Survey: Parents happy with middle school changes

Published 9:56 am Tuesday, May 22, 2012

A survey conducted by Southwest Middle School showed that an overwhelming majority of parents think their students are doing well in the school.

Southwest Middle School Principal Jean Jordan, accompanied by three teachers, gave an update on the middle school alignment to the school board at its Monday meeting. Jordan has been regularly presenting to the school board since the school realignment when sixth-graders moved to the middle school.

Teachers Krista Ahnemann, Jackie Cromwell-Olson and Krystal Falk, who were part of the leadership team for the transition, also spoke with the board about their experiences. Jordan said overall she’s heard mostly good comments from parents. A survey of parents also showed that 95 percent agree or strongly agree that students are benefitting from working with a team of teachers and that 97 percent agreed that their student’s teacher believes the child can do well in school.

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“We’ve also spent a lot of time talking about advisory,” Jordan said.

At Southwest, students have 20 minutes of advisory each day, and the teachers agreed that structured programming during that period has helped students. Cromwell-Olson said this form of advisory is the best she’s seen in her 11 years in the district and that she has better relationships with students.

Jordan went on to present some of the successes of the transition, like allowing students to come up with rules for the school on the first day. Though many children asked for no homework to be a rule, the serious rules they came up with include inspiring each other, having Tiger pride and being the best they can be.

In other action the board:

• Increased the price of school lunches for all schools. Elementary lunch price went from $2.05 to $2.15; middle school prices went from $2.15 to $2.25; high school prices went from $2.35 to $2.45; and adult high school prices went from $3.45 to $3.55. Prices for breakfast remained the same.

• Presented a certificate to social worker Katie Nielsen, of Hawthorne Elementary School, for her work in helping to implement a program to feed students over weekends. Nielsen worked with the Daybreakers Kiwanis group, the Salvation Army and Channel One; there were 10 families that received backpacks since the inception of the program. The backpacks contain different foods like a box of cereal, applesauce, microwaveable pasta cups and more.

• Heard from Superintendent Mike Funk about some general ideas for the future that would fit some of the standards board members had talked about at previous meetings. Some possible ideas included developing a robust school-to-work program, increasing the number of students in advanced placement programs and working on dropout rates, among others. Funk also said that Minnesota’s Multiple Measurement Rating scores would be released today, but he warned school board members that they are not new scores. The scores will show 2009-10 and 2010-11 data in a new way. Look to the Tribune for more on the scores as it becomes available.

• Heard from Kathy Niebuhr, the district’s media specialist, about how the iPads were working in the schools. Niebuhr said second-graders are using them in a variety of ways. High-schoolers are also getting good use of them for projects. The district’s director of technology, Jim Quiram, said 30 more will be purchased so that Southwest will have two carts of 30 for classes to check out. The high school has two carts, and all second-graders in the district have one during the school day.

• Heard from Chris Chalmers, Community Education director, about a preschool program he’d like to implement if possible. The program would benefit some of the more at-risk families who maybe wouldn’t be able to afford any sort of preschooling. The program he presented would cost almost $50,000.

• Heard from Suzanne Mauer, director of bands at Albert Lea High School, about the band and orchestra trip to Chicago in March. The students performed twice and got to see many sites of the city.

• Heard from Sonya Zieske about the district’s Gifted and Talented program. Zieske brought three elementary students along with her to have them explain some of the things they liked about the different aspects of the program like Destination Imagination and chess club.

• Heard from high school counselor Lynn Keenan about Ramp Up For Readiness, a program that helps high-schoolers think about their path after graduation. She spoke about Career Day for eighth-graders and partnering with Riverland Community College, among other aspects of the program.

• Canceled its June 4 workshop. The next regular meeting will be at 5 p.m. June 18. Summer meetings will be at the library at ALHS while Brookside Education Center is undergoing construction work.