Dec. 21, 2020 Board Meeting

22 Dec

Second semester Return to Learn plan approved
Marshalltown Schools will stay the course with current learning model options through the end of the third quarter after board action Monday evening.

Specifically, students in grades 7-12 will continue to learn in a hybrid model, which includes block scheduling with alternating on-site and remote learning; students in grades PK-6 will continue with fully in-person learning. All families were given a fully virtual learning option when second semester preferences were collected in November. 

One major change planned at the PK-6 level is that Edgenuity will no longer be used to provide virtual learning; instead, Google Classroom and Google Meet will be used to deliver virtual learning.

“I would anticipate we will be back to the board sometime in March to talk about where we’re at,” said Superintendent Dr. Theron Schutte. 

The District’s recommendation to continue with the current learning models was made with student and staff safety in mind. Dr. Schutte acknowledged differences of opinion within the community on the topic of learning during the pandemic, adding the District’s Return to Learn plan was designed to balance student and staff safety with student achievement during unprecedented times.

Also continuing next semester are dozens of District safety measures, which were put in place to prevent disease spread in school buildings. Those measures include social distancing rules, a face mask requirement, frequent deep cleaning and sanitation, and widely available hand sanitizer, among many others. 

MHS seniors discuss upcoming work experience at Iowa Capitol
Monday, Jan. 11 will be a big day for MHS seniors Abbey Welden and Mary Kate Gruening – both will begin their work as legislative Pages at the Iowa Capitol Building in Des Moines. 

Welden and Gruening were recognized by the board Monday, and they shared their motivation to become Pages. The position will see the students assist state lawmakers and policy leaders during the upcoming Iowa Legislative Session. 

For more on these exceptional Bobcat students and their upcoming work experience in politics and government, click here

Extended Learning Program provides quality education for gifted students
Meeting all Bobcat students’ educational needs is one of the core goals of Marshalltown Schools, and the Extended Learning Program (XLP) plays a major role in meeting that goal. 

A dedicated team of XLP teachers shared an overview of the program Monday, highlighting the history and importance of XLP instruction. 

“The needs of our gifted and talented students are not always met by the regular curriculum,” said XLP teacher Vanessa Engel, who serves Lenihan Intermediate School and Marshalltown Learning Academy students. “The XLP program helps high-ability students meet their academic potential.” 

Susan Fritzell has taught gifted Bobcat students for two decades and said there have been exciting changes recently, one of which involves how high-ability students are identified. The Cognitive Ability Test (CogAT) is used alongside a student’s ISASP score to determine if the XLP program is the right fit. 

Once identified, XLP students are given a Personalized Education Plan (PEP) and work with a curriculum built to meet their learning needs. Students in the program also have access to academic competitions, small group enrichment, independent studies and projects, mentorships, and more. 

The XLP teachers emphasized the importance of continuing to adjust the program to meet the needs of gifted Bobcat students. 

Training in co-teaching approved for 27 District staff members
With board approval Monday, more than two dozen general education teachers will be trained in the area of co-teaching. In a co-teaching system, general education teachers work closely with English as a second language (ESL or ELL) and special education teachers to meet the needs of students.

The training will touch on how these instructor teams can plan, teach, and assess students with special needs and students who are learning English. 

“The District has had a handful of people trained in this in the past … we needed to re-create more of a system-level thinking of how can we make this a priority,” said Director of Instruction Dr. Lisa Stevenson. “We’re really excited to be able to have an evidence-based strategy that our teachers have been asking for training and support in.” 

2021-22 At-Risk budget set
The District’s At-Risk budget for next school year has been approved, with the action coming after previous presentations by District leadership. The At-Risk budget supports drop-out prevention and the summer Bobcat University program, among many other important programs. 

Director Business Operations Paulette Newbold said the 2021-22 At-Risk will increase only slightly from the current year’s budget, meaning a minimal impact on the property tax rate. Despite no new programming being added to next year’s At-Risk budget, Dr. Stevenson said the program’s offerings have grown significantly in the past five years. She said the approved budget will continue to serve and benefit Bobcat students. 

Proposal shared for District communications/marketing audit
Communications Director Adam Sodders shared information on an anticipated District communications/marketing audit for the board’s consideration.

The National School Public Relations Association (NSPRA) communications audit would center on gathering family, staff, and community stakeholder feedback to continue improving District communications. No action was taken on this item at Monday’s meeting; an official recommendation and vote on the communications audit is planned for the Tuesday, Jan. 19 regular meeting. 

Student School Board Representative update
Student School Board Representative Haley Reed delivered an update from Marshalltown High School. Her presentation featured the MHS gingerbread house contest, which concluded on Dec. 14, as well as a look at MHS basketball and swimming. 

Eight students approved for early graduation
The board approved eight Bobcat students – six seniors and two juniors – for early graduation Monday. All eight students worked hard to meet the District’s graduation requirements prior to the end of the school year. 

Among the early graduates are seniors Godgive Gbala, Mary Kate Gruening, Alysha Ortega, Abbey Welden, Hector Yanez, and Kordell Cripps. The junior students set to graduate early are Austin Christen and Kadence Hartwell. Congratulations to all! 

Communications
Communications Director Adam Sodders reviewed the good news from the district by sharing newspaper articles as well as school communications articles. That list can be seen here.

Personnel items
For a list of personnel items approved Monday, click here.

Policies
First Reading – 

  • 204.1 (new 210.2) – Regular Meeting (amended, second reading waived)
  • 102 – Equal Educational Opportunity (amended, second reading waived)
  • 603.2 – Summer School Instruction (amended, second reading waived)
  • 603.3 – Special Education (amended, second reading waived)

Initial Review – 

  • 204.3 (new 212) – Closed Sessions (marked as reviewed)
  • 204.5 – Organizational Meeting (will come back for a first reading)
  • 200.1-R1 – Organizational Meeting Procedures (will come back for a first reading)
  • 210.1 – Annual Meeting (will come back for a first reading)
  • 507.8 – Special Health Services (will come back for a first reading)
  • 607.2 – Student Health Services (marked as reviewed)
  • 605.6 – Internet-Appropriate and Safe Use (marked as reviewed)
  • 701.2 – Transfer of Funds (marked as reviewed)

From Board President Bea Niblock
“Winter Break is upon us. Wishing each of you a memorable winter holiday – whichever of them you choose to celebrate. May all of your holiday hopes and dreams become a reality. Hoping your time away from planning, checking papers and screen time is restful and relaxing. Best wishes for a new year of health and happiness!” – Bea Niblock

Board President’s quote shared at the Dec. 21 meeting: 
“Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child at Christmas time.” – Laura Ingalls Wilder

The next Marshalltown School Board meeting is set for 5 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 19, 2021; the meeting will take place on a Tuesday due to the MLK Jr. holiday on Monday, Jan. 18. The meeting will be available to watch via YouTube live stream. 
NOTE: The Jan. 19 meeting will be the only regular board meeting in the month of January.

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