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By Riham Feshir, Forum Communications Co., Published June 07 2010

School turnaround model approved by Waubun

The Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School Board voted unanimously on an overhaul model that includes a new principal, a site administrative manager and a turnaround supervisor.

After discussing the Quality Review Report Wednesday night, the board decided the transformation model would best make over Waubun Secondary School under the federal School Improvement Grant.

The model also requires a rigorous evaluation system for teachers, increased learning time and an additional 90 minutes per week for professional learning communities.

Board members criticized but also agreed with some items on the report that point out the school’s weaknesses.

“I don’t know how you can put together anything this comprehensive in a day and a half or two days without even talking to the school board,” board member Mark Rothschadl said.

Consultants from Cambridge Education visited with parent and student committees as well as community members and teachers in the classrooms before releasing a 23-page report.

Superintendent Mitch Anderson said what’s in the report may have been based on individual opinions and not a comprehensive analysis.

“The makeup of some of those committees, it could’ve easily been someone that said something in their point of view,” he said. “That’s what’s out there in the report, even if it’s not necessarily all true.”

Since the school district received the report, there has been minimal contact initiated by state officials.

“If we’re not doing something right, fine, but give us some suggestions of what we should be doing,” board member Tammy Winter said.

As a parent, she has noticed tremendous progress over the years when it comes to parent-teacher communication. But obviously something is still missing – according to the evaluation – and she suggested taking advantage of technology with e-mails and websites to keep parents engaged.

“If we can’t bring them to us, then maybe we can go to them,” she said.

But it’s not just the parents who need to be more involved, students need to be held accountable, too, she added.

Many students have admitted to teachers numerous times that they don’t care about the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessment Tests.

And although they might have taken them a little more seriously this year after learning their school is one of the lowest-performing schools in the state, some still said, “Well we’re from the dumb school anyway,” band teacher Sarah Bauck told the board.

The Quality Review Report cites low expectations, lack of challenge, inappropriate instructional methods and an overall lack of monitoring of the school’s outcomes as reasons for not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in recent years.

The new principal must have data analysis and research experience that would help implement the transformation model, the board agreed.

“We need to get somebody that’s gonna be real definite and conscientious,” Winter said.

Anderson said the principal will be less involved in the discipline area and more focused on using assessment results and data to help close the achievement gap.

After approving the model, the board discussed the hiring of a new principal and will interview the final candidates next week.

Those candidates may also be considered for the site administrator officer or the turnaround supervisor, depending on their qualifications.

The School Improvement Grant application, which gives Waubun the chance to receive $1 million in federal funds over the next three years to overhaul the school, is due July 1.