Willmar kindergarten numbers up, section added
WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District has added a 17th classroom to its all-day, everyday kindergarten program for this fall. With 317 students enrolled, Superintendent Kathy Leedom told the School Board on Monday that she made the decision last...
WILLMAR -- The Willmar School District has added a 17th classroom to its all-day, everyday kindergarten program for this fall.
With 317 students enrolled, Superintendent Kathy Leedom told the School Board on Monday that she made the decision last week to hire another teacher and add the section.
The district also added another section in second grade and has added a part-time reading and math teacher to deal with higher enrollment in sixth grade.
"It's too soon to tell what our enrollment trend is," but the kindergarten numbers are good news, Leedom said. For several years, the district's kindergarten enrollment was less than 300 students, she added.
Enrollment in that grade increased somewhat last year after the board voted to expand its half-time kindergarten schedule to all day, everyday classes for all kindergarten students.
Willmar's enrollment numbers usually fluctuate, due to the number of families entering and leaving the district throughout the year.
The state is still refining average daily enrollment reports for the past school year, but they still indicate that the district ended the school year with a few more students than it had at the same time last year.
The first report from the state in June listed the district's average enrollment in 2005-2006 at 4,106. The number will be refined over the coming months as the state continues to receive more information about student transfers into and out of districts during the year.
The Willmar number fell to 4,089 in state reports at one point and was listed at 4,102 in the most recent report, said Business and Finance Director Bob Haines.
Leedom reported to the board about her research into policy governance, which is a different way of operating a school board.
The board asked Leedom to invite Dr. David Flowers, the public school superintendent in Fargo, to come to Willmar to discuss the issue with the board. Fargo's school board has used policy governance for several years.
Leedom said policy governance helps a board focus on student achievement and provides clear definition of the roles of board members and the superintendent.
Moving into the new method of governing could take a lot of time and board attention, as policies would have to be rewritten, she said.
The way the board runs its meetings would change, too. "Board meetings would be focused on student achievement," she said.
Willmar has been moving in the right direction by developing a strategic plan over the past two years and by earning independent accreditation of its schools, Leedom said.
When board members asked her what she thought of the idea, Leedom said, "I'm more intrigued the more I know about it; I think it would provide a great deal of focus for us."
Board Chairman Dion Warne asked board members to consider moving board elections from odd years to even years.
Recent school board elections have had low turnout, and new electronic voting equipment could make elections more costly for schools to run on their own, Leedom said.
The change could be made with a board resolution that would extend each board member's term by a year.
"It's going to affect all seven of us," Warne said. "I want people to think about it."
After a public hearing, the board approved a tax abatement for vacant buildings on the MinnWest Technology Campus, which is on land formerly part of the Willmar Regional Treatment Center. The tax abatement will cover vacant buildings on the technology campus. Once they are occupied, they will become part of a Job Opportunity Building Zone, which will provide the tax breaks. The abatement will last as long at the JOBZ is in effect, about nine years.