Proposed changes in administration presented at school board meeting

Published 11:47 am Tuesday, June 6, 2023

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During Monday night’s school board meeting, Ron Wagner, superintendent of Albert Lea Area Schools, presented a proposed organizational chart for administration that, if approved, would start in the 2023-24 school year.

“We know that there are some amazing staff members that are retiring that it’s hard to replace,” he said.

When Wagner took the job, with the exception of the executive director of careers, technology and innovation (which was added in the fall and Jeff Halverson serves), he said key staff were either retiring or moving into different roles.

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“Thinking and moving forward, really did some assessing to further align, to ensure that each individual cabinet member and executive director had a deadline which was coherent, it was aligned to our mission and our goals and it’s really structured to serve our schools, our students and our community,” he said.

The executive director of teaching and learning will now be retitled executive director of academics and accountability. Tonya Franks currently serves that role. Executive director of finance and operations is now executive director of finance, operations and safety, which is the role of Jennifer Walsh. 

Ashley Mattson will serve as director of human resources. A new HR generalist position will be added to serve under Mattson.

“We brought in ‘safety’ because that is one that existed but it never really sat under a cabinet member,” he said, adding there wouldn’t be any additional positions at the cabinet level.

“It’s just redefining and bringing this to coherence and further alignment to serve our schools,” Wagner said.  

The board also heard an update regarding the annual Alternative Teacher Performance Pay System report, presented by Cathy Baumann, coordinator for the system in the district. District-wide, over half of Albert Lea’s teachers met their individual Specific, Measurable, Attainable, Realistic and Time-based goals. While that was an improvement from two years ago when less than half the district’s teachers met their SMART goals, it was an over 10% decline from the percentage of teachers who met their goals compared to last year. 

Baumann said over 56% of teachers in the district met their individual SMART goals based on student achievement, a drop from last year’s 67% but an increase from two years ago, where 49% met their goals.

“Our purposes have to do with instructional practices, increasing student achievement, providing professional development and encouraging collaboration,” Baumann said.

Among the Alternative Teacher Performance Pay System are components including site goals, student achievement goals, career advancement, observations and job-embedded staff development. Their work is centered around four questions: What they want students to learn, how they will know when students have learned it, how they’ll respond when learning hasn’t occurred and how they’ll respond when learning has happened.

Baumann said professional learning communities meet for 45 minutes every Wednesday for 34 meetings. Within those meetings, they’ll discuss standards, curriculum alignment, instruction, assessment, identifying priorities within content areas and reassessing using learning targets to ensure they meet state standards. Using that data, they’re able to determine if re-teaching or intervention is needed.

Requirements include two peer reviews (observations or coaching) with a pre- and post-conference meeting, as well as three informal observations (teachers observing other teachers).

“You’d start out with your pre-conference, do your observation, be able to debrief and plan, collaborate, teaching debrief, the observation feedback is really important,” Baumann said. “It’s nice because it’s a place to be able to have that conversation with somebody who has that outside eye looking in because there’s things that you might not realize that are going on in terms of the nuances of your own teaching in a positive way, but also ways that you can grow, too.”

The performance incentive is currently at $1,300: a $150 building set goal, an individual $50 SMART goal, $300 for peer reviews and observations and $800 for PLC attendance.

According to Baumann, who also serves as a sixth-grade science teacher,  this was the 19th year the district has participated in the system.

For next school year, she recommended striving to achieve High Reliability Schools Level 2, which covers effective teaching in every classroom. She also suggested starting High Reliability Level 3, which covers guaranteed and valuable curriculum.

The board also approved  a change of date for the next meeting, which will now be 5 p.m. June 20 because of Juneteenth.

Following the study session, the board went into closed session regarding labor negotiations.