Archive | January, 2012

Vol. 12 | Issue 11

16 Jan

View PDF version here.

Community meeting focuses on third grade literacy

About 70 community members gathered at an “Education About Education” seminar Jan. 7, part of Marshalltown’s campaign to become an All-American City.

The event was a collaborative effort between Mid-Iowa Community Action and the Martha-Ellen Tye Foundation. The day-long meeting consisted of various sessions about the challenges students face when it comes to learning and how Marshalltown can come together to support three main areas: school readiness, summer learning and attendance.

The All-American City award is a program of the National Civic League. Each year the award has a specific focus. The 2012 award is focused on increasing the number of low-income students reading at grade level by third grade. In 2011 Marshalltown was a finalist for the award, which focused on community involvement.

“How fortunate for us as a school district that we had so many key community players there talking about ‘our stuff’,” said Matt Tullis, director of equity and learning supports. He and Special Services Director Lisa Glenn talked about the seminar with the Board.

Attendance sees increase over 2010-2011

Attendance rates for the first four months of school show an overall increase, according to data shared by Human Resources Director Lisa Koester Monday evening.

In the district Strategic Action Plan, having district attendance at or above 95 percent is part of the objective to improve student engagement. Koester noted that in the first four months of the 2011-2012 school year attendance was not always above 95 percent, but three out of four months did show improvement over 2010-2011 attendance rates.

Koester explained to the Board some of the strategies currently being implemented in Marshalltown Schools to improve attendance. They include Smaller Learning Communities at Marshalltown High School, with students assigned to specific principals, counselors, deans and Learning Supports Specialists; utilization of the LSS for communication, home visits, program assistance and transportation; better defining the District attendance policy; working with the Marshall County Attorney’s office to support prosecution for chronic truancy; meeting with parents when requesting long absences for children; working with large employers to explain expectations for school attendance; phone calls to tardy students and other initiatives.

“We’ve had more assistance from the county attorney and we appreciate it,” Koester said.

She told the Board there was still work to be done, especially in the next few months, when attendance usually dips the as many families take extended trips out of state.

Board reviews results from first  IPI observations

Observation results from the Instructional Practices Inventory (IPI) were shared with the Board Monday.

The IPI process is a set of strategies for profiling student engagement on six categories. This data helps teachers assess and enhance their teaching process to increase engagement and with it student achievement.

The District worked with consultants from Area Education Agency 267, which sent a team of certified trainers to collect baseline information. They will also help train District staff to do future observations.

Over the course of seven days consultants made 1,113 observations of classrooms in every building. Most buildings had more than 100 observations.

Dr. Susan Pecinovsky, associate superintendent for student achievement, explained that observations are ranked according to six categories of engagement – with 1 being the lowest and 6 being the highest. Most observations fell in the middle categories (ranking 3 and 4), with about 13% falling in the top two tiers and 14% in the lower two tiers.

Pecinovsky said the goal is to move toward more engagement, which means more observations at the 5 and 6 level and fewer at 1 and 2. She said work like Common Unit Design, alignment of materials to standards and benchmarks, and established processes for accelerating students are helping to increase engagement.

The next steps for the District include a training session with principals on Jan. 31. Dr. Jerry Valentine, who helped develop IPI, will be on hand to facilitate that training. On March 1 principals will then work with their building teams to train others for observations. There will also be another round of observations in the spring.

Board considers early retirement program for 12-month secretaries

The Board looked at a new policy Monday evening that would provide an early retirement package for 12-month secretaries.

Human Resources Director said the policy is the same as that offered to teachers and administrators, which provides for continuation of district insurance. She said the hope was to offer this as a benefit to employees with long tenures in Marshalltown Schools.

If approved the retirement window would be opened sometime mid-February and close in mid-March.

