May 13, 2020
Dear ISD 601 Families:
Thank you. Thank you for working with your schools as we navigated distance learning. Thank you for supporting your students through these unusual and stressful times. Thank you for reaching out when there were problems with distance learning, or when your child needed more to do. Thank you for sharing information with us. Thank you for your support of school staff as they implemented a style of learning that we didn’t sign up for. People who work in schools do so because they care about children. To not be able to have the in person contact with their students has been very difficult for our staff.
We have all learned a lot through this process. We’ve been able to identify some areas that we need to strengthen in our overall instructional practices and in the equipment we provide to our students. District staff have been reflecting on what went well with distance learning, what elements of distance learning can be folded into regular classroom instruction, and what should be changed. We invite you, our families, to provide us feedback as well. There are links on our website for a survey for families and for students. Please take a few minutes to fill them out.
We are hoping to have a normal start to our 2020-21 school year -- with students and staff physically present in our buildings. We also realize that the presence of COVID19 in our community and state may force us to provide instruction in a different way. Over the summer, administration will be researching the various options. We will work with our staff, our families and students to develop alternatives that will allow us to provide instruction while still following whatever directives we are given by the state. When you fill out the survey, if you would be willing to serve on a committee to help guide this, please provide contact information.
So while we don’t know exactly what the fall looks like, we WILL be prepared to meet any eventuality. One of our elementary teachers shared that during a virtual meeting, one of her students talked about how hard the day’s math assignment was. Another student chimed in, “Remember, we can do hard things.” That’s an important belief for all of us.
Sue R. Chase, Superintendent
Dan Boushee, Elementary Principal
Dominic Krump, High School Principal
April 24, 2020
Dear ISD 601 Fosston Schools Families:
As you have probably heard by now, Governor Walz has extended distance learning until the end of the school year. The Governor also designated May 1 and May 4 as planning days for all schools statewide; our staff will plan distance learning for the remainder of the year, prepare for summer school, and make the necessary arrangements to move out of the building for construction. Students will not be required to check in on May 1 or May 4. Meals will still be prepared for pick-up and delivery on May 1st and May 4th and childcare for essential workers will also take place. Our last student contact day is schedule for May 15.
Our goal in this endeavor is to make it meaningful for students without overwhelming anyone. If you, as a parent or family, are having challenges, or feeling a bit overwhelmed, please reach out to your children’s teachers. Every grade level, every subject must be a little different, but we want it to be a system that works for you. We will not know if we can do better unless we hear from you. Teachers are available every day that we were scheduled to be in session and are happy to hear from you. We are currently waiting on more direction from the state as to how those last few weeks will look and what the summer may hold for everyone. Thank you for your continued support and appreciation for all the efforts our staff during these trying times. Please know that everyone on staff has stepped up to take on these challenges. Everyone is monitoring and adjusting to the ever-changing variables we are being handed.
We know that families are wondering about rites of passage like prom and graduation. As of today, prom is scheduled to take place August 1. Grand March will be held at the football field, dinner and dance at Ventures, and the after-party at the Civic Center. More details will be emailed to students at a later date. A graduation event will be held, but it will look different from the traditional ceremony. We are still working on the details, but plan to have information to share with the community next week. The plan will need to take into account any orders by Governor Walz and advisories from the Department of Health.
Thank you all for your continued patience and support during these challenging times! When we know more, you will know more.
Please take care of yourselves and your families!
Sue Chase, Superintendent
“Committed to Excellence”
The Survey Says!
Results of the Community Surveys and Strategic Planning at ISD 601
Superintendent Sue Chase
In October, community members, students at ISD 601, parents of ISD 601 students, and staff were surveyed to learn what is important, what is valued and what is needed, to provide the best possible education for students.
