SIBLEY—The Sibley-Ocheyedan School Board saw a return to regular attendance and talking points at its meeting on Monday, July 18.
Three people asked to speak at the public forum in Sibley, sharing their thoughts on creating a positive learning environment as we approach the new school year.
Alumnus Casey Hertz, who has taught in Worthington, MN, for the past five years, spoke first and accepted a senior position in the city district.
“I’m just here to speak in support of what I believe our staff are trying to do. What I push and hope our school board will do is simply support students and help teachers to hold these students to high expectations,” Hertz said.
Hertz argued that classroom experience has shown that high expectations yield high results.
“They will learn more, they will accomplish more, they will be more successful in the classroom, on the sports field and, I believe, after graduation. This has been true for me in my upbringing. That’s a big part of why I went into education,” Hertz said.
High school science teacher Mike Wedge said schools can’t do it alone. Demands on the public education system have grown over the past century after it was initially implemented to provide training in reading, writing, and math. He explained how each decade since the 1910s has added to a growing list of requirements for schools.
“And we haven’t added a single minute to the school day in six decades,” Wedge said. “We can’t do justice to everything on this list, but – if every parent, every teacher, every student, every school board member, every business owner, every farmer works together – we can certainly accomplish more. .”
Ryan Wiersma, a middle school social studies teacher, concluded the public forum portion by thanking the board and sharing his thoughts on struggling students.
“I truly believe that everything the school board and administration do is done in the best interests of our students and staff,” Wiersma said.
Wiersma said “the goal is not the fight” and said there was a misconception around the subject.
“We’re not trying to make things difficult for students,” he said. “We just know that going through the tough stuff, on the other side, is where the learning and growth takes place. The struggle is not the goal. It is the process by which we arrive at the goal.
The board heard an education coach report from Katie Schroder, who also earned her Google for Education Certified Coach certification over the summer. She shared a preview of her first year in the role, as well as goals for the upcoming school year.
To minimize teacher absences for training, it was decided to create an on-site mentorship program that was approved by the Iowa Department of Education.
“It was one of my projects this year,” Schroder said. “My overall goal for this program was to provide relevant and timely support and collaboration to increase the effectiveness and retention of beginning teachers. We want to make sure that at Sibley-Ocheyedan we provide them with the support they need to want to become lifelong educators.
Schroder introduced the professional development curriculum accessible through the Data Solutions portal, where teachers focus on learning individual skills at their own pace.
“I also worked a lot with the curriculum and lesson planning,” Schroder said. “I want to help our teachers create lessons that are rigorous, relevant and student-centered.”
She didn’t realize how involved instructional coaches are in the district until she got involved in implementing professional development, curriculum development, technology integration, intervention strategies and modeling lessons, Schroder said.
“We have an amazing teaching staff,” she said. “We have wonderful people who work with our children every day, and they strive to provide the best possible education for these children. They have a huge impact.
A number of policy changes will come into effect, primarily in response to legislative changes. The new policies approved focused on radon mitigation.
The council was to set the maximum salary a council member could earn if he accepted other employment opportunities in the district. The state changed the threshold from $6,000 per year to $20,000, but each district sets its own maximum.
Concerns about conflicts of interest and balance between colleagues were expressed if the amount became too high. The board approved changing the earnings policy so that the amount cannot exceed $15,000 in any fiscal year.
Council member Jamie Arend also asked about the change to the open enrollment policy, which was amended to remove application deadlines.
In a brief administrative report, Superintendent Jamie Craig encouraged board members to look for examples of student success and participation at the Osceola County Fair, and shared an excerpt from Dan Butler’s book “Permission to be Great” on the importance of establishing a positive outlook since people tend to see and experience what they seek.
The softball accomplishments of Alayna Wingate and the team receiving the Academic Excellence Award for a combined 3.446 GPA, as well as all-summer conference honors were announced by Craig during the recognition of the ‘Excellency.
Additional material on council elements can be found on the district’s webpage: thegenerals2.socsdit.org.