Notes from the Superintendent

By Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent of Schools

This evening’s meeting included presentations about student attendance and student engagement in our district.  Each report provided baseline data and a description of actions being taken to improve attendance and engagement – two factors which influence student achievement.  New research shows that students who attend school between 85 and 100 percent of the time are proficient on state assessments at much higher rates than students who attend school less than 85 percent of the time.  Similarly, students who are actively engaged in learning score higher on content knowledge, as well as 21st Century Skills of critical thinking, complex communication, creativity, collaboration, productivity and adaptability.

Notes from the Board

By Kay Beach, Board President

Generally speaking, school board members are not educators; we come from varied business and personal backgrounds, sharing a keen interest in—but a limited knowledge of—the educational program in our school district.  We are seven ordinary people in whose hands rests the fate of every child growing up in our community.  WE have a ton of learning to do!  That learning is called “board development,” and each of our meetings is structured to contribute to our pool of information.  Tonight’s meeting was especially rich in learning opportunities; the Education portion of the agenda was full of well-interpreted and presented, pertinent data about student attendance and student engagement in learning.  Our evening ended with two non-public sessions (each specifically allowed in the Code of Iowa) during which we continued to learn about how the district operates financially—and about what an awesome responsibility we are charged with in regard to nurturing students “to become intellectually and personally empowered for citizenship in a changing world.”


Patrick Stansberry, Fisher Grade 3 teacher, effective Jan. 16, 2012; has taught in MCSD for 5 1/2 years.
Traci Wright, Woodbury paraeducator, effective Jan. 30, 2012.
Abbie Lampman, MHS paraeducator, effective Dec. 6, 2011.
Aimee Eitel, Franklin paraeducator, effective Jan. 9, 2012.
Deb Wollam, MHS assistant cheerleading coach, effective Jan. 8, 2012.
Olivia Aguilera, Miller bilingual tutor, effective Jan. 6, 2012.


Dana Rosacker, Rogers paraeducator. Start date TBD; salary: $8.47/hour.
Kelsey Sawtelle, MHS paraeducator. Start date: Jan. 3, 2012; salary: $8.47/hour.
Melissa Marks, Hoglan paraeducator. Start date: Jan. 3, 2012; salary: $9.48/hour.
Emily Hunt, MHS paraeducator. Start date: Dec. 19, 2012; salary: $9.48/hour.
Dusty Edwards, Hoglan paraeducator. Start date: Jan. 3, 2012; salary: $9.48/hour.
Sandy Lurvey, bus monitor. Start date: Jan. 3, 2012; salary: $9.35/hour.
Marla Peter, Miller food service. Start date: Nov. 30, 2011; salary: $9.58/hour.
Jessica Starn, MHS food service. Start date: Jan. 3, 2012. Salary: $9.84/hour.
Ivan Guerra, MHS assistant girls soccer coach. Start date: Jan. 3, 2012; salary: $3,190/year.
Manuel Ordaz Rios, Fisher bilingual tutor. Start date: Jan. 17, 2012; salary: $11/hour.


Matt Nevins, Anson Grade 2 teacher to Anson Grade 3 teacher. Start date: 2012-2013 school year.


Lisa Koester distributed a policy review schedule for the next year that was developed with Board Vice-President Jennifer Wilson.
Initial Review: NEW POLICY 413.7 Voluntary Early Retirement Incentive for 12-Month Employees (Secretaries)

Vol. 12 | Issue 10

2 Jan

View PDF version.

MAP assessments used to inform instruction

The Board learned about the MAP assessment – or Measure of Academic Progress – during Monday’s meeting.

Dr. Susan Pecinovsky, associate superintendent for student achievement, explained the tests to the Board, which have been used at secondary levels for several years in the district, but in the last three years have been given to students in grades 2 through 11.

“It’s a computerized adapted test,” Pecinovsky said. “[That] means students take them online and as students score them correctly they become more challenging and as they score incorrectly they become less challenging.”

Since each student receives different questions depending on how they answer, scores aren’t compared student-to-student. Instead, they’re compared to national norms called RIT scores.

Data collected on the MAP test is used to inform instruction. Teachers can look at a student’s RIT score in a subject area and using the Des Cartes Learning Continuum map out the skills and concepts they need to work on to be successful.

