School days: DL School Board wrestles with calendar

The Detroit Lakes School Board continued its discussion of the 2008-2009 school calendar at its monthly meeting Monday evening. Superintendent Doug Froke brought three possible calendars to the meeting for the board to look over. Froke said the t...

The Detroit Lakes School Board continued its discussion of the 2008-2009 school calendar at its monthly meeting Monday evening.

Superintendent Doug Froke brought three possible calendars to the meeting for the board to look over. Froke said the teacher's union, Education Minnesota, also wanted to be in on the calendar discussion.

The board expressed the most interest in Froke's Option B, which would add two teacher in-service days to the school year. The first day would be a "data day" for teachers to review assessment data for students from the previous year to make decisions on teaching their new students.

"We look at assessments and we want to make sure that we are using those results to make necessary changes as far as delivering the curriculum," Froke said.

The second in-service day would be on Jan. 19, 2009. That day would fall between the first and second semesters and would give teachers the opportunity to finish with first semester activities and plan for the second semester.


Board member David Langworthy said he thought the 16-day Christmas break was too long for students and asked about cutting that down to 12 days by bringing back students on Dec. 22 and 23.

"We would have productive days on the 18th and 19th. If we left it as it is right now, those days, the last Thursday and Friday before the break, would be the Christmas parties, the variety show at the high school, and whatever else the buildings have scheduled. If we did it this way, we'd have them back for those two days, keep that full week before the break as a productive week, but we just built two more days into our calendar though," he said.

Board members Tom Seaworth and Deanna Sinclair said having classes those days would make it difficult for people to travel for the holidays. Board member Terri Boyd agreed with them, but said the long break could be an additional burden for people who don't travel and need to put their children in daycare over the break.

"I think there are pros and cons either way," Seaworth said. He asked Froke to get input from teachers, staff, support people and administrators to create a recommendation for the board in regards to the calendar.

"If we look at the calendar as a whole, my thoughts on this are, if we are going to add any days to anything, we should do it where we're adding a student contact day and maybe that January day as an in-service," Sinclair said.

She suggested adding a student contact day on April 9 and shortening the spring break holiday.

"I think the biggest key is that whatever we do, whether it be in-service days or student contact days, we have the flexibility of additional days. If we're going to use them, we need to make sure they're productive," Seaworth said.

"I would challenge our administrative staff and our teachers to make sure that these are excellent in-service days and they are productive."


Board chair Tom Klyve said they could visit more after talking with Education Minnesota about the proposed calendar. A decision on the calendar will be made at the April board meeting.

Business manager Ted Heisserer brought the school board up-to-date on the school's budget. This is the first revision of the budget since its approval last June. The revision includes the teacher contract negotiations.

Heisserer talked about the enrollment numbers in the district, since enrollment drives the finances. He said the district is currently looking at decreasing enrollment and classes are getting smaller, a trend that he expects to continue.

He said there will be a slight deficit in the operating capital budget, with some large projects planned. Klyve said those projects include roof work, the rooftop air handling units, some parking lot stuff, and the new Smart Boards. Heisserer said that if the air handling unit work doesn't get done this year, the district will just be postponing that expense until the next year.

The majority of the funds, 43 percent, are spent on instructors and salaries, with special education services coming in second at 20 percent, followed by site and building expenses at 11 percent and pupil support, which includes transportation, at 10 percent. The school will have a slight deficit of approximately $71,000 for the school year.

"We will be looking at this again in June. This is an estimate of how we think we will be ending the year," Heisserer said.

"To be within $70,000 on a $27 million budget, that takes some planning and we thank you for that Ted and all your staff," Klyve said.

In other business, the board approved contracts for the fire alarm system upgrade and roofing projects. The fire alarm upgrade bid for work at Roosevelt, the middle school and the high school went to Malstrom Electric for $131,796. The roof contract, for work at Rossman, and the middle school, went to Herzog Roofing for a total of $47,980.


The board also gave Heisserer approval to request bids for pupil transportation services for the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 school years. Approved contracts can be extended for an additional two years if the district wants to and the contractors are agreeable.

Teachers from the middle school gave a Smart Board presentation at the board meeting to demonstrate the newest technology in the district. Jessica Stuewe, a seventh and eighth grade math teacher, Mike Fiedler, an eighth grade U.S. History teacher, and Lynn Keller, a sixth grade special education teacher, talked about how the technology is being used in classrooms at the middle school.

The teachers discussed using the interactive white boards to help students work through math problems, locate states and capitals, and review for quizzes. Teachers are able to share curriculum information and knowledge with each other. They also gave the board a quiz on the middle school, using the Senteo handheld "clickers" the students will be using in the classrooms.

The machines were just installed over President's Day weekend and Stuewe said the learning curve has been steep. Boyd said she has heard great things from students and the schools about the Smart Boards.

"It really seems to be getting them more involved and totally focused," Boyd said.

"Mr. Froke pressed for us to get this, even in the middle of the year, and I think Lowell is involved in that too," Seaworth said. "I want to thank our administration for supporting our teachers and making sure we get this."

"There are 24 boards in classrooms ranging from kindergarten right up to high school math and social. At all levels, it's being used. If you just talk to some of the teachers who are using it, some of the things they are doing is pretty remarkable already," said education director Lowell Niklaus.

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