MNVA Principal Angela Specketer and German teacher Karla Gotham presented a request to the Houston School Board at their regular meeting April 1, 2021, asking for the approval of a trip to Germany in the summer of 2022. According to Gotham, the students who plan on going on the trip will each be assigned one of the cities they will be visiting. At monthly meetings the students will be expected to take turns being “travel guides” for their cities and present information about the city to the rest of the class. This trip will fulfill the goals for cultural competency; their personal experience from the trip will help students make connections in geography classes and other classes as well.
The trip is tentatively scheduled for June 13-23, 2022; any MNVA students or staff are eligible to go. The trip will be led by EF (Educational Tours). EF will supply a dedicated tour director and bus if MNVA has 40 students and staff attending. If less, they will join another school group to fill the 40 passenger bus.
EF will help with taking care of any injured or ill students. They also collect the fees, take care of insurance coverage, and provide promotional materials. Students are eligible for a $200 discount on their $4,520 ticket if they enroll before April 30, 2021. There are also needs-based and merit-based scholarships available from EF. Students will need to obtain a passport and pay for their lunches on their own.
Superintendent Abraham recommended the approval of the trip, noting that MNVA has used EF in the past successfully. She added that College in the Schools is approved for German in MNVA so students would be able to get college credit for the trip as well. Specketer and Gotham pointed out the positive effect the trip would have on student engagement and retention in MNVA.
Aware that time was of the essence, the board gave Gotham the go-ahead to advertise the trip at once. Official approval will come at the April 15 board meeting.
MNVA principal Specketer shared that MNVA is diving into data to analyze student growth and needs. Classroom instruction is being driven by data; this has been a goal all along. Several students and staff from MNVA have been highlighted by local media including KTTC and KIMT. The MNVA career pathways programs as well as how the school serves students with unique educational needs were the focus of the reports.
Specketer shared that MNVA has scheduled MCA testing for the general school population, but there are still some one-to-one SPED and students taking the MTAS to be arranged. She was surprised by the number of students planning to take the MCA tests, having expected more to opt out during this pandemic.
Graduation for MNVA will be virtual again this year. Students will submit a photo and bio information to be used during the ceremony. They will be sent their gowns and caps so they can take pictures and an improved reception is planned for later in the summer.
Specketer told the board that more MNVA students are joining clubs this year than in the past. She speculated that they are looking for personal connections. Superintendent Abraham added, The pandemic is revitalizing our clubs!”
Elementary principal Rick Bartz reported that MCAs will be spread out over the month of April and early May to try to prevent screen fatigue. Since MCAs were cancelled last year, two of the four grade levels testing will be totally new to the process.
Bartz shared that the Smartboards at the elementary were being assembled and placed on carts. The walls in the building did not allow the boards to be attached; however, having them on carts is allowing for height adjustments for different classes, a plus!
A summer learning program may be held for the elementary; recent Fastbrdge test scores showed a need. Spring Fastbridge tests results will be used to determine students who need to attend.
After congratulating the girls basketball team and coaches on their state performance, high school principal Michael Mangan shared a prom update. Prom, planned for May 1, will most likely have a grand march outdoors followed by a dinner and entertainment at the school. According to Supt. Abraham, the most recent suggestion from the state was to provide each student with a three-foot pool noodle to measure their distance from others. With a chuckle, Abraham assured the board that was not currently the plan for Houston prom.
In other business, the board:
•Discussed the Washington, D.C. trip and learned students will be tested voluntarily before going on the trip; parents can decide whether they are comfortable with their child attending the trip (April 15 is the last day to cancel);
•Decided to keep the “COVID staffing” so classrooms can have 16 students at the elementary; they felt it was necessary since COVID could still be an issue and students could use extra attention to catch up in the fall;
•Approved a city lease for the summer rec program to use the high school athletic fields;
•Heard the two estimates for cameras in the schools; a decision will be made at the April 15 meeting;
•Approved the posting of summer school positions.
The next regular Houston School Board meeting will be April 15, 2021, in the high school media center; the public is welcome to attend.