Move over ‘No Child Left Behind’ make way for the ‘World’s Best Workforce’

Kelley Stanage/The Caledonia Argus  Three Junior Lego League teams have formed at Caledonia Elementary School. The students range in age from 6-9 and gave a presentation during the Nov. 18 School Board meeting.
Kelley Stanage/The Caledonia Argus
Three Junior Lego League teams have formed at Caledonia Elementary School. The students range in age from 6-9 and gave a presentation during the Nov. 18 School Board meeting.

By Kelley Stanage

Caledonia Argus


At the Nov. 18 Caledonia School Board meeting, Superintendent Ben Barton introduced the concept of a new accountability program replacing the Federal No Child Left Behind program. Barton said, “This is the next big deal in education in the state of Minnesota… at the very last moment, this new legislation went through. It’s called the World’s Best Workforce.” He described it as “basically a fancy name for a district strategic plan. It’s a strategic plan that’s very intense, and it’s very descriptive, and it entails basically everything we’re doing in our district,” he said.

According to the Minnesota Department of Education, the program’s goals are to:

• Have all students meet school readiness goals.

• Have all third grade students achieve grade-level literacy.

• Close the academic achievement gap among all racial and ethnic groups of students and between students living in poverty and their more privileged peers.

• Have all students graduate from high school.

• Have all students attain college and career preparedness.

World’s Best Workforce (WBWF) requires an advisory committee be formed, comprised of a majority of community members and parents, to provide guidance on the strategic planning process. It also requires a published annual report, which must be delivered in a public meeting.

Barton said the district has already made a good start in their identification of a mission, core values, aims and goals. Work has also been done at the building levels with goals and activities. He indicated there is a considerable amount of work yet to be accomplished in order to meet the requirements of the program.

WBWF requires the district to pull together all of the separate reporting on staff development, student achievement, technology planning, curriculum planning and adoption and early literacy reporting into one comprehensive plan.

Barton has been doing some initial work with Middle School/High School Principal Paul DeMorett and Community Education Director Nancy Runningen to “plan for the plan.” He told the board they will be hearing more about this in the coming months.


Lego League presentation

Three teams of children, age 6-9, presented their Junior First Lego League projects and demonstrated the models they had built. This year’s challenge is “Disaster Blaster.” The first team focused on rescuing people with a helicopter after a tsunami. The second team considered a hurricane and the use of a windmill. The third team selected a tornado as their topic and “built a crane to get people out.”

The children clearly enjoy their involvement in the program, which builds skills in creativity, problem solving, teamwork and STEM (science, technology, engineering and math).

Superintendent Barton expressed gratitude to parents involved and indicated the program could not have happened without the help of such volunteers. He also mentioned the program has now been adopted at the high school level as a Minnesota State High School League event.


Substitute pay

There was general agreement the current rate of pay is not sufficient to attract substitute teachers. Board Chair Michelle Werner asked if this was something the board wanted to consider changing in the middle of the year. Board member Kelley McGraw said it might be a good idea to get teacher negotiations settled first. Member Spencer Yohe floated the idea of starting substitutes out at a lower rate and then raising the rate after a certain number of days worked.

The board decided to wait until next year to take action on this, but to have something ready for consideration by next school year.


Other news

Other business included:

• The board approved hiring Tory-Kale Schulz as the One Act Play advisor and Kody Moore as junior high boys basketball coach.

• The board accepted the resignations of Brandon Meiners as 7th grade girls basketball coach and Dustin Moburg as head boys soccer coach.

• The board agreed to freeze the Health Reimbursement Arrangement so as to avoid paying annual fees for a plan that is currently not being used.

• The board approved amending the Flexible Benefits Plan as required by recent legislation.

• The board signed an agreement joining SEMNET, a regional network collaborative providing telecommunication services for K12 schools in southeast Minnesota.

• Board member Spencer Yohe reported that he attended a Houston School Board meeting and met their new interim superintendent, Dr. Charles Rick, who was DeMorett’s superintendent at a previous school. One item discussed was the idea of year-round school. Yohe passed out a sample schedule and noted, “If it’s going to come to pass, why can’t we be the first? And, why can’t we be the leader in southeast Minnesota?”

• Board member Jared Barnes reported on the technology committee’s evaluation of expanding the one-to-one computing (currently in grades 4-6) by adding iPads for grades 7 and 8 next school year, and doing a pilot for 9th grade in 2015.

• Board member Amanda King said the finance committee met to review the annual audit. Barton said the accounting firm Larsen Allen will present the audit next month.


Closed session

Finally, the board voted to go into closed session to discuss negotiation strategy. No decisions were made upon returning into open session.

The next regular School Board meeting is set for 7 p.m. on Dec. 16.