District staff to see changes

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, July 9, 2002

Changes are coming to the staff of the Austin Public School District.

According to Sheila Berger, educational services coordinator, the district has created its "first ever" staff development plan.

"Each site will develop a plan that will align with each other," in order to develop staff uniformly throughout the district, Berger said.

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Berger said the plan has four goals. "The first is to implement the plan. We'll be working to learn about effective staff development. We need to look farther than the one-day workshop in order to do that," she said.

The plan's second goal is to "train staff in research-based reading instruction," and learn strategies for teaching students who are below grade-level in their ability to read, Berger said.

According to Berger, the plan also includes education all district staff on Austin's ethnic, cultural and socioeconomic student populations to ensure the success of these students.

The fourth goal of the staff development plan, Berger said, is to "address the curriculum needs of all students." School district data indicates one-fourth of high school students received a failing grade in at least one class last year and high potential students are receiving inconsistent instruction within the district.

The goals are planned to be fulfilled by June 2004 through various staff training activities and by forming district-wide committees to work on meeting the goals.

Berger also reported on the results of a review of the math curriculums and the guidance programs throughout the district. Berger said recommendations being made the math committee include developing a consistent K-12 calculator policy because "it's crucial to be consistent in how and when we teach students about using calculators." She also said the curriculum review found that staff members need to focus on "the importance of being able to read and how that affects the ability to solve math problems."

Recommendations to the guidance programs include the need to "coordinate services in K-12 and to keep a close relationship with kids as they move through the system," Berger said.

In other board news:

n Mary Giese, principal of Southgate Elementary has resigned.

According to Julie Jensen, director of human resources, the announcement was "not a complete surprise" to district officials. Jensen said she and Giese had been discussing the matter for awhile and "the main reason is retirement issues."

"She has many years of service in Iowa and lives there so her benefits are much better in Iowa," Jensen said. "I think that was the impetus for her to look. She has more than 20 years toward retirement in Iowa."

Jensen said Giese's choice to leave, however, was not an easy one. "It is with very mixed feelings that she is leaving. She was very excited about the upcoming school year and we will miss her very much."

As of now, the district has no candidate in mind for the position. "We're in the process of filling the principal opening at Sumner Elementary and we're sure that when we open up the Southgate position, we'll receive applications from many of the same candidates," Jensen said. "We look to have a great pool to choose from. We're very optimistic."

n The board approved the Mower County Public Health 2002-03 school health plan.

The plan includes several rate changes from the last school year, such as an increase in the school health services fee per pupil to $4.69 for the year (last year, the cost was $3.35), increases in early childhood immunizations from $6 to $7.40 and in an early childhood physical from $24 to $30. The district also will see an increase in the cost of blood borne pathogen services to $30 per hour, while last year, the price was $24 per hour. Lori Volz, director of business services, said the rate changes are due to inflation and staffing adjustments at MCPH.

n The board approved the Austin Rotary Club's donation of "Scholastic Children's Dictionaries" for all students who will be in the third grade during the 2002-03 school year in both the private and public schools of Austin.

n Michael Veldman, a sixth-grade social studies teacher at Ellis, was awarded the VFW's "Minnesota Teacher of the Year" award.

n Kirsten Eilertson, the highest ranking member of the Austin High School class of 2002, was awarded the proceeds from the Eunice Rice Trust Fund, which totaled $46.75.

n The board also approved July 31 as the date for the district's surplus auction. The auction will feature items such as computers, office equipment, old band uniforms, school desks and chairs. The sale is planned on being held in the South Annex parking lot at the high school.

Amanda L. Rohde can be reached at 434-2214 or by e-mail at amanda.rohde@austindailyherald.com