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School board talks electronic communication

September 5, 2012
By Jenny Kirk , Marshall Independent

MARSHALL - After welcoming Curt Kovash, senior vice president at US Bank in Marshall and the lone Marshall School Board candidate, to the work session meeting Tuesday, board members were introduced to a new Expectations for Staff and Students When Communicating Electronically policy.

The six-page guideline has some "pretty well-defined rules" on acceptable and not acceptable behavior, Marshall Superintendent Klint Willert said.

"There are very clear expectations on how you can use technology in the district," Willert said. "We also wanted the board to know about it in case you get any questions about it."

With the ever-advancing technology out there, monitoring and filtering forms of communication continues to be a challenge for the district, Willert said. For that reason, a TAP (Transparent, Accessible and Professional) system was put in place to serve as a guide.

"If everyone follows TAP, there is no problem," he said.

In the Expectations document, school websites and Moodle are strongly encouraged, as is Infinite Campus type communication, including real-time grades, attendance and assignments and Microsoft Office Outlook e-mail.

Text messaging was considered to be a less acceptable form of communication, and unacceptable methods included non-district e-mail accounts and online games and related activities.

In regards to Facebook, a Facebook fan page was deemed appropriate, while a Facebook group was not.

Any student, employee, parent or guardian or third party with knowledge of a violation can report it to the building principal, teacher, counselor or superintendent. Students and staff who violate the policy will be subject to discipline. If criminal laws are also violated, law enforcement will be notified.

Board members also got their first look at the newest district scorecard, though some of the data is forthcoming.

"This is a process we've had in place for a few years," Willert said. "It's our latest scorecard that we have created as a result of our strategic plan."

The biggest issue that needs to be worked out yet, Willert said, was not only making sense of the rankings and percentages, but also making sure the targets were actually attainable.

"That's the trick," he said. "Making information out of data."

Willert pointed out two key district goals - that 85 percent of students meet or exceed expected spring to spring growth targets in the NWEA (Northwest Evaluation Association) reading and math assessment - is actually a very steep goal.

"We have been communicating with NWEA and they told us that if 85 percent of our students reached that goal, we'd be in the 95th to 96th percentile in the country," Willert said. "There's a difference between stretch goals and realistic goals."

One key goal that the district met this past year is a 98 percent graduation rate. Two that fell short, though, were the 90 percent reading proficiency for third-graders and the 90 percent proficiency of sixth-graders on AIMS web tests.

"Some numbers went up and some went down," Willert said. "It's still a snapshot. But we continue look at trends over time and we'll keep this updated as we go along. It's a good tool in tracking data."

Board members were also given a Race to the Top district executive summary, describing the grant opportunity that Marshall has. Willert explained that conversations had started with the districts of Jackson County Central, Minneota, Pipestone Area and Lakeview, along with the Southwest/West Central Service Cooperative.

"The key is that it would be individualized learning plans for each student," Willert said. "So it would be a student-centered approach."

While Marshall met the eligibility requirement of having a minimum of 2,000 students, the district did not meet the criteria for having at a free and reduced lunch student population of at least 40 percent. But when factoring in the other four districts, a 41 percent rate was met.

"With the number of students pooled, we have roughly 6,500 students," Willert said. "That would put us in the $10 million to $20 million award. And, it's a four-year plan, so you can do the math."

The Race to the Top program is "pretty dynamic," Willert said, and would change the whole idea of what the district does with education.

"Technology really can be the death of education, but the dawn of learning," he said. "It's not just what we're teaching, but what students are learning."

While an October deadline looms in the near future, more discussions will likely happen before that time. Part of that discussion may revolve around the flexible learning year (FLY) and what a Race to the Top grant would mean to the consortium of FLY schools.

"Please stay tuned," Willert said. "It has some pretty profound implications."

 
 

 

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