H-W School Board going paperless

Board members Duane Bodermann, James Kitchen and Karlos McClure look at paperwork on their new iPads. The school board is learning to use the new technology they have authorized for the faculty and students at H-W.

By Marcie Klomp

Well, at least it is making the effort. In the past, the Howard-Winneshiek Community School Board has had folders up to an inch thick, filled with pages and pages of information. Board members recently received iPads, which carry all of the paperwork in a device less than 1.5 pounds and with a 9.5 inch screen.

The iPads are part of a one-to-one initiative where all students and teachers will have an iPad. (It will take up to five years to complete the initiative.)

• In other business, more issues were raised regarding Spring Ahead Learning Center in Lime Springs. Supt. Dianne Anderson explained she had found out from the attorney that something was written incorrectly in the easement, which is the last step needed before letting bids for the building project.

“Because it’s taken so long, we’ve had them send everything to Joe Braun (local attorney). I think things will go a lot faster,” she said. Initially, the USDA, one of the major grantors, required a more specialized attorney than can be found locally.

At-Risk Program

Brenda Lentz, District At-Risk Coordinator, spoke about Dropout Prevention and asked for approval of an increase in the budget for Modified Allowable Growth.

Lentz, who took over this position a year ago, gave some sobering facts from her department.

The district’s At-Risk rate is 17 percent, which is down from 20 percent from last year. “Seventeen percent is extremely high,” Lentz told the board members. “The state would like it at five to 10 percent or even lower.”

The students in need or potential dropouts are determined by using four criteria, which include:

1. Attendance—missing 16 or more days a year;

2. Grades/credits—failing one or more classes in English, reading language or math in 6-8 or failing any class in 9-12 or being retained after fifth grade;

3. Proficiency—less than 25th percentile in reading or math in grades 4-8 or less than 30th percentile in reading or math in grades 9-12;

4. Lack of connection—expressed feelings of not belonging to school setting, lack of participation in extra-curricular activities, three or more office referrals for behavior, reported victim of teasing, aggression or bullying, two or more suspensions (in school or out of school), attended alternate school outside district, multiple school attendance and being expelled.

At the present time, there are 17 enrolled in the Alternative Program.

Another startling fact is that last year, there were 197 Fs given in grades 6-12 at H-W. For the first semester of this year, the high school (grades 9-12) have earned 49 Fs compared with one F at Decorah in the same time frame.

Lentz later explained demographics have an impact on the numbers. H-W has a much larger percentage of students on free and reduced lunches, which does make a difference.

After looking over the numbers, Lentz said, “The need for this [program] is vital.”

Necessary budget cuts over the past few years were made, and the At-Risk Program is one that took a big hit. Lentz is asking to replace some of those positions.

Some solutions include returning some teachers to structured study hall, where students will be able to get more one-on-one help and the extended learning program (an afterschool program where students can also get one-on-one help).

Board member Scott Fortune asked if class size was affecting the students. Lentz answered that in an elementary classroom K-5, classes with 28-30 that receive support are probably okay because the same kids are with the same teacher for most of the day. At the junior and high school level, though, a teacher could see 170 students in a day. “There is less teacher/student connection there.” And, that is where the extra time during study hall and after school would be of a benefit for kids.

Fortune also asked if teachers were a problem. Lentz answered there may be a few teachers who are not as attentive to their students as others.

High School Principal Tim Felderman added, “We can no longer accept a zero for homework. If you can’t demonstrate mastery of homework, how can you master a test?”

Board member James Kitchen asked, “What about parent involvement?”

Lentz said, “My contact with parents is high. For attendance, we’ve been trying to make contact. Some parents are receptive, others are not. Overall, we have students who want to do well and our goal is to support them as much as possible.”

Lentz and her staff have looked at the numbers and asked for an increase in the Modified Allowable Growth for dropout prevention, which would make the 2012-13 budget $515,015. This should help H-W support its students and help them achieve the goal of better learning.


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