Lakeview, Sibley principals give updates on success, areas for growth

Published 4:50 am Tuesday, October 18, 2022

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Lakeview and Sibley elementary school principals gave their State of the School reports to board members during Monday night’s school board meeting.

First on the docket was Nick Sofio, principal at Lakeview Elementary, who started his presentation by introducing the phrase, “Can Do Kids.”

“Just trying to keep that positive spin on what our kids can do, that there’s no limits to what they can achieve and so … at Lakeview we talk about ‘Can Do Kids,’” he said. “And again that’s just a piece that they hear from us a lot.”

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This year the school has 435 students, which he said was the most they’ve had post-pandemic.

Last year, just under 45% of students qualified for free or reduced priced meals and the English Language learner population was just under 9%, though he anticipated that number would look different this year.

“We have an ever-growing diverse group of learners at our building,” he said. 

Last year, just under 17% of the student body was in special education.

There are currently 36 teachers in the building, 19 of them in the classroom, 14 paraeducators, two success coaches and two educational assistants.

Last year’s consistent attendance was at 92%, a 9% increase from the 2020-21 school year, though still lower than 95% consistent attendance during the 2018-19 year.

In terms of Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment tests, over 48% of third graders, 42% of fourth graders and nearly 60% of fifth graders scored at a proficient level in reading. The building as a whole scored just over 50%.

“That’s down a little bit from where we’ve been in the past,” he said. “We’ve typically been in the 60s, and so that was kind of a bitter pill for us to really look at and to take.”

Almost 76% of third graders, over 65% of fourth graders and 44% of fifth grades scored at proficient levels in math. The building as a whole averaged just over 62% proficiency.

“I feel pretty good about math, where we’re at,” he said. “It’s always been a pretty strong point for us at Lakeview.” 

Sofio was particularly proud of the fact that 52% of English language students scored at or above proficient levels, something he said was a “significant increase” from where they were in the past. He also said it was above state and district averages.

Second graders also saw an increase in scores from fall to spring scores last year in their Formative Assessment System for Teachers scoring.

He touched on the building’s Second Step Program, a social-emotional learning program that teaches skills such as emotional recognition, empathy, problem-solving and goal-setting. He highlighted the importance of having a responsive classroom and helping to support student needs for them to become active and engaged learners on their own.

At the same time, Sofio admitted he was excited to have parents back in the building, and he talked about the importance of effective team teaching, including collaborative teams, instructional rounds (learning from other teachers in the building) and classroom instruction.

Nicky Severtson, the principal at Sibley Elementary, started her presentation by noting the different events happening at her building, including the back-to-school picnic, the Homecoming dress-up days and an all-school assembly.

There are 280 students this year, a decrease from last year’s student body.

“We had a larger fifth-grade class go out to sixth grade this year, and a smaller kindergarten class come in,” she said.

Over 56% of students qualified for free or reduced-priced meals last year, 20% of students were English learners and 19% were in special education.

There are 12 sections in the building, meaning there are two sections of kindergarteners, two sections of first grade, two sections of second grade, two sections of third grade, two sections of fourth grade and two of fifth grade.

There are 15 classroom teachers among this year’s staff.

There was a 6% increase in consistent attendance among students from the 2020-21 school year to the 2021-22 year, and attendance was only 1% lower than before the pandemic (93% compared to last year’s 92%).

“This year we have a group of go-getter parents, and it is so fun with them coming to the PTO meetings and planning events for students and getting in the buildings, implementing those events that we’ve had in the past,” she said.

In terms of testing, over 53% of third and fourth graders scored at a proficient level in math, while over 35% of fifth graders scored proficient. All the numbers were below the district and state levels for proficiency.

In reading, third graders scored almost 49% proficient, 29% of fourth graders scored proficient (by comparison, over half of all fourth graders in the state who took the test scored proficient) and almost 52% of fifth graders scored proficient.

“We have successes and we also have growth there,” she said, referring to the scores.

The percentage of students in kindergarten and first grade listed in the “low risk” category of the Formative Assessment System for Teachers math assessment increased from 32% in spring 2021 to 49% last spring, while the percentage of “low-risk” students in the reading assessment increased from 23% in the spring of 2021 to 43% in the spring of 2022.

At the same time, Severtson wanted to see an increase in math and reading proficiency at all grade levels.    

In his report to the board, Superintendent Ron Wagner said the district would continue doing Learning Walks, something he did last week at Hawthorne Elementary.

“It was an amazing opportunity to look at their goals and then looking at the implementation,” he said. “We saw some amazing work in … reading as well as in mathematics.”

The implementation of a safe entrance at the high school was also moving forward, though he noted plans were being modified.

Student representative Marissa Hanson updated the board on the high school’s college and career fair, something she described as “really nice.”

A Fall Festival is coming up on Oct. 28, and she described the event as clubs and sports having activities, including a pie-eating contest. There will also be a fundraising movie that night.

Fellow representative Rachel Doppelhammer said student section participation so far this year was “awesome.”

“I think we kind of took it for granted before COVID,” she said. “But now there’s a lot more kids out at the sports games, and it’s really nice to see, it’s really fun.”

And this year’s fall musical, “Beauty and the Beast,” will include over 60 cast members.

“It’s going to be really good,” Hanson said.

Board members celebrated Hawthorne Elementary’s recognition as a school of excellence for the 2022 school year.

“We’re very excited to be given that distinction, and we’re looking forward to having a more formal celebration this spring,” said John Mahal, principal at Hawthorne.

“On behalf of the board and myself as superintendent, we want to say thank you for what you provide each and every day for the students and community,” said Ron Wagner, district superintendent.

The district spent $3.059 million from September through Oct. 17, with over $2.302 million going toward the General Fund. The district received $3,335 in donations for September.

They approved off-schedule hour wages for a variety of positions.

In routine business, the district hired Meredith Gonzalez, Laura Sorenson, Shelley Petersen, Dana Warrington, Beth Schewe, Abigail Buchanan and Kelli Hensche. They also agreed to leaves of absence for Lance Luoma, Jennifer Walsh, Devan Kreusche, Mary DeRadd, Gary Abben, Lisa Dugger, Anne Jerdee and Brooke Torkelson. Lauren Smeby and Kari Osheim resigned from her positions.