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Development of guidelines discussed for cooperation on activities

WILLMAR -- Willmar school officials plan to develop new guidelines in case neighboring school districts approach them about cooperating in athletics or other activities.

Superintendent Jerry Kjergaard sought guidance from the School Board at a workshop meeting Monday.

The demographic trends in west central Minnesota make cooperation requests more likely in the future.

Kjergaard, who is starting his third year as superintendent, said he's always been told the district's stand is, "if you want to play for us, you should go to school here."

Board members nodded.

"There's always the opportunity to open enroll here," said board member Sandi Unger.

And board member Eric Roberts asked, "Do you see any reason not to have that policy?"

In the future, the district might have a struggling program that cooperation would save, but that's not the case now, Kjergaard said.

"I think in the future, there may be requests to co-op in academic programs," said board member Wayne Lenzmeier.

Kjergaard said there are several areas where that could happen, including AP classes, music or technology.

Activities Director Jamie Thompson said one of the concerns would be that cooperation should not be "taking opportunities from our kids."

Board members suggested Kjergaard, Thompson and administrators at the Senior High work together to develop guidelines for handling requests in the future.

Kjergaard and board member said the issue of cooperation could come up at a meeting Thursday in Maynard, where officials from school districts in the region will gather to talk about ways to work together in the future.

"We have a phenomenal program here," said board member Mike Reynolds, who said he agreed with Unger that people should attend school in Willmar to participate in its programs.

"I think in order to co-op, you have to have a need on both sides," Lenzmeier added.

The board members also heard a report on state testing results and the district's efforts to make adequate yearly progress, as measured by the state tests.

Director of Curriculum and Instruction Danith Clausen showed board members test results from recent years and detailed challenges and successes. A district or a school building can fail to make AYP if even one group of students does not do well.

Clausen and the board members discussed the elementary math curriculum, called Everyday Math, and efforts to help students in reading and math.

Living in poverty has a major impact on how students do on the state tests, Clausen said.

Clausen showed the board members sample test questions, so they could see how much reading comprehension is needed to pass the meth tests.

"Every test is a reading test, when you get right down to it," she said.

Some good things have come out of the testing introduced in the past decade, including information about areas that need more attention, she said.

Lenzmeier asked if Minnesota's standards are more rigorous than other states.

"Oh, yes," Clausen said. Some states set their rules so that few districts have to take minority group scores into account, and others have lower academic standards.

Minnesota is only partially participating in a movement toward common academic standards from state to state. State officials accepted the English/communications standards but passed on the math common standards because they weren't considered rigorous enough.

Kjergaard said the pending reauthorization of federal education law could bring big changes. "All the millions of dollars that was spent, while not badly spent, will go out the window for the next best thing."

Linda Vanderwerf

I cover education issues for the West Central Tribune and have worked for the paper since 1995. I have worked in journalism since 1981.

Follow me on Twitter: @lindavanderwerf

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