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School board sets goals for school year

MORRIS – Members of the Morris Area School District will focus on technology and academic achievement during the 2013-2014 school year, after members of the Morris Area School Board made those areas a strategic priority for the year.

On Tuesday, Oct. 4, members of the board participated in a retreat with Jeremy Kovash, executive director at Lakes Country Service Cooperative, and Katie Klanderud, director of board development at the Minnesota School Boards Association. As part of the retreat, board members focused on identifying goals for the 2013 - 2014 school year.

At Monday’s meeting, the board discussed their top four choices and voted on one- and two-year priorities for the district.

For the 2013-2014 school year, the board voted to focus on developing a comprehensive technology plan and improving academic opportunities for all learners for the 2013-2014 school year.

Technology has been an ongoing project for the district, and creating a comprehensive plan has been a goal since the board hired a full-time technology director, Stephen Lien, and invested $150,000 in technology upgrades in June 2012.

“I know that we’ve taken the position about cell phones in the classroom and limiting that stuff, but at some point in time we’re going to have to change that because that’s the world the kids live in is technology,” said board chairman Kurt Gartland. “As an education system we have to guide that and allow that in, but we have to have control of it.”

Board member Brad Zimmel said it was important to have a long-term vision for technology because it is constantly changing.

“What you can’t allow yourself to do is fall so far behind you can’t catch up,” said Zimmel.

“Technology is a beast, if you want to call it that, that you’re always one step behind,” concurred board member Norm Nissen. “But I think we have to be a little bit satisfied with being one step behind and have a goal to always improve.”

Academic achievement has also a priority for the district, especially for students who receive special services.

Superintendent Scott Monson noted that the district often focuses academic opportunities on high-achieving students. But with cuts to the district’s Title I budget means it is more difficult to reach all students.

“I’m not sure we’re always able to do everything we’d like to do for the kids that struggle a little bit,” said Monson.

The remaining two goals – fostering school pride through branding and community engagement and developing a budget plan to support long-term growth – will be focus areas through the 2014-2015 school year.

Over the next month, district administrators will work to identify action steps and timelines for each of the priority areas.

MAES changes fundraising plans for school year

Morris Area Elementary School is planning a significant change to the way fundraising is handled for the upcoming school year, Principal Ken Gagner told the school board in a memo.

During the school year, students and families have been asked for donations to pay for things like “a trip to the zoo, ski event, overnight class trip, music and PE supplies or numerous other ‘extras’ which enhance the education experience for our students,” said Gagner. Last year, the total came to just over $20,000.

“My goals is to change this time consuming practice of collecting and asking for money multiple times over the school year,” he said.

This year, the school is planning a single fundraising event for the year. The one-time fundraising drive includes a letter to businesses asking them to sponsor an event, a letter to parents asking them for a contribution, an elementary school raffle organized through the Family School Partnership and the Morris Eagles, and an elementary “Pack the Gym” night for the Friday, Dec. 6 basketball game against Benson.

Letters to businesses have already been mailed, and parents should receive information on Nov. 1, said Gagner.

Community members can also recycle paper grocery bags at Willie’s SuperValu –  the store reimburses the elementary school five cents for every “good” bag returned – and buy books during the book fair.

The Physical Education department will also continue to collect Campbell’s Soup labels, Big G Box tops and collect pledges for the Jump for Heart/Hoop for Heart event through the American Heart Association.

Other business

  • The board approved a new cooperative agreement for girls’ basketball that includes Morris Area, Chokio-Alberta and Tiernan Homeschool.
  • The board approved a two-year contract agreement with the Morris Area Bus Drivers’ Association. The agreement includes a 0.7 percent net increase (of salary, mileage payments, benefits, training conference costs and extra curricular costs) for the 2012-2013 school year and a 2.6 percent net increase for 2013-2014.