CLARA CITY - When Minnesota Commissioner of Education Brenda Cassellius rejected the MACCRAY School District’s plan to continue with a four-day school week next year, she left open the door for the district to pitch a new plan.
School board members intend to do so, as well as possibly seek legislation that would allow the district to make its own decisions on whether to offer a four- or five-day week.
MACCRAY School Board members informally agreed at their meeting Monday to re-convene a committee to develop a new plan to seek approval to continue the four-day school week during the next three years. The committee had met with the education commissioner on June 19 after she had rejected the earlier plan for a three-year extension.
Superintendent Brian Koslofsky said that in rejecting the district’s plan, the commissioner said the district had not showed the academic progress she wanted based on test scores.
The commissioner also wants the district to focus more energy on staff development and curriculum. She urged work that would better align the district’s curriculum with state testing standards, according to the superintendent.
The district could thumb its nose at the commissioner’s decision to reject the four-day schedule and offer it anyway. “There isn’t anything in place right now that would prevent us from doing that other than being, I guess, that disobedient child,’’ Koslofsky told board members.
Board members said they expect that the commissioner will see legislation this coming session that would prevent districts from establishing their own alternative school schedules.
The members said they were interested in asking local legislators to sponsor a bill that would give MACCRAY the option of deciding its own schedule. “We want that local control to determine what is best for our district, what’s best for our students, what’s best for our staff,’’ Koslofsky said of the possible legislation.
He said the legislation would pertain only to MACCRAY.
Unless the commissioner approves a new plan, or legislation is approved, the district is on track to return to a five-day week next year. Board members noted that district residents are overwhelmingly in support of a four-day week.
Koslofsky said that he will be developing two calendars and two separate budgets this December for the 2014-15 school year. One will be based on a four-day week, and the other on a five-day week.
The district was one of the first in the state to adopt a four-day schedule. It began the schedule in 2008-09 largely for the financial savings of reduced transportation, heating and staff costs. Since then the district has come to appreciate the schedule for the ability to offer extra-curricular and enhancement programs on Mondays, the day when classroom instruction is not held. It’s also provided flexibility for making up snow days, and parents and community organizations take advantage of Mondays for everything from scheduling medical appointments to holding 4-H, church and other activities.
Test scores could remain issue
CLARA CITY - Test scores could remain an issue when the MACCRAY School District submits a new plan seeking to extend its four-day school schedule for the next three years.
School board members learned Monday that the district fell below target in its white population in both reading and math proficiency in the 2014 Adequate Yearly Progress/Multiple Measurement Rating percentages.
School counselor Melissa Sparks reported that the high school met the target in math but not in reading.
The East Elementary in Raymond missed the math and reading targets.
The West Elementary in Maynard met both targets.
In response to a question by a school board member, Sparks said educators in the district had no ‘’aha moment’’ when they brainstormed on what caused the downturn after consecutive years of improvement. “It’s hard to put your finger on something specific,’’ she said.
MACCRAY may hire a consultant to address building needs
CLARA CITY – Voters in the MACCRAY School District rejected a $20 million bond issue in January that would have built an elementary school on the high school campus in Clara City to replace the East and West Elementary Schools and added an auditorium and performance theater at the central site.
The district’s new superintendent of schools told school board members this week that it may be time to retain an independent consultant to help the district decide how to address the needs left unaddressed by the rejected bond issue. Superintendent Brian Koslofsky will draft a request for proposals for board members to consider in November.
“I know how difficult a decision it was for everybody in January,’’ Koslofsky told school board members on Monday. “My job is to continue to move this district forward.’’
He told the board members that the district will need to make decisions on its East and West Elementary Schools, in Raymond and Maynard respectively. A previous study by the Energy Services Group, of Wayzata, had estimated it would cost $14 million total to upgrade the heating and ventilation systems, lighting, and other infrastructure - $7 million each in the two elementary buildings. There is also a need to upgrade electronic security in both.
Koslofsky also cited needs for upgrades at the high school. They include calls to repair the high school track, add locker room space and build a theater for the performing arts.
The superintendent proposed that the district create a request for proposals that would invite independent consultants to outline how they could help the district address its needs. Koslofsky said he would like a “complete, unbiased look from the outside.’’
He said it would be critical that a consultant know beforehand that its role would be strictly to help the district determine how best to meet its educational goals. The consultant would not be eligible to work for the district on any remodeling or building project that could result from the process.
“It would be very clear. No connection between the study and any future projects,’’ he said.
In the January referendum when voters rejected the bond issue, Energy Services Group had developed the plans and cost estimates and would have remained on board as the project manager had it been approved.
School board member Deb Brandt said that if the district looks for a consultant, it should also be clear that work already performed by Energy Services Group not be repeated at the district’s expense.
Board chairman Lane Schwitters said he would like to see a consultant break down the reasons why the district’s operation and maintenance costs are much higher than other districts. Member Jason Boike said it would be important to determine if the district is looking at goals for 25, 50 or more years down the road.
Board members learned Monday that the district has $315,587 in funds from the original facilities improvement bonds for work that was not pursued following the defeat of the proposal. The superintendent is working with the district’s bond consultant to determine if those funds can be used for other facility improvements at this point.