Tricounty News

EV-W school board wraps up 2012-13, prepares for 2013-14

The June 12 meeting of the Eden Valley-Watkins school board was the first using its new digital BoardBook system. All board documents are available now online, saving time and supplies.

The district is very pleased with their recent purchase of five seats on OdysseyWare. The online software allows up to five students at any one time to utilize the curriculum and program to recover credits. It is used for summer school as well. Principal Kiehn expected six students, but they got 15 this summer. Some of the work must be completed at the school, but some can be done from home (or wherever) by the students at any time. The school monitors progress and activity of the students.

This summer will be busy with completion of building projects. Staging is expected to be installed in the new gym at the end of June. Sod should be installed in mid-August. The air-handling units and boiler are being replaced at the Watkins Elementary School. The decision was made to postpone boiler work at the Eden Valley Elementary building; the worst-case scenario there is that the building will get cold if there are prolonged sub-zero temperatures this winter.

The River Lakes Hockey Association will add an eighth team to the cooperative league: Willmar Community Christian school. More kids means that it’s cheaper per student to participate.

Athletic Director Dave Schneider reported on the crazy spring. No less than 78 events had to be rescheduled this spring because of weather. Last fall, because of increased participation, tryouts were held for the first time for the volleyball team. This went very well, and tryouts will be held again this fall.

The board approved leasing the Elementary School fields for the Aug. 10 Warrant concert there. Parking overflow will be available across the street from the school.

Now that the state legislature has wrapped up, superintendent Messman reported on the impact on the district. While funding is up 1.5 percent on average for schools state-wide, there will be a 1.3-percent increase for EV-W students. The state has decreased the per-pupil weighting scale, so it’s hard to compare previous years with future years. The best news is that, beginning in 2014-15, all-day every-day kindergarten will be fully funded by the state. (The EV-W district has subsidized kindergarten so that all kindergarteners in the district can attend all-day every-day.

Another bit of good news is that the state has allocated $6 per student for mental health, a much-needed service.

Mary Holmberg (sixth-grade teacher) reported on Professional Learning Communities. PLCs soon will be required by the state, but district staff is already doing much of what will be included in PLCs. These are small learning groups, sometimes departments, sometimes teachers with common interests or goals. Mary’s focus: “How can we use what we already have and is working to meet the requirements of the state?” 

The board voted unanimously to join MREA (Minnesota Rural Education Association) instead of SEE (Schools for Equity in Education) because the goals of MREA are more aligned with the EV-W district goals. Both organizations set out to advocate for smaller, rural schools in the state. Another benefit of MREA is that former EV-W superintendent Fred Nolan is now the Executive Director.

The board approved the $8.55 million budget for the 2013-14 school year, with the understanding that revisions will be made throughout the school year, as needed.

The strategic planning process for the district is going very well. All public input has been completed (from several meetings that included a number of community members). Now the data collection and analysis process begins. Three areas were identified as being very important to the community vis à vis the EV-W schools: Academic growth and professional development; safety, security, and a welcoming environment; and technology. The next steps will be creating a school vision, mission statement, and core beliefs.

The superintendent evaluation went well. There were no areas identified as “needs improvement,” and Mark Messman was ranked in the 3-4 range on everything (where 4 is best). “When I took this job, I thought it would be a good job. Now that I’ve completed a year, I know it’s a great job,” Messman said, adding that he is “truly blessed.”

Messman’s observations of the district after his first year as superintendent: (1) This district does an outstanding job recognizing achievement; he was “totally astonished.” (2) There are high standards and expectations of the district, district leadership, administration, and teachers’ union; a higher bar has been set. “Our best years are ahead of us,” he said.

This year’s Elementary enrollment is “probably the biggest it will ever be,” says principal Rob Pederson. It is anticipated that there will be 81 in kindergarten, 72 1st grade, 82 2nd grade, 83 3rd grade, 75 4th grade, 70 5th grade, and 75 6th grade. The elementary facilities will be just about at capacity for students next year.