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Waubun students given incentive to get work in on time

Waubun Principal Helen Kennedy wants students at her school to be more accountable for their academic performance.

During Thursday's Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School Board meeting, Kennedy said that plans are being developed that will hopefully lead to more students turning in school work in a timely manner. That issue of students not turning in homework on time was recently discussed at a staff development meeting.

"As we went through our burning issues, it became apparent that one of the things that is a challenge for teachers is the motivation factor," Kennedy said. "Getting kids to turn in work on time and getting kids to learn the value of what's being done."

"Deadlines mean nothing to them," Kennedy said.

Kennedy said a one-size-fits-all approach to late work wouldn't work, but each department at the high school will shortly come up with a late work policy.

Kennedy said that students need to learn how to be more responsible for their actions as they will eventually leave high school for college or into the workforce. She said that the administration and the teachers share part of the blame for students' attitudes.

"As a staff, we've probably perpetuated that because we want to give them as many opportunities to be successful as we can," Kennedy said.

Board members didn't express any disagreement with Kennedy's plan. But they said that parents need to be informed before any new policy gets put in place.

There will still be opportunities for students to pass a course, even if they turn in late work.

"We'll have alternatives for kids that don't get things in," Kennedy said.

However, she envisions that make-up work will be tougher to complete than the original assignment.

While implementing a tougher policy won't be easy, Kennedy said that the district implemented a no-tolerance F-word policy that has taken hold.

"There were a lot of people who questioned whether we would get the swearing out of the school," Kennedy said. "When all of the staff, the administration and the Board laid down the law in we're not going to accept this, swearing went away."

Kennedy said that if staff and the administration support the new late schoolwork policy, students would learn the consequences and start to turn in work on time.

Budget concerns

Superintendent Mitch Anderson kept the Board informed about how recent developments with the state's budget crisis will affect school finances.

"Much like every district around the state I'm sure, there is buzz going around," Anderson said.

Anderson said that the district cut $400,000 two years ago out of its budget and it didn't affect core classroom spending.

One part that Anderson said that would help districts around the state would be lifting unfunded mandates.

An e-mail from the Minnesota State School Boards Association detailed all of the unfunded mandates that school districts around the state face.

Filling 10 pages, the list summarizes what the requirements are for each mandate.

"If you take the time to look through that, you'll find it's pretty interesting," Anderson told the Board.

School calendar

Anderson said that he will come up with two calendars in case state legislators approve moving the school year up before Labor Day.

Currently, state law states that the school year can't begin before Labor Day. Labor Day falls on Sept. 7 this year.

Anderson said that the late start means that squeezing in 171 school days will be tough.

A change in state law would make it easier to stretch things out.

One idea that Anderson said could help attendance is eliminating a few half days at the elementary school level.

"The feeling out there in the community is that if it's only a half day, that's no big deal so I'm not going to send my kid and worry about picking them up," Anderson said.

Questions over girls'

junior varsity basketball

During the public comment period, a parent's question led to a discussion over the girls' junior varsity basketball team.

Eighth graders were allowed to join the ninth-graders this year. Because of the move, the parent said ninth-graders aren't getting enough playing time, leading some to quit the team midway through the season.

Board Member Tammy Winter said that playing time is not guaranteed and that the best players will be on the court most of the time.

"If you want to have a successful program, you need to start young," Winter said. "You need to have the best players up so that by the time they are a little older, they are competitive at that level."

Anderson said that there is a proper procedure to follow for issues that arise over sports teams.

"What I would like to follow is talk to the coaches first," Anderson said. "Sit down with them, have a conversation and voice your concerns."

From there, Anderson said that if the situation can't be resolved at that level, it goes to the athletic director, then to the principal, to the superintendent and finally to the School Board as a last resort.

Anderson said that an issue shouldn't be thrown at a Board that doesn't have all the facts in front of it. In the past, there haven't been enough girls going out for basketball and there wasn't a junior varsity team last year.

"Everyone should get a chance to play and learn," Teiken said. "If they don't, and end up quitting and leaving, then you'll end up in the position as you are now. You won't have the numbers."

He said that winning isn't everything at the eighth and ninth-grade levels.