Superintendent talks about future district plans

Tomorrow (Friday, Nov. 9) marks the end of the first quarter of the 2012-2013 school year, but school district staff is already turning an eye towards preparation for next year.
Superintendent Jim Johnson gave an update on their plans for the 2013-14 school year at Monday evening’s board meeting. Capital requests for building repair are being considered, and new course offerings are in the works, with an emphasis on creating classes that incorporate 21st century skills. Johnson said administrators are also putting a lot of thought into ways to help more middle-of-the-road students into a higher level of achievement.
“We do a lot with the top 20 percent of our class, those kids who are taking a lot of our college courses,” Johnson said. “Now we’re looking to do a lot for those kids in the 50-80 percentile of students. What are we doing for them? What are some courses that they can take, and go on and be applied as credit to a community college, tech center or four-year school?”
Johnson said they are putting a plan together on this issue and will share more details once complete.
Another aspect of the high school that’s getting some real scrutiny is the math department, specifically in algebra II, where the district saw dropping test scores on last year’s MCA tests. Johnson said a committee is in place and they are going to put forth a series of recommendations to increase student success in this subject. This may include having students take the course more than once if needed to boost comprehension.
At the elementary level, space constraints have taken their place as a top issue to deal with. With this year’s kindergarten and first grade classes being so large, and a smaller fifth grade class moving out, Johnson said Little Mountain is already in the midst of a space problem, while Pinewood should be okay still for next year even with another large incoming kindergarten class expected. Little Mountain has already had to send one all-day kindergarten class over to Pinewood this school year.
“We were shocked by how many people came that were unexpected,” Pinewood co-principal Brad Sanderson said of the recent increases in student population. “But we think we’re on track [for next year.]”
One big project going on that affects the entire district is the ongoing effort to determine whether elementary students should switch to begin and end school earlier than middle and high school students. Johnson said there is a meeting coming up next week, and staff is working to put a community group together. Those interested in being on the community group for this issue can call Jim Johnson at 763-272-2000.
“It’s exciting, it’s about moving forward, but it’s hard to believe that we’re already this far down the line in planning for 2013-14,” Johnson said.
In other business, the board:
-Heard about superintendent Jim Johnson’s upcoming Chicago technology trip, which is an administrator’s conference sponsored by Apple. Johnson said the trip would include a “peek behind the curtain” for up-and-coming technology for schools. He said this trip would help finalize a technology proposal he will be bringing to the board late this winter.
-Accepted three donations: a $750 donation to Pinewood and Little Mountain for the school patrol program from the Fabulous Forties, which was a group of MHS graduates from the 1940s; a $2,239 donation for a new laminating machine at the middle school from Middle School Parent Involvement, and a $2,500 donation to Little Mountain for a basketball hoop for the playground from Cornerstone Chevrolet.
-Heard about the district’s professional mentorship program for teachers who are new to the district. Borgerding said this year the district welcomed 31 new teachers, compared with 12 new teachers last year, so she said this is an especially important year for the mentorship program. Johnson said this extensive program is one of the things Monticello is well known for, saying it usually goes above and beyond what other districts do to help assimilate new teachers.
-Approved a new full-time position for an early childhood special education teacher and a 3-hour per day paraprofessional for special ed. Johnson said they had initially planned on having 73 special education students at Pinewood for the year, but there are now 101 students in the school’s special education program. To manage the influx, Johnson said they are also shifting one other existing paraprofessional position to Pinewood.
-Heard a financial report from business manager Tina Burkholder. Burkholder said she has no concerns for the district’s revenues and expenditures at this point and time in the year, saying all numbers are lining up with past years.
-The school district’s Truth in Taxation meeting is coming at 6 p.m. Dec. 3.