McCook Public Schools Superintendent Grant Norgaard and staff members Karen Miller and Gayle Sharkey updated school board members Monday on assessments and school improvement, which, Norgaard said, are getting more attention from the state's Department of Education.
Miller said MPS is "celebrating success with 'L to J,' " a learning system for students and staff to visualize high standards, continual student growth and superior success rates. "We're getting there," Miller said. "We're hitting goals throughout the school year ... graphs are showing definite improvement."
Norgaard said that McCook is concentrating more on NCEs (Normal Curve Equivalent) rather than the traditional NRTs (Norm Reference Tests) because NCEs focus on continuing student progress and growth and instructional performance.
Sharkey explained the steps in the MPS School Improvement Plan, which has as one of its goals increased vocabulary skills for students, and research into effective practices and teaching strategies to attain that goal.
Sharkey said that the school improvement plan has included in its action plan teachers' introduction to "Moodle," an online learning management system designed to give educators the tools to manage and promote learning. Moodle users may use activity modules such as forums and databases to build "communities" of learning around a subject matter (such as the vocabulary instruction in McCook), while others use Moodle to deliver content to students and assess learning.
In other business:
* Board president Tom Bredvick reported that the school district has received an "unqualified" financial audit, "the best audit we can get."
The audit by McDermott and Miller indicates that the only weakness in the business office is a lack of staff that allows one person to handle a transaction from beginning to end. Norgaard said that an increase in staffing is not feasible, so duties are segregated as staffing allows.
Norgaard pointed out several audit highlights:
1. The district's total net cash assets, compared to the prior fiscal year, increased $262,648. "We've been very conservative," Norgaard said, "building strength in our finances.
2. The district's general fund net cash assets increased $881,090 with some special education assets rolled into it when the school's "cooperative (special education) fund" was discontinued.
3. Refinancing in 2008 of the bond on the renovation/construction of North Ward/McCook Elementary "was a wise move," Norgaard said, reducing the net debt service from $8,766,490 to $8,018,404, saving the district $748,086.
* The board adopted additions to Policy 504.03 concerning conduct and discipline of students/restraint and seclusion and Policy 406.08 regarding certificated employee evaluation.
* McCook High School Student Council members Jaci Saalfeld and Jordan Pick told board members that the group earned a "Silver" level award as an outstanding Student Council at the state convention in Ogallala. They hosted the North Platte High School StuCo at the bowling alley in McCook, and they plan a highway clean-up and paper recycling.
* Jody Radl reported that a book fair by the McCook Elementary Parent-Teachers Organization resulted in $70 to buy books for each classroom and $1,000 for books in the school library.
During "Positive Comments," student representative Becky Goodenberger said she is impressed with the L to J learning system, wishing she had experience it when she was younger. "It's very, very beneficial for younger students learning vocabulary," she said. "It will expand our vocabulary a lot." McCook Elementary Principal Lynda Baumbach agreed, saying "it's exciting" to see students growing in their vocabulary.
Lyons said she is impressed with the pool of substitute teachers, and Scott Johnson said students enjoyed the presentation by former NASA astronaut Duane "Digger" Carey.
Larry Shields congratulated the MHS FFA horticulture team on its bronze award at the national FFA convention and the livestock judging team on a seventh place award at a judging competition in Kansas City.
Bredvick and Shane Messersmith agreed that they have been impressed with MPS representatives to district and state sports competitions and with the FFA.
Maury Green said McCook will put to good use the federal stimulus funds slated for a classroom expansion at McCook Elementary. "It will expand and improve an already modern building," he said, "providing well for all students."
Norgaard said he enjoyed the Thanksgiving meal prepared for administrators by Lynne Kinne's life skills and resource students. "They did an excellent job," Norgaard said. "It was a great meal."