Conference merger to be voted on

MARSHALL – The process of merging the Southwest and South Central Conferences into a 13-team “Big South Conference” is nearing completion, Marshall Public School board members learned at the district work session meeting Monday.

MPS Superintendent Klint Willert and Activities Director Bruce Remme have been key representatives throughout the process and both said they felt the merger was the district’s best option available. While Monday served as a review, the board will be asked to approve the withdrawal of membership in the SWC and the authorization to join the Big South Conference.

Remme noted that MPS has spent 70 years in the SWC and that it served the district well, but that “the landscape has changed.” He credited the participating superintendents for “their vision and leadership” in the merger process.

While football is expected to be divided by size – the seven biggest schools and six smallest schools in separate divisions – other sports and activities have their own specifics. Most are divided by geographic location, Remme said.

Additional opportunities would not exist for some activities, such as speech, Remme said.

“We currently don’t have a conference speech meet, but now with 13 teams, we could offer that,” he said. “Kids could possibly get all-conference honors.”

The board also heard a presentation from local TSP representative Ron Halgerson on the Proposed Security/Safety Improvements at MPS. Halgerson provided pre-design details and cost estimates, noting that the physical barriers, video surveillance system and the network that connected them are were only part of the solution.

“The biggest thing is keeping people informed,” he said. “Technology is simply the tool. It has to be integrated with the emergency preparedness plan in the district.”

Halgerson suggested that each of the four school buildings (the alternative school was not included) would include similar components. Incorporation of video surveillance at the exterior of all the facilities is expected to provide early recognition and recording of incidents.

“There is great value in that,” he said.

Upgrading the primary public entrances is another crucial improvement, Halgerson said, noting that access to the building would be through the main office only. He also noted that for other entrances, there were different types of security style doors to choose from, including card readers, those with remote lock-down ability and remote communications in case of non-staffed hours.

In the event of a security issue, lock-down zones can be created and utilized within the buildings. The physical zones would also be reinforced with video surveillance, which would assist first responders in tracking the situation while enroute and on-site.

“(An intruder’s) travel distance is then limited,” Halgerson said. “And the First Responders can get online. Having that virtual option gives them that awareness.”

The district’s Tech4Teachers organization was the recipient of the Tiger Spotlight award. Under the guidance of technology integrationist Vera Weber and media specialist Diane Konjura, a handful of teachers took part in technology training this past summer.

Those participants shared their thoughts about the experience with board members Monday.

“I wanted to say how exciting it has been that these teachers have taken what they’ve learned over the summer and really put it to use,” Konjura said.

Weber feels the process was the right direction that needs to be taken if the district plans to accomplish its technology goals.

“It gives teachers the opportunity to dabble with it a little bit, to see that it’s not as scary as they think it is,” she said. “It’s also very personalized for their own subject and grade levels and they’re able to use the resources we have available right here in our own school district.”

Lori Fischer-Dyce said she felt that technology “leveled the playing field” because students could access the lesson, vocabulary and stories 24 hours a day and can come to class more prepared and able to participate in discussions.

Amanda Pederson said she has seen a noticeable improvement in the students’ tests, homework and quizzes when they’re able to watch the videos online, multiple times if they choose, before talking about it in class.

As a busy coach, teacher and parent, Brian Leibfried said he appreciated that he could access technology 24 hours a day. During the experience, Leibfried designed math games for his students.

Second-grade teacher Theresa Leek noted that some of her students reported that they couldn’t wait to do their homework and were excited about receiving more. Esther Caron said her confidence level improved because of the experience. She no longer freaks out at the thought of teaching 21st Century skills.

Willert also encouraged people to exercise their right to vote today for the referendum question. All voting will take place at the National Guard Armory between 7 a.m.-8 p.m.