So, what did the surveys tell us? Students, parents and community members overwhelming felt that the school did a very good job teaching core academic subjects. Other areas that all groups felt were strengths was the creation of a caring environment, offering a variety of activities and preparing students for college success. Students indicated they valued small class sizes and felt generally safe at school. They also indicated that school prepared them to work well with others. Interestingly enough, other data points, such as state test results, graduation rates and the Minnesota Student Survey results supported these perceptions that students, community and staff have about ISD 601.
The surveys and meetings in the communities also provided direction in broad areas for improvement and challenge. Nearly everyone identified facilities upkeep and improvement as an area that needed focus. All groups surveyed indicated a need for more technical or career oriented courses -- since 80% of the jobs now and in the future do not require a 4 year college degree. A number of respondents also felt that students need greater exposure to life-skills (“adulting”) activities such as handling finances and credit, cooking, health and nutrition. A number of students and parents indicated a need for support for students who are in a high stress environment. Finances was another big area of challenge. Most indicated an understanding that revenue has been shrinking, and the need to allocate resources to the priorities of the district. And again, all of these are supported by other data sources (MN Student Survey, district budgets and fund balances, regional employment forecasts).
So, the district did the surveys. So what? What are we doing with those results? In January, a team of students, staff and board members reviewed the survey results, looking for common themes. After discussion of the results, the group developed a set of belief statements, core values and broad areas of focus. These were then distilled into a strategic plan, which the board will review during the March meeting and adopt in the April meeting. Once adopted, the plan will be posted to the website and released to media sources. This plan will provide direction for the next 5 years; every decision made will be weighed against the plan, meaning we will ask, “How will this help us move forward towards our long range goals?” The plan is a culmination of hours of work from a number of people throughout the district, and provides a roadmap for the educational journey we are on.
(The 2nd in a series of articles around career preparation at FHS)
What do you want to be when you grow up? It’s a question we begin asking children from the time they enter school -- or earlier. We know their answers change drastically as they experience new things. However, one of the goals of high school is to “produce Career and College Ready graduates” who can answer that age-old question. Some high school students have a general idea of potential careers, while for many others, the only plan is to start college and figure it out from there. And for those in that situation, that can be a very costly experiment.
A few years back, Fosston High School English Teacher Laura Juve noticed that many of the students in her college in the high school composition class didn’t know how to navigate college websites to find basic information, didn’t have a good idea of what it might take to enter a particular career (if they had an idea of a career), or even some of the duties one might expect on the job. Mrs. Juve recognized the need for students to have increased awareness, and so, the careers paper was born.
A requirement for the College in the High School Composition I class, the career paper is written for an audience of high school peers with little or no background knowledge about the career choice. Students are required to identify a career and then begin research into a college that would get a student ready for the career. The requirements of the paper include all educational background needed for the profession (2 year program, tech program, 4 year college, graduate school, etc.) Writers need to be able to define the terms for their readers, as well as outline costs for the program, admission requirements for both the college and the program, financial aid options and length of program.
The most beneficial requirement of the paper, according to both Mrs. Juve and her students, is the interview. Writers are required to identify an individual that is not a relative or school employee that is actively working in the profession of interest. And not just general, but specific to the writer’s interest. For example, if the student is interested in becoming a nurse practitioner, they would need to interview a nurse practitioner, not a CNA or LPN. Writers then create at least 10 questions that their teacher approves, and then conduct the interview -- either through email, phone or in person.
Several Fosston High School students shared their research and writing experience. Kiana Anderson spoke about how she was interested in art, and by interviewing a graphic designer from Garden Valley Telephone, she learned how she could take her interests and shape those into a career. Kiana spoke about how the interview process broadened her perspective on her career choice. Jace Hanson, another student whose topic blends passion (gaming and bringing people together) and career (game design) spoke about how the interview allowed him to get greater insight into the personal side of his career choice. He was able to learn about overall job satisfaction, which he would not have gotten simply through traditional research. Josh Lee indicated that his interview with a veterinarian also gave a personal take on his potential career. It convinced him that though the schooling was difficult, it would be worth the effort.
