Vol. 13 | Issue 6

8 Nov

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Youth Institute attendees share their experiences

Marshalltown High School students Emma Runquist and Abby Snyder told the Board about their experiences at the Global Youth Institute.

The students were among 150 students from around the world selected for the World Food Prize Foundation event held Oct. 18-20 in Des Moines. The institute brought together students from 25 states and six countries. Students presented papers on food shortage around the world – Runquist focusing on Jordan and Snyder focusing on Peru. Students presented their research and discussed findings with international experts and their peers in roundtable discussions. Student papers will be published in the Youth Institute Proceedings and made available online.

Runquist and Snyder were able to view the World Food Prize Laureate ceremony, join experts at Borlaug Dialogue (“a ‘davos-style’ dialogue which brings together over 600 international experts and policy leaders from 65 countries to address cutting-edge challenges in food security and international development”), participate in an Oxfam hunger banquet, tour the Des Moines waterworks plant and bag meals to send overseas.

Both students told the Board they are pursuing internship opportunities with the World Food Prize.

Literacy work progresses with help from UNI Jacobson Center

Marshalltown Schools are enhancing their literacy instruction with the help of the University of Northern Iowa’s Jacobson Center.

So far the partnership has resulted in six teachers being trained in Reading Recovery, an intensive early literacy strategy taking place at all District elementary buildings. Three instructional coaches were also trained in the Comprehensive Literacy Model and will receive graduate-level credit and certification from UNI. An additional four instructional coaches will be trained next year.

“We are creating a systemic, rigorous, viable curriculum in the area of literacy,” said Dr. Susan Pecinovsky, associate superintendent for student achievement. Instructional coaches Elizabeth Overstake, Lora Kester, Melanie Knoll and Penny Duer told the Board about their work with the Jacobson Center and the Comprehensive Literacy Model during Monday’s meeting.

The Comprehensive Literacy Model has 10 key features, beginning with a framework for literacy. This uses a workshop approach to meet the needs of students, blending small group and independent work, conferencing, mini lessons and sharing to assist students with varying needs and skill levels.

The CLM utilizes coaching and mentoring to increase educator efficiency. Pilot classrooms are set up where teachers can view the literacy framework in action, collaborate with each other and learn from one another. All learning is tied to the high standards of the Common Core Standards and aligned with specific literacy benchmarks. A comprehensive assessment system – including data walls in every building – allow educators to see the “big picture” of learning in their buildings, as well as drill down to the details needed to help struggling students.

When students need that additional support system interventions like Reading Recovery and small-group interventions are delivered through additional instruction time and supplemental opportunities.

Through collaborative learning teams and a well-designed literacy plan, students can work together to achieve goals while educators guide them through clear, focused, rigorous curriculum aligned across the district.

“We’ll be able to guarantee that for children regardless of the building they’re in or the time of day it is,” Pecinovsky said.

The CLM also includes components focused on integrating technology into learning and highlighting the successes and achievements of students.

The cost of training and the work of the instructional coaches is paid for entirely by the Jacobson Center.

NET High Academy offers path to high school diploma

The Board approved an agreement with NET High Academy that helps returning dropouts earn a Marshalltown High School diploma.

“These are students [for whom] who graduating in a four or five year window is no longer feasible for a variety of reasons,” said Dr. Susan Pecinovsky, associate superintendent for student achievement.

New to Iowa, NET High Academy offers online competency-based instruction. Students will be assessed using COMPASS and National Career Readiness Certification and will earn a diploma from MHS after completion. The Community Y will house the program, though it can be utilized anywhere online.

Waukee and Saydel schools districts are also offering this program.

“This is one of a continuum of services we have for our at-risk students,” Pecinovsky said.

Early retirement program discontinued for 2013-2014

The Board voted 6-1 to discontinue the voluntary early retirement incentive for 2013-2014 for certified staff, 12-month secretaries and administrators.

Several educators addressed the Board on the subject, asking them to either continue the program next year or postpone a decision until sometime in 2013. Board members said they would review the policy every year and that the intention was not to remove the policy permanently.

The Board is considering amending the current policy to extend the deadline for taking early retirement in 2012-2013 to Jan. 4, 2013. The deadline was set at Dec. 1, 2012. The Board will discuss this at the Nov. 19 meeting.


By Sherm Welker, Board President

Tonight’s meeting was held at the MHS Media Center (Library) to afford everyone interested a chance to hear and be heard on policy issues for next year. The board set aside the Early retirement plan for 2013-2014 in light of the General Fund budget projections. We anticipate that the allowable growth rate established by the state will affect our state funding this next year along with a decrease in enrollment. Funding of our programs from the federal level many be reduced as well. In the weeks and months ahead we will be tasked with solving the budget issues that are now standing ahead of us.

Industry has suffered with low volumes and profits for the last 3-5 years and now we may see some fallout into the public sector. We have dodged the proverbial bullet over the past several years with increased enrollment, state budget guarantees, and federal bailout backfills on funding. Only time will tell when the economy will strengthen and new money will be available but we have a good plan for the future and will continue to work for district wide improvements.

Our ability to offer opportunity for students is far superior to many other districts and I encourage our people to continue to focus on the positives. Improving the performance of our students and keeping our finances strong are difficult tasks but demonstrate our commitment to making a difference in our community.


By Dr. Marvin Wade, Superintendent of Schools

As employees reflect on the Board’s decision to discontinue the Voluntary Retirement Incentive Program for 2013-2014, I hope they’ll remember the Board is also in the process changing the deadline for informing the District of intent to participate in the Program at the end of this school year. Currently, eligible staff members have until Dec. 1, 2012 to notify the District of this intent – however, the Board requested this deadline be changed to Jan. 4, 2013. All indications are that the Board will approve this proposed change in policy when it is presented as a First Reading during the Nov. 19 board meeting.

The board meeting also included a report about MCSD’s partnership with the University of Northern Iowa’s Richard O. Jacobson Center for Comprehensive Literacy. Staff members trained in the Comprehensive Literacy Model (CLM) explained 10 features of the model and how it’s being implemented in the District.

There was also a presentation of the Comprehensive Intervention Model (CIM) that provides structured interventions for students who need extra assistance beyond the instruction provided in the classroom. Evidence about the effectiveness of CLM and CIM is impressive, so MCSD is fortunate to be one of the few districts in the state selected to partner with the Jacobson Center.

From a “big picture” perspective, these reports serve as excellent examples of how MCSD professionals are implementing effective practices consistent with priorities of the District – in this case, CLM and CIM are integrally aligned with Common Unit Design, Sheltered Instruction, and Response to Instruction and Intervention.

Change orders approved for two projects

Change orders for Fisher Elementary and the Support Services building were approved Monday night.

The change orders at Fisher Elementary are the final changes orders for the project. The project closed with a total of $153,793 spent on change orders. A five percent contingency is built into the project budget and this total represented a 2.77 percent contingency. The amount approved Monday night was for $12,225.01.

Change orders on the Support Services project are at 3.09 percent with $49,599.00 approved Monday night.

Click here for the personnel changes approved Nov. 5.

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