“We don’t have any other assessment we give that is online and is responsive to the students’ knowledge base,” Pecinovsky said.

The district is improving how it uses MAP assessments, including examining if data from MAP assessments can be used to predict performance on other exams like the Iowa Assessment.

District facilities projects remain on schedule

The hallway in the Fisher Elementary addition just days before students moved into the space in November. Students occupied the new addition so work could begin remodeling the original building.

Work on three district facilities projects remains on schedule.

District architect Dave Schulze and Buildings & Grounds Director Rick Simpson updated the Board on work at Fisher Elementary, Miller Middle School and Marshalltown High School Monday night.

Fisher Elementary, which is undergoing a major renovation, remodeling and addition, is still on track for completion of all site work by Aug. 10, 2012. In November part of the new addition was opened, with classes moving into the new space so work could continue in the existing building. Simpson said the process of phasing students into the new space is working well, allowing them to spot any issues in the new space a little at a time while students and teachers get acclimated.

Work on the second floor addition at MHS is on schedule for substantial completion on Jan. 20, with occupancy by Jan. 25.

The security and surveillance project at Miller and MHS is also on track, with current work including final adjustments on camera angles and preparation to formally train selected staff for use of the equipment.

Professional development day held Jan. 2

Monday, Jan. 2, wasn’t a school day for students, but instead a day of learning and collaboration for teachers.

Dr. Susan Pecinovsky, associate superintendent for student achievement, told the Board about the many professional development sessions scheduled during the day, all connected to the five areas of the district Strategic Action Plan.

Many Sessions focused on Common Unit Design, literacy, and the Iowa Assessment (formerly the Iowa Test of Basic Skills). In the Iowa Assessment sessions, participants were able to work through the exam and how it is administered, with follow-up conversations about what it means for instruction.

“That was a great conversation today I had the opportunity to be a part of,” Pecinovsky said.

The District used EdJobs funding to pay teachers for their time. The full-day session was planned in order to keep teachers in the classroom with students instead of pulling them out intermittently throughout the year for training.


By Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent of Schools

In education we tend to speak more about the school year than the calendar year, yet tonight’s meeting included several references to the start of a new year – especially in the areas of construction and educational programs.

Construction in 2012 will include completion of the MHS second floor addition, the Fisher Elementary expansion and remodeling project, design work for renovating the Roundhouse, and an update to our long-term Capital Improvements Project list.

Educational programming will include expansion of preschool classrooms into all six elementary schools; and continued implementation of Common Unit Design, Sheltered Instruction, Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports, Response to Instruction and Intervention, and our Language Literacy Framework.  Additionally, the District’s Strategic Action Plan will remain the driving force behind District continuous improvement efforts – including reform plans of Marshalltown High School, Miller Middle School and Lenihan Intermediate School.

Much more will be accomplished in 2012 than was presented on this short list of items mentioned this evening.  I look forward to the challenge of MCSD exceeding community expectations during the new year as we “nurture students to become intellectually and personally empowered for citizenship in a changing world.”

Happy New Year.


By Kay Beach, Board President

As we listened to the reports regarding the progress of building/renovation projects currently underway in our schools, I couldn’t help feeling an immense sense of pride in the patrons of our district.

It’s been nearly ten years since voters passed a twenty-five million dollar bond issue for the purpose of upgrading facilities in the district.  I see that as a turning point in the history of Marshalltown; it was then that we as a community came together and said, in essence, that we believe in the future of Marshalltown. And with that vote we also indicated our belief in the value of education.

Today as we near the end of that long list of major facilities improvements, our educators are also coming together in a very purposeful way to make major improvements in the education that’s being delivered within those improved walls.  There is a sense of urgency and a strong renewal of the commitment to excellence in every facet of the educational program in our district.  Hang on to your hats; MCSD is taking off!


Ana Huerta, Fisher Bilingual Tutor; effective Dec. 16, 2011.