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Predicts New Learning Center Will Be “A Shining Light” For Marinette Schools

Things are moving very quickly in the Information Technology Department as Marinette School District prepares to open the new early learning center at the old Menekaunee Elementary School, Curriculum and Information Technology Director Adam DeWitt reported to the School Board’s Curriculum and Technology Committee on Monday, May 13. “The work is daunting but worthwhile,” DeWitt declared. “This is going to be a shining light for our district.”

“It’s unbelievable how much time it takes to unpack 90 Chrome Books,” DeWitt commented as he informed the committee the new I-pods and Chrome Books they ordered have arrived and are being put into place. Classrooms are being fitted to use the new equipment to the best advantage.

DeWitt is working to accomplish as much as he can before his tenure with the district comes to an end. He has resigned effective Monday, July 8, to accept a position with CESA 8.

Asked if there are any specific issues the board and his successor need to be aware of, DeWitt said overall the department is very strong, “but we do need more hands on deck.”

Opening the newest department, he said, “Will stretch IT personnel even thinner.” He suggested perhaps they could find some people willing to work part time to save on benefit costs and avoid putting too much strain on the district budget.

He added that from necessity when he first came to work at Marinette he took on the Cisco phone system, and eventually became certified in its care and maintenance. That will be a hole to fill, since it is a task for which most IT personnel are not trained.

School District scores on the most recent Wisconsin Student Assessment System tests, especially in reading, were considerably less than impressive according to reports viewed by the committee. Math scores were slightly better, but not a lot.

The reports showed overall, only 27 percent of students scored advanced or proficient in reading, 44.9 percent scored in the basic range, and 24.6 percent of student scores were in the “minimal” range. The percentage of scores in the lowest range dropped and those in the basic range rose from last year, while proficient and advanced percentage remained almost identical. Scores for both years overall were down from 2008 through 2011 ratings.

In math the results were slightly better, with only 17.9 percent scoring in the minimal performance range, 42.5 percent in basic, 33.9 percent of students were proficient (down from 39.2 percent the year before), and 5.6 percent of students scored advanced ratings. The proficient ratings were down from highs of 9.4 percent in 2009-2020 and 9.3 percent in 2010-2011.

DeWitt explained scores would be down because of a change in test scoring criteria, but said teaching staff is looking into ways to improve the basic skills.

A new curriculum that builds one skill on top of another was started this year and many parents have reported seeing significant signs of growth, DeWitt said. He expects that will help.

He said when staff members meet in “data retreats” they break the test information down school by school, grade level by grade level and student by student, so the data becomes very personalized and can be used to identify strengths and weaknesses of individual students as well as the class as a whole. They then provide extra help where needed and track and monitor progress all year.

DeWitt added staff continues to learn how to use the data they collect. For the first data retreat they had gathered all sorts of information, but it turned out none of it answered their questions. They have since learned to collect and analyze the right data, he said.

Staff also is working together to set up curriculum for all grade levels to make sure all students have the information they need to meet “common core standards,” taught in the right order, with no gaps and very few significant overlaps.

Student Services Director Cynthia Russell-Smith reported enthusiastically on a TED-X “Ideas Worth Spreading” program recently held at the school with the help of numerous sponsors. Sponsorships included a $12,000 donation from the Hmielewski Family Foundation. She said when making their contribution the Hmielewski family spokesman told her to “get what you need and make it good.” Best Western also paid for several speakers, she said. The program, with numerous top speakers, was presented in the afternoon for students from Marinette, Menominee and Peshtigo schools, and in the evening for adults, including staff members and the community in general.

Russell-Smith said they are planning to purchase some staff development for this summer or the next school year, and potentially will need some added personnel, perhaps part time staff or parents who will help. In the near future every student will need to be screened for educational needs.

For the coming year she is still looking for a school psychologist, and they still need an early childhood special ed teacher.

They are working to expand the program that teaches special needs students aged 18 to 21 the life skills they will need to live on their own. For this purpose they are seeking apartments for them to live in, and are considering setting up an off campus classroom, “because kids that age go off to school.”

Committee member Terri Florek commented that at Manitowoc they have set up apartments on the school campus for those kids, but Russell-Smith felt off campus is a better way to handle is.

Florek is to present the proposal to the school board at its next meeting.


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