The Sleepy Eye Public School Board has put together a research committee to begin the process of determining the pros and cons of a four-day school week format.


The Sleepy Eye Public School Board has put together a research committee to begin the process of determining the pros and cons of a four-day school week format.
This came on the heels of last Tuesday’s failed referendum levy.
According to a report released after election day from the Minnesota Rural Education Association, state-wide, voters approved 75 percent of all questions in all Minnesota districts on Tuesday; 97 percent of renewal questions were approved and 57 percent of requests for increases in property taxes. Seventy-nine percent of school districts holding elections passed at least one referendum question.
“This is a good indication that at the local level, Minnesota voters are willing to tax themselves to educate the youth of their communities,” the report stated.
However, District 84 wasn’t part of those statistics. The referendum failed by 62 percent.  
“It’s sad and very disappointing,” Superintendent John Cselovszki told the board.
Board members Ron Geiger, Lori Hirschboeck and Sheila Wurtzberger, along with Cselovszki, are part of a 15 member committee made up of teachers, business owners and Sleepy Eye residents who will begin researching the four-day school week format.
“The bottom line is, we have to start practicing due diligence,” Geiger said.
He asked Cselvoszki how long the school could survive without being in Statutory Operating Debt with their current fund balance. Cselovszki said it would take the district the next 2-5 years to deplete the fund balance if the district did not begin to make changes.
Geiger said he thought that five years was being too optimistic.
“We are left with no choices (but to look into the four-day week format),” he said.
Some board members wondered if the four-day week format would go to public vote.
“No, the public has already voted,” Geiger said about Tuesday’s failed referendum vote.
Cselovszki said a four-day school week would mean the school day would run from 8 a.m. until 4 p.m. With a four-day school week format, Cselovszki said students would actually see more instruction minutes.
A concerned parent and teacher in attendance wondered if it was realistic to expect early learners to be active learners for that long of a school day.
“It will probably take some creative thinking and resources, but kids like to be active,” board chair Darla Remus said. “Being active is good for the mind. At least that’s my experience from owning a daycare for the past 26 years,” she said.
Board member Sheila Schmid said despite a failed referendum, it should not change the district’s attitude.
“We are proud of our school, our staff and our students,” she said. “We’ve had a great year. Tuesday’s vote doesn’t change that. We will still be here for our kids.”
In a second discussion,  several teachers who attended the meeting were spirited as Kevin Schneider detailed the curriculum re-writing progress, which the district is in its third year.
The teachers, with support from the board, felt it was important that instructional strategies align with the MCA standards.
 Schneider explained that curriculum writing is in place so that parents, students and the community can see what content and instruction takes place at Sleepy Eye Schools.  
For teachers, he explained, a curriculum is a road map to planning instruction for a course. A curriculum unit consists of the standards being taught, the length of time of instruction, instructional strategies utilized, key vocabulary, resources, assessments and assessment rubrics.  
This school year, English and Language Arts and Art are the curricular areas involved in the re-writing process. Math, science and Spanish have already been completed.
A report was drafted by core curricular teachers with the intent of opening a discussion with the board on how to improve student achievement by increasing the length of time teachers are with them throughout the school year.
“I just want to even the playing field,” math teacher Aaron Nesvold said of considering the comparison of various districts student test score results.
It was discovered that Sleepy Eye is one of few districts not having core subject areas taught all year long.  
After a switch from a block schedule to a three trimester format, some core subjects are only taught for two trimesters, or two-thirds of a year.  
Geiger said it may be time to consider more scheduling options in an attempt to schedule year around core classes.
“What we want is the best level of education possible. Unfortunately, dollars and cents drive that,” Geiger said. “It’s unfair and unfortunate that our level of education is driven by test scores.”
Schmid said that similar dialogue should continue until teachers and the board feel that both on are on the same page.
In other news the board approved:
•To accept the resignation of Ann LaCourse and Christina Schmitt, both  special education paraprofessionals.
•The termination of hockey coaches due to the formation of a new Hockey Co-op.
•To accept a $100 donation from “Simply Read Book Club” to the library program.
•To accept a Lion’s donation of $1,500 for the Quest Drug Awareness program for the district’s schools.
•To accept a snow removal quote with S & J Construction and Masonry for the 2011-12 school year.
The next regularly scheduled school board meeting will be Thursday, Dec. 8, at 7:30 p.m. A Truth and Taxation hearing will be held at 7 p.m.