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Bullying prevention program to roll out at Morris Area in October

MORRIS - The Morris Area School District will officially kick-off a new bullying prevention program across the district in October.

In preparation for implementing the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program, Morris Area students will have early dismissals the next two Mondays - Sept. 10 and Sept. 17 - for Olweus training for district staff.

Since the board officially approved implementing the Olweus program in March, the group has secured funding, created the Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee, administered a student survey, participated in training with a professional Olweus trainer, and trained transportation and criteria staff in the program, Cheryl Kuhn, coordinator of the program, told the Morris Area School Board on Tuesday.

The Olweus Bullying Prevention Coordinating Committee consists of 22 district staff and teachers. These members will serve as trainers for the rest of the staff in the district. A parent organization is also forming in association with the program, said Kuhn.

Last April, the Olweus group administered a survey students in grades three through 12 to get a sense of where the district is when it comes to bullying and disrespectful behavior.

The results - around 220 pages of data - show that the "school is doing pretty good," said Kuhn.

The data showed that most students are "disengaged onlookers," said Kuhn.

"They see what's going on, their gut says, 'I should really do something,' but they haven't been empowered enough to actually do something," said Kuhn. The goal, said Kuhn, is to help students to become "possible defenders" or "defenders" and speak up against bullying.

The survey also highlighted bullying "hot spots" in the school - hallways, the lunch room, and recess - where supervision could increase to help deal with bullying and showed the need for a common language to talk about what bullying is across the entire district.

The two upcoming training sessions for teachers and staff will help develop this common language and adopt a standard intervention for responding to bullying behavior before the program officially rolls out in October.

The Bullying Prevention Committee is also working to reach out to parents, students and the community about the program, "letting them know what we're doing in our school district [and] letting them know that this is not a chasing after because we have trouble in our school district, but it's a preventative thing," said Kuhn.

District has positive test, measurement scores

MAES, MAHS and the district as a whole made Adequate Yearly Progress in all areas for the 2011 - 2012 school year.

MAHS and the district missed making AYP in 2009 in both reading and math, and staff has been working hard to improve results since.

"Certainly we've been intentional with our efforts in that area and we feel good about that," said Monson.

The district also scored well in Minnesota's new accountability system, Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR). Morris Area Elementary School, a Title 1 school, was classified as "celebration eligible," meaning that the school is in the top 60 to 85 percent top performing schools in the state, said Monson.

MAES will have the option to apply to be a "Celebration School," a recognition given to only 10 percent of the celebration eligible schools.

MAHS is not eligible for this designation because the school does not receive Title 1 funding, said Monson.

Other business

• The district has implemented a system to accept credit card payments for lunch, activity fees, classroom fees, drivers ed and other expenses called rSchoolToday. In the first three weeks of the program, 45 parents had made payments totaling just over $6,800, and feedback from parents have been positive.

• Morris will be participating in a pilot program for principal evaluation along with 16 other schools across the state of Minnesota. In the 2013-2014 school year, all schools will be required to do principal evaluations, so working with the pilot program will help position Morris for that transition, said Monson.

The pilot program includes three types of evaluations - a supervisor evaluation, a survey from stakeholders like teachers and parents, and school performance data.

• The board scheduled a work session to discuss the potential consolidation with Cyrus on Thursday, Sept. 13 at 5:00 p.m.