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R-P looks to possible collaborative effort

Thu, Dec 23rd, 2010
Posted in Education

Despite wintery weather, the R-P school board forged ahead at the Monday, December 20th, meeting with Superintendent Chuck Ehler presenting an update regarding an initiative for a Flexible Learning Calendar.

The effort is spearheaded by the Southeast Minnesota Learner Achievement Collaboration, an organization comprised of school districts, higher educational institutions, and education-related service agencies. The mutual interests of the group include the allowance of a flexible learning year approval for an earlier beginning to the school year, maximizing funds for high-quality teacher development, and the potential for not only the mutual utilization of services, but cooperation with the community and other agencies.

According to documentation, state statute does not allow districts to begin the year prior to Labor Day. However, the group believes school board members should be able to determine both the starting and ending dates of a district's calendar. An application to the Minnesota Department of Education would grant the district the ability to begin approximately two weeks prior to Labor Day. The district feels this would provide both teachers and students quality instruction time before statewide accountability assessments.

The summary indicates numerous additional benefits in joining the collaborative effort. These include: "Common learning management system to support collaboration and student achievement tracking, time for teachers to implement and refine research-based instructional strategies, common calendar days dedicated to professional development, and an alignment with high education semester schedules."

A recent survey of district staff members indicated a clear divide. Of 52 votes, 58 percent are in favor of the proposed change, while 42 percent opposed it. The reasoning for the split was not defined.

The collaborative effort would allow for staff development opportunities, including integrated professional learning communities across school districts, maximizing the sharing of resources and strategies. There would be three common professional development days for staff, beginning in mid-August and wrapping up the following February of each year.

To assist with a decision of the proposed collaboration, three public forums have been scheduled in regards to the effort. The first will be Monday, January 10th, at the middle school lunchroom in Peterson. The second will be held Thursday, January 27th, and the third Monday, February 7th, both in the high school theater. The public is encouraged to attend.

Should the district move ahead with the collaborative effort, approval from the Department of Education would not be expected until mid-April 2011. The initial term of the Flexible Learning Calendar would be three years and would begin with the 2011-2012 school year.

Momentum continues on the New School Initiative. At least 20 people have indicated an interest in serving on the Facilities Task Force. The first task force meeting is set for January 20th, at 6:30 pm, at the middle school in Peterson.

The board has conducted a second reading and subsequent approval of the Bullying Prohibition Policy, Hazing Prohibition Policy, and Harassment and Violence Policy, in addition to two others.

The district has been notified that the charter school application was denied. The deadline on revisions and resubmittal of the application is December 28th. The district intends to complete the document.

The green house on the southeast side of the school collapsed due to heavy snowfall December 17th and 18th. The school's insurance policy has a $2,500 deductible clause. While the district has submitted a claim, Ehler indicated that he is entirely confident of receiving funds for the repairs.

Board meeting dates for January and February have been changed due to holidays. They will now meet January 24th and Monday, February 28th. Again, the public is encouraged to attend.

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