Treydon Boushee shared that he did two interviews. He let his passion for robotics guide his career choice towards mechanical engineering. He was surprised to learn how broad the field really is, and “how little an engineer learns in college” about the specific applications. All of these students said the paper forced them to explore their career more in depth and helped them refine their career choices.
Sometimes, the project helped students eliminate careers that didn’t fit. Mrs. Juve shared a story about a student that actually did a job shadow with a veterinarian -- and decided the career wasn’t a good fit, after the experience of having to put an animal down. Olivia Blaser thought she wanted to be a criminal profiler. She interviewed a retired FBI profiler and learned that the process to get to be a profiler (general law enforcement, investigator, profiler) didn’t appeal to her at all. Olivia indicated it was better to learn that now, rather than part way through the process. She is now exploring other options.
Hannah Noel indicated that teaching was a field she was interested in. Hannah noted that the interview gave her both the positive and negatives of the career, and confirmed for her that the work of a teacher is important. She shared that her interviewee expressed how much of an impact a teacher can make….and Hannah indicated that she would consider returning to ISD 601 to teach, once licensed.
According to senior Naomi Swanson, finding the right person to interview can be a difficult task. Some people can’t talk about their jobs, due to the nature of the work they do. Starting early and self-setting deadlines are helpful to work around that issue. Students noted the importance of developing and asking good questions. Hannah Noel explained that the amount of information a writer could get would depend on what was asked, and how they were asked. All of the students noted that the sooner a writer started the paper, the better. They all also noted that doing the paper forced them to really look at their career options and become knowledgeable about how to reach their goals.
Career planning is an important part of high school. The State of Minnesota, through its World’s Best Workforce requirement, expects that students that graduate high school are prepared to either enter the workforce or go on to some sort of post-secondary training. And more importantly, families and communities share that expectation. Just as Mrs. Juve anticipated when she developed the project, students who complete the process are that much more prepared when they graduate. Hannah Noel encourages students to begin career exploration early, noting, “It (graduation) comes up faster than you think.”
When one of my sons was very young, we noticed he had a very hard time separating from us when we needed to take him to daycare or anywhere for that matter. He’d scream, cry and throw a fit. He did not handle change very well and often responded with intense emotions. Now this isn’t an uncommon behavior among 3 year olds, but when both parents have to work, it becomes a daily torment. As a parent, I had concerns about the eventuality of school; as an educator, I knew there were some very important skills he needed to have to be successful in school. And as a high school teacher that worked with teenagers, I knew I didn’t have enough of a background in early childhood to do this on my own. Fortunately, the district I lived in had a strong ECFE program, that led into a strong School Readiness program. So, we went to ECFE together and met other families and worked on improving his response to change. By the time he was 4, we were ready for the school readiness program that focused on some of the more academic skills. And when our son went to kindergarten, he was better able to handle change, better equipped socially and able to thrive. He is now a successful adult with a good steady job, his own family and home. The importance of those early years, and building confindence in children, cannot be overestimated.
Fosston ISD 601 operates two school readiness programs under the larger early childhood umbrella (which includes ECFE). One program is designed for children who are three by September 1st, and a separate program for children who are 4 by September 1 of the year. The 3 year old program operates out of the former Home Ec room at Fosston High School, while the 4 year old program is housed in classrooms at Magelssen Elementary.
The 3 year old program meets for two hours one day each week. There are specific academic concepts that have been identified as predictors of school success - reasoning, literacy and language that students are introduced to during their class. Students also develop skills such as listening, taking turns, responding appropriately to directions, working well with others, managing strong emotions, identifying emotions, developing empathy and developing coordination in movement. Children in the 3 year old program are exposed to to those concepts through play. During the two hours in school, children experience activity tables with art supplies, pretend play areas, puzzles and free play areas. During a recent visit to the classroom, I noted three boys using toy “heavy equipment” to cooperatively load, transport and unload toys. Children worked with the two adults in the room sorting, making patterns and identifying numbers -- as a game. A high school student was in the room, as part of a school to work program, actively engaging in reading with the children and helping them with their play. This high school student shared that she was considering a career in education -- maybe working as a para-educator, or with special needs students. Language use and problem solving were at the fore-front of all the activities. There are currently 24 3 year olds in the program that are divided into three class groups. Students in the 3 year old program are brought to school by their parents, and picked up when class is complete.
