By Lorae Vardas, Correspondent
Unless there is another full day of school lost to inclement weather, students in the Pierz School District will not have to make up the time. Superintendent George Weber made the recommendation to the Pierz School Board at the Feb. 28 meeting. Instead, teachers will use the day to work on curricular changes being proposed on the local and state levels.
However, another school closure because of the weather will result in a change of plans. Students then will be required to attend school two days the first week of June. Currently, there is no penalty for not making up the time.
“Schools are handling make up days differently,” said Weber. “We need teacher workshop days. We have been working on our strategic plan as part of the new World’s Best Workplace legislation. I am recommending that we hold a couple more meetings with staff to continue this work.” Aligning curriculum emerged as a top priority in terms of districtwide action initiatives to give students the best chance of success on college entrance exams, he said.
Weber said they need more dialogue in defining what effective schools’ attributes are and to what extent school officials want to get involved in creating best practices and policies, including funding, to make it happen.
“What are we doing in Pierz regarding alignment of curriculum?” he asked.”It was discussed to some extent at the evening sessions we did last fall with Rynell Schock from NJPA. Are we teaching the proper classes to get the highest test scores? We need to do more than just say we’re using the same text books.”
Weber said he wondered how students would benefit if curriculum was better aligned. Without direction or strategic planning, a lot of teaching time could be wasted over the course of 13 years. “We need to engage the staff, the board and the public if we’re gong for a referendum renewal this fall,” he said. The current voter approved $500 per pupil operating levy expires this year
A proposal to implement an eight-hour school day at the high school this fall will also impact staff and students. “We have spent many hours the last three weeks meeting and completing this project,” Weber told the Board. “I feel it is a good plan for teachers and students. We’re working on scripting various scenarios now pending pass time between classes, study halls and lunch time. The next step will be to put kids into it.”
The proposed eight-period day would replace the current block/skinny model. More courses can be covered in the eight-hour format than in the six-hour day, which could also result in some staffing shortages. The logistics of getting 100 students per grade into the classes they need and want won’t be easy, Weber said.
“If it looks like staffing costs would be impacted significantly, we will evaluate the decision to move forward with this model,” he said.
Pierz School Board Briefs
In other agenda items at the Feb. 28 meeting, the Pierz School Board:
• Approved the 2014-2015 School Calendar that shows school starting Sept. 2 and ending May 29. With 172 student contact days, the calendar has several built-in snow make up days. The first is on March 27 and the second is on Feb. 13. If there are two or more lost days after March 27, students would have to come back in June;
• Accepted donations of $500 from George Weber for the Superintendent’s Scholarship; $500 from Modern Farm Equipment for the FFA program; $325 from the Pierz Fire Relief Association for an AED; and $200 from Saehr Backhoe for the National Honor Society;
• Accepted a retirement notice from Karen Fischer effective May 30 and thanked her for 34 years of service to the district. Fischer started as a school cook in Harding and retired as an education assistant at Pioneer Elementary;
• Approved the employment of Sandy Barclay as high school education assistant effective Feb. 4;
• Authorized Galen Swoboda, Pioneer Elementary School principal, to act as the district’s official representative for filing for federal funds and ensure compliance with all applicable rules and regulations; and
• Heard Weber report that teacher negotiations are nearing completion, with a few specific language items needing clarification, yet. Negotiations with bus drivers are also progressing well. In addition, administration has been meeting with faculty to design a new teacher evaluation model that is agreeable to all. The plan will be presented to staff at the March 28 workshop day. Once ratified, it will be filed with the Minnesota Department of Education.
The Pierz School Board next meets, Wednesday, March 26, at 6 p.m. in the Healy High Board Room.