grade reading results (50.8 percent proficient), which was well below the state average (54 percent).

Eleventh-grade students at MPS took the MCA II test and scored an average 44.7 percent proficiency rate compared to the state average of 52.4. The third- through eighth-grade students who took the MCA III tests were also below the state average (62.6 percent), but not by much (62.1 percent).

Though the state has implemented more rigorous tests over the years, making it unreliable to make comparisons, Grinager was able to share some trend data with the board members. A few of the board members asked whether it was possible to compare actual student progress from year to year results rather than comparing this year’s third-graders to last year’s third-graders, for example. Grinager said it was and that a curriculum team would be analyzing results.

“This is a good starting point,” Grinager said. “I do always want to remind everyone that this is one data point on one day. Does it show a fair representation of what is happening in our math classes? I don’t think so. But we will look at all the suggestions that are being made because our goal is to use this information to help our students achieve at a high level. It’s not always a fun conversation to have, but it’s an important one.”

For the science assessments, the fifth-graders and 10th-graders did really well, Grinager said.

In regards to the upcoming referendum, Willert noted that the time had come to really start communicating with the public about the district’s premises. With that in mind, Willert created a workable document.

“It’s really just an information piece,” he said. “On the left-hand side, there are some key points that we’re sharing.”

Added security measures and new investments in technology were the two main items of focus.

“Our computer labs at our high school next year will not support, because of the age of the computers and machines, the text specifics that we have to have in order to conduct the testing,” Willert said. “So regardless of what happens, we’re going to have to make some investments in technology there as well as down the line.”

The informational document, which Willert said will likely be handed out at upcoming activities and events, included comparisons to neighboring schools and to schools in the Southwest and South Central Conferences. The referendum ($675) was well below the group averages in both categories.

“We want to make sure our voters are informed,” Willert said.

Board member Curt Kovash, who also received the Tiger Spotlight award for his diligence in completing the Minnesota School Board Association (MSBA) Leadership Development Program Monday night, asked Willert if he could include a comparison of schools the same size as MPS. Board member Karen VanKeulen agreed.

“The third comparison would be nice,” she said. “It would give an even better overview.”

Willert said he would get the numbers together and include the additional comparison.

The board also approved 12 action items, including a unanimous vote to move the Oct. 7 meeting to Sept. 30 to accommodate Willert, who was asked to present at a conference on that date. The 4 p.m. start time will remain the same.

Student representative Sydney Hey reported that e-mail accounts were being administered to each high school student in the district.

“It’ll make communication easier between students and teachers,” she said.