The 4 year old program meets two full days per week. Students can ride the school bus, and they follow the elementary school schedule. The 4 year old students have access to the elementary library, playground/gymnasium and cafeteria. There are currently two classrooms, each staffed by a teacher and para-educator. Additionally, Head Start co-locates and provides a teacher as well. There are currently 48 children involved, and they are divided into 4 sections. Much like the 3 year olds, learning is play based, with different stations, activities and games with a purpose. Program staff know that academic skills will be stronger if children can identify and manage their emotions, have empathy for others, can take turns, can listen, can communicate and can follow directions (social emotional learning), so many of the activities focus on building those skills while developing academic skills. Children dive into more school related concepts like understanding letter sounds, rhyming and alliteration. Participants also develop a comfort level with the structure, routine and environment of the elementary school. Over time, it has been apparent that children who participate in a quality early childhood program like the one Fosston ISD 601 provides, tend to do better upon entering formal school, than do their peers who do not participate.
School readiness programming is paid for using a variety of funding sources. For qualifying families, the state provides Pathways scholarships which are used to pay for programming. These are awarded based on income, and families qualify by completing the Federal School Lunch form. Families that qualify for reduced price lunches on the form pay a fee of $300. And finally, families that do not qualify for the Pathways scholarship pay a fee of $495 for the year. A small amount of levied funds is included in the budget, under the Community Education levy. The district has applied, in previous years, for Voluntary Pre-Kindergarten (VPK) funding from the state, but has not been awarded any funds; we will continue to apply, with the hopes that the state frees up additional monies.
Since fall programming began, we’ve observed the rise in confidence levels. At the beginning of the 3 year old program, two or three of the children had a reaction similar to my son’s -- crying and resistance to parent’s leaving. Before break, I heard two of those children excitedly talking to each other. One said, “Look, here comes teacher!”. And when their teacher was ready to bring them to the classroom, there were no tears -- they walked confidently away from their parents.
Let’s say that for every $1 you invest, you could get a return of $3 or more. Seems like a smart investment, right? And believe it or not, this opportunity actually exists for taxpayers...it’s provided through quality early childhood programming. Abundant research, from the 1960s to today, shows a direct link between participating in quality early childhood programs and better outcomes for the individual person, society, and the economy. In an article about the economic benefits of quality early childhood programming, Former Federal Reserve Bank Senior Vice President and Director of Research Art Rolnick stated, “Most of the numerous projects and initiatives that state and local governments fund in the name of creating new private businesses and new jobs result in few public benefits. In contrast, studies find that well-focused investments in early childhood development yield high public as well as private returns."
The early investment in education has been directly linked to a reduced need for more costly programs and services later in life. This early investment has been linked to better academic success including a greater likelihood of some form of post-secondary education. It has been linked to higher incomes, both for the child and the participating families. Participation in early childhood programming has been linked to fewer arrests as adults. Participation in early childhood programming has even been linked to a lower risk of cardiovascular and metabolic diseases! All of these things benefit both the individual and society as a whole. So, where am I going with this? I want to take the opportunity to share with you how your school district is contributing to the overall greater good of the community through quality early childhood programs. Fosston ISD 601 operates a variety of early childhood education programs. Programs that reach the individual and families, and have numerous benefits for our community as a whole. Let’s start with Early Childhood Family Education.
Parenting is one of the most difficult tasks we take on as adults, and to make it more difficult, children don’t come with instruction manuals - as we’ve been told multiple times by numerous people. Early Childhood Family Education (ECFE) programs seek to provide families support and guidance from a parent educator, as well as forming a peer support group for parents, all in an effort to help parents help their children to thrive. We know, from research, that: every activity a young child experiences provides learning; young children learn through play; learning to cooperate, to take turns, to work with others, to have patience, to show respect and to be resilient (soft skills) are crucial concepts that are best learned early. It is vital that children learn to understand & manage emotions, cope with challenges and learn positive social behavior. These are the areas that Fosston ECFE program staff focus on as they provide positive learning activities.
Fosston ISD 601 currently provides services to 44 children from 30 families through the ECFE program. Families choose either Tuesday or Thursday morning classes, or Tuesday evening classes, 2 hours per session over 8 weeks. When families walk in, there are play centers open along with organized centers on the tables with instruction cards explaining the purpose of the activity. Children and adults can come and go between the tables & the play areas. The activities focus on building language, cognitive (thinking) skills, social emotional learning (soft skills) and fine/gross motor skills. After play time, everyone cleans up and there is organized circle time for parents and children. This time includes a variety of things such as music and movement, gross motor activities and story time. This is where concepts are taught around various themes such as zoo animals, seasons, transportation and community helpers, to name a few. Following the large group circle, parents go with the parent educator for parent discussion time. Topics are determined by parent need and interest, or are identified by the parent educator. All focus on ways parents can help their children learn and grow. Andy and Ashley Cartier, ECFE participants share, "Our first son didn't go to daycare, and ECFE really helped with his social skills. But more than that, having a group of parents to talk with was so helpful. It's great to bounce ideas off them and gather some new perspectives on parenting issues. It's practically a support group for parents, helping us all understand that we aren't alone in our struggles." The importance of the parent as first teacher is emphasized throughout ECFE programming. During parent discussion time, children are with a para-educator, having a healthy snack and more story time, to build language.
ECFE programming is paid through a small levy through community service and fees from families. The fees are based on income and number of children a family brings to the program. Fees range from $0 (for families with incomes under $20,000) to $35 for families with 1 child making over $40,000 ($45 for two or more children). For the evening class, there is an additional $30 to cover the cost of a light supper. These fees cover the full 8 week session and no one is turned away because they are unable to pay.
Current ECFE participant Allison Marquis sums it up clearly when she states, “ECFE has brought many positive things to my family. Being from out of town, ECFE introduced my children and I to the school, local events, and peers. Both my children and I have met some of our best friends through ECFE. I have gained knowledge about parenting, what is expected of my children as they enter school, and about the services available to us and others through school and in our community. ECFE has also given me many tools to use in my parenting journey, both through parent education and peer conversation. Through my 7 years participaing in Fosston ECFE, I have found support through some trying times and also have had the opportunity to be support for others. My children have learned the basics of being in a classroom setting, making their transition to school less daunting. I believe ECFE is at least partially responsible for my children’s early successes and confidence in school.”
ECFE is one program that ISD 601 offers under the early childhood umbrella. ECFE classes are held at Fosston High School, in the former home ec classrooms. Watch future editions of The Greyhound Corner for information about the 3 and 4 year old school readiness programs. For more information, go to the district webpage at fosston.k12.mn.us and select the “Community Education” link.
Rolnick, A. & R. Grunewald. (March, 2003) Early Childhood Development: Economic Development With a High Public Return. Fed Gazette.
It’s been a year since the voters in ISD 601 approved through referendum roughly $8 million in repair work to be completed at both schools. Shortly after question 1 of the referendum was approved, bonds were sold to fund the project, and a timeline was developed. For construction work to be done right, there is a lot of planning that should happen before work begins, and that is true of this project. This past year, architects have been working on the design phase of the project -- listening to staff members who use the areas that are slated for upgrades, developing a “needs and wants” list, redesigning bathrooms to be ADA compliant, bringing in samples of flooring, paint and casework. In terms of planning the major activities, the district is right on schedule -- these fall months were designated for design and development, with final board approval during the regular December board meeting. Bid notices will go out in January, and the plan is to accept and award bids in January, with the majority of construction slated to begin May 26, 2020. We know there are a number of things that can impact construction timelines, including weather and the availability of labor.
An oversight committee has been formed, that includes members of the community -- Randy Rue and Evan Fonder, school board members Dean Duppong, Matt Trujillo and Mark Hagen, Facilities and Maintenance Coordinator Neil Heide, and school administrators Dan Boushee, Dominic Krump and Sue Chase. This committee provides feedback to construction consultants and architects. The oversight committee has kept a close eye on the scope of the project, to make sure we are focusing in on the critical items (plumbing, roofing, etc.) or the “bones” of the project. The committee has also pushed to have uniform color schemes, to promote the feeling of district unity. This committee is also keeping a close eye on budgets.
Some preliminary work did happen over the past summer. Asbestos abatement and refinishing the shop floor and a few other areas in the high school was completed. Additionally, work on the bus garage roofs is happening right now -- ahead of schedule. Last winter’s heavy snow caused damage to some of the rafters, which made it necessary to complete that work this year. The district received an insurance settlement, that when combined with the allocation from the referendum, allowed us to replace rafters, purlins and the tin roof. That project was awarded to local contractors and is near completion.
The elementary school will receive the largest renovations. Upgrades to Magelssen Elementary include: roof replacement, restroom renovations, repairs to the building’s exterior surface, kitchen upgrades including replacement of the freezer, renovation of the stage so the space is usable for instruction, interior renovations including work on the gym floor and classrooms, electrical and lighting upgrades, dehumidification, sidewalk repair, removal of an underground fuel tank, technology upgrades and new furniture and fixtures.
Fosston High School upgrades will include: repair of roofs, repair of the exterior of the building, classroom upgrades including flooring, casework, painting and asbestos removal, restroom renovations, security upgrades, sidewalk repair and lighting upgrades, technology upgrades, and new furniture and fixtures for some classrooms. In both buildings, these renovations will provide for more energy efficiency, will make classrooms healthier, safer and more modern, and bring the facilities into compliance with the Americans With Disabilities Act (ADA).
Prior to start of construction, district staff will work to move and store items so that there is unhindered access to the construction areas. Summer school activities will most likely take place in the high school, as will the summer food service program.
As a result of the referendum, you may notice an increase on your payable 2020 tax statements. However, the state legislature did pass an increase in the Ag to School credit, so agricultural properties will not see as large an increase as originally anticipated. The credit for 2020 has been raised to 50%, and is scheduled to increase to 70% by 2023. What this means is that taxes on agricultural land will actually decrease, with the state providing aid to cover the amount that would have been taxed to farmers. The school receives the same amount of money to put towards debt service; local taxpayers have a smaller burden. Additionally, the state is picking up a greater share of operating referendums than in previous years, which provides additional relief to taxpayers. A truth in taxation meeting is scheduled for December 19 at 6:00 pm in the high school conference room, for taxpayers that have questions about their 2020 property taxes.
When you think “medical careers”, what comes to mind? Doctors? Nurses? For many of us, that’s where we stop. Students at Fosston High School, however, are learning that the term “medical careers” includes a vast array of jobs, that can connect with almost any interest. They learn that there are careers in medical coding, veterinarian services, x-ray technicians, surgical technicians, certified nursing assistants, respiratory therapy, dentistry, chiropractic services...and the list goes on. And how are they learning about these things? Through the Medical Careers class, taught by Fosston School District Nurse Denise Staehnke.
At the beginning of the course, students identify areas of the medical field that they might be interested in. Throughout the course, guest speakers that focus on areas identified by students share their knowledge and experience. Often, these speakers are local and on occasion, are Fosston graduates. Frequently, students’ ideas about their interests change as they progress through the course and are exposed to more information. So far this year, guest speakers have included:
- Dr. Gabe Wiener Chiropractor (local)
Karen Kintner-Norland Paramedic (local)
Michelle Schoenborn Nurse Practitioner (local)
Jen Francis Athletic Trainer (school employee)
Angie Dombowski Registered Nurse (local)
Bemidji Northwest Technical College - Medical coding, Dental Hygienist, certificate programs in health care etc.
Sara Bethke Speech (school employee)
Students also take field trips and are able to engage in micro job shadowing. Altru Hospital has allowed Health Occupations students to watch actual surgical procedures; Riverview Hospital in Crookston provides students the opportunity to job shadow as well. Especially exciting this year is a partnership with Essentia Health in Fosston. Students will spend most of a day experiencing Essentia’s Simulation Lab, where they will see realistic demonstrations of surgery, anesthsiology and nursing activities. This is the first time this opportunity has been available to students in the class.
Students also have the opportunity to experience simulations of different medical conditions. Bemidji Technical College demonstrated for students what it would be like to have COPD, tinnitus, macular degeneration, glaucoma and Parkinson’s Disease. Other hands-on experiences include an ‘injection lab’ where students learn how to give shots. Drawing blood and inserting IVs is another practice activity students have, using ‘arm’ models, and some equipment donated by Essentia Health. Students learned to wrap injuries from Essentia Health’s sports medicine staff. Community service and public speaking are also part of the course. Students learn about dental health/hygiene, then teach a lesson to kindergarten students at Magelssen Elementary; and then provide the kindergarten students with a ‘backpack’ of dental hygiene materials. Medical Career students also do demonstration lessons for 4th grade students and staff on CPR and the Heimlich maneuver. As district nurse, Mrs. Staehnke completes vision and hearing screenings for elementary students, so Mrs. Staehnke’s Health Occupations students also learn how to conduct those types of screenings, and practice with each other.
The course exposes students to medical terminology, so that they can look at a diagnostic term and understand what it actually represents. For example, students might see the term “appendicitis”. They would learn that “itis” means “inflammation of,” so “appendicitis” would literally mean inflammation of the appendix.
The Health Occupations course is a full year, and on average, 15 students participate. Last year, 17 students completed the course. Of those 17, 10 entered training for a medical field. Mrs. Staehnke also has obtained the training to provide instruction in Certified Nursing Assistant courses, which could lead to students earning that certificate before they leave high school. Her current students learn that often, people in the medical field begin with the CNA certificate as their entry point into medical fields. Developing the CNA certificate course at Fosston High School would be a win-win situation for the students and the larger Fosston community.
The Board of Directors of Fosston Public Schools desires to provide the best possible education for tomorrow’s workforce -- our students. The board is also committed to being fiscally responsible. In order to do this, the board has determined that developing a strategic plan -- a plan that provides a road map for everyone in the school community -- is an important activity. You might ask, “Why is strategic planning so important?”
Imagine, if you will, going on a two week vacation, without a plan. You have a general idea of the time, but no specific destination. You might have a budget, but you haven’t set priorities, so your money is spent as costs come up, which means you may or may not have enough for the full two weeks of vacation. You don’t know where you are going, so you don’t know when you’ve arrived at your destination. You didn’t get your car serviced before you went, so you might run into emergencies along the way which eat into your budget. And because you haven’t prepared, you don’t know the rules of the places you might visit, so you might end up in trouble. For some, a vacation without a plan is fun; for others, it’s a nightmare. But imagine spending a whole year or longer in this state.
The dangers of operating without a plan are multitude - whether you are taking a vacation, or operating a business -- and especially so for a larger organization. Decisions are made out of necessity. People end up reacting to situations, rather than preventing things. Budgets become broken. Because staff don’t have a common direction, tensions can rise and communication diminishes. Eventually, there is a state of constant panic and chaos. However, all of this can be avoided if an organization develops a strong plan of action.
Strategic planning is a process that brings stakeholders together to discuss hopes and dreams, values, what’s working, and what’s not. From there, SMART goals are set, with specific check-points and deadlines for completion. After the plan is developed and approved by the board, it’s up to district staff, the board and the community to make sure the plan is implemented. As decisions are made, the overarching question to answer is “How will this decision help move us forward with our plan?” Resources can be allocated to the priorities in the plan. All in all, a good strategic plan provides direction for all involved, and keeps an organization moving forward systematically, for the long term.
Just like when we plan for vacations, strategic planning requires frequent check-ins toward progress. A good plan will include specific dates for those check-ins, and enough flexibility to address shortfalls or changes along the way. So, how do we begin developing the plan?
To start the process we are asking for your opinion, and few moments of your time. We have several on-line surveys available at our website. Go to: https://www.fosston.k12.mn.us and look along the left side under “Quick Links”. Click on the link most applicable to you and share your responses. Please do one survey, even if you fit various descriptions. The links will be open until mid-November. We will also have listening session meetings coming up in the various communities that comprise ISD 601. Watch for dates. We at ISD 601 are excited to engage in this process, and hope that you -- our community -- join us.
Imagine, if you will, most children across the State of Minnesota -- as young as third grade --sitting in front of a computer screen, reading questions, answering, solving math equations, or interpreting a science experiment’s results. If you have a child in school, this is likely a scene with which you are familiar. Students take the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs) in reading, math and science, every spring. And schools get the results officially, towards the end of August. Schools get individual student results that are shared with parents, and districts get information about how their whole student body, as well as various smaller populations ‘measures up’ in terms of proficiency and growth. Comparisons can be made between state results and local results, as well as changes from year to year, locally. The results are released to the media and the public at large.
Achievement is measured against the standards for each subject area (Reading, Math and Science) that are to be taught at each grade level. The content becomes more difficult each year, and in the case of science, students are only tested in grades 5, 8 and 11, so they are often covering 3 years worth of concepts in a test. With the math test, children are expected to understand algebraic concepts as early as 5th grade! Reading also becomes incrementally more difficult, with students having to interpret themes of literature as early as grade 5. There are four categories assigned: Exceeds, Proficient, Partially Proficient and Does Not Meet. The North Star Report, released by the state, includes information about changes in student achievement -- moving from one level to another.
So, what does this all mean for Fosston ISD 601? The results from the Spring 2019 MCA tests give us something to celebrate. In all of the tested areas, our children showed levels of proficiency that were above the state average. In math, 60.5% of Fosston students tested were proficient (meaning they met or exceeded expectations)-- the state average was 55%. In reading, 66.2% of Fosston’s students tested were proficient -- state average was 59.2%. And in science, 57.6% of Fosston’s students tested were proficient -- state average was 50.7%. This tells us instructional practices at ISD 601 are above state averages.
We also look at results from specific groups within our school population, to make sure that we are addressing achievement gaps and that all students are showing growth. Those groups include students eligible for free and reduced lunch, American Indian students, students whose first language is not English, etc. Again, when comparing the results for ISD 601 students to state averages, we are doing better than the state. And more importantly,our students are performing better this year than they did last. We see percentage point gains in the exceeds, meets and partially meets categories -- and smaller percentages of students in the “does not meet” categories.
Included in the states “North Star Report” is a breakdown of graduation rates (usually a year behind). At 98.3% for 2018 (4 year rate), Fosston Public Schools is ahead of the state rate (83.2%). Additionally, our graduation rates for students eligible for free and reduced price lunches, and our graduation rates for our American Indian students are above state average. This same report includes data on consistent attendance - the percentage of students who attend school 90% of the time. At Fosston Public Schools, 83.65% of students maintain consistent attendance.
MCA tests function as a “systems check” to make sure districts are teaching to the standards in a systematic way, that is equitable. These tests are a snapshot in time, and we know we cannot measure the success of a school on one result. However, this snapshot, when combined with other data points, and taken over time to examine trends, allows staff at ISD 601 to measure the success of programming. This data will be reviewed by teaching staff and administration, and from this information, teachers will set SMART goals to keep us always moving forward.
Watch for more information about how ISD 601 is doing to reach its goals when the World’s Best Workforce report is made public.