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Public, parochial schools will share mentoring program

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

McCOOK, Nebraska -- McCook, Nebraska, Public Schools will share its TeamMates mentoring program with St. Patrick's Catholic School, also of McCook, following action Monday evening by the MPS board of education.

MPS board members voted unanimously to open the MPS TeamMates program to St. Pat's when Darcey Hansen, director of the MPS program, told them about the growing need for mentors. She said that the Rev. Gary Brethour of St. Patrick's has signed a "Memorandum of Understanding" to establish a TeamMates program at St. Patrick's.

Stacy Priebe, an official of the MPS TeamMates program, said that there will be no paid director at St. Patrick's and no cost to McCook schools to bring on St. Pat's. St. Patrick's students will be mentored at the St. Patrick's school, he said.

Hansen said there is already one mentor-mentee match at St. Patrick's and one referral for another match. "I believe we'll have mentees waiting for mentors just like we do here," she said.

Hansen said she is "no where near" capacity for mentors. "I need more mentors very badly," she said. Priebe said that Jim Dusatko, a retired McCook businessman who has been involved in the program for several years, has agreed to a second match, which is unusual as one mentor usually has only one mentee.

Hansen told board members that TeamMates in the McCook schools setting is showing significant results:

* 67 percent improvement in academic performance;

* 83 percent reduction in disciplinary actions; and

* 100 percent reduction in unexcused absences.

The MPS TeamMates program is open to fourth graders through seniors; St. Patrick's program will be open to fourth through eighth graders.

Hansen said that she performs a background check on each mentor applicant, and that each must complete training. Each mentor is then expected to spend at least one hour a week with his/her student.

MPS Superintendent Grant Norgaard said that a TeamMates mentor can make significant differences in the school, social and family life of mentees. "It's a strong program," he said, adding that he appreciates TeamMates' relationship with MPS.

The vote to bring St. Patrick's into the MPS TeamMates program was unanimous.

MPS board of education members accepted, with gratitude, three donations:

* Two $1,000 checks from First Central Bank and McCook National Bank to purchase new wireless scoreboards for the gym at McCook Junior High.

* A $1,000 grant payment from the McCook Community Foundation for technology updates, wiring and a presentation system in the main classroom for the LIFT alternative education program.

Beverly Anderson introduced Linda Babcock, who will replace her as manager of the Sodexho food service at MPS. Anderson said that she plans to change jobs the first of the year, and that Babcock has had three years with Sodexho in the McCook program.

Anderson also reported that a $4,500/three year grant from the McCook Community Foundation has been approved for the "backpack" program in which children are given food for the weekend. Seventy-two backpacks are sent home with McCook Elementary students, she said.

Superintendent Norgaard told board members that the school is working to update its "decades-old" telecommunications system at the junior and senior highs, trying to determine if the work should be bid out or if it can be done in-house. He also said that teachers will be involved in an in-service Wednesday to study data analysis of assessments and its affect on curriculum and instruction.

During board comments, board member Shane Messersmith suggested that MPS investigate the need for policy regarding social networking by students and staff.

MHS senior FFA member Kaitlyn Fritsche told board members about developing a "flat iron exclusive" recipe and marketing program during an exercise at the Nebraska Youth Beef Leadership Symposium at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Nov. 20-22. Fritsche said the symposium is designed to spark young people's interest in the beef and ag industry.

Fritsche said students were challenged to create recipes and marketing strategies for two new cuts of beef -- the flat iron steak and petite cut -- and present them to UNL staff and restaurant representatives. Fritsche said her group grilled and flavored a flat iron steak with jalapenos, filleted it and served it with spicy apple slices. "We packaged and marketed it as a 'flat iron exclusive' for Chili's," she said. Fritsche said the flat iron steak is the second-most tender cut of beef, but is as inexpensive as hamburger.

Fritsche said the symposium was attended by students from Kentucky, North Carolina and Arizona. "It's amazing how many people come to Nebraska to learn about beef," she said.

Fritsche won one of six $500 college scholarships awarded during the symposium.

MHS Student Council members Jaci Saafeld and Kelsey Collicott reported that StuCo donated $500 to breast cancer research and $2,500 to Make-A-Wish.

During "Positive Comments":

Diane Lyons congratulated student body representative board member Hailey Esch for qualifying for the FFA state convention in job interview and as a member of the ag demonstration team. Lyons also congratulated MHS senior tennis player Connor Larson for being a "Face in the Crowd" in the Sports Illustrated magazine.

Hailey congratulated Wyatt Kain for winning a mock election in Brent May's government class. Kain's slogan was, "Use your brain. Vote for Kain."

Shane Messersmith said that he and Dr. Wayne Watkins appreciated the "labor" they purchased at an FFA labor auction as they checked Messersmith's heifers and cows for pregnancy.

Finance director Rick Haney said he appreciates the efforts of the superintendent's communications committee, board member Scott Johnson and staff members Dan Shiers and Chris Wallace for their work on the schools' telecommunications project. "The main thrust has been Scott," Haney said, adding that there are "lots of important decisions being made for the next five to 10 years."

Norgaard added that staff at the elementaries and the junior high are working on their technology plans, creating visions and plans to benefit student learning.

Tom Bredvick said he appreciates the donation by the Rotary Club of dictionaries to elementary students, encouraging them to learn to spell rather than using spell check all the time. Community support of MPS is "what gives McCook that small-town feeling," Bredvick said.

Each board member thanked Scott Johnson for his time on and dedication to the school board for the past two years. Lyons said that Johnson "has done a fantastic job and learned quickly." Green commented on his calm demeanor and Larry Shields thank his for his smile and enthusiasm. "He was never upset or disgruntled," Shields said.

Bredvick thanked Johnson for his work on the board's Negotiations Committee, saying that thanks to Johnson's preliminary work, he has never been better prepared going into negotiations.

Messersmith said he will miss Johnson's "Dairy Queen vote" coming home from state meeting.

Johnson thanked his fellow board members, and Haney for all of his "behind-the-scenes" financial and budget work for the school district.

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Make a positive change in the life of a child. Donate just one hour per week while school is in session. Call Darcey Hansen or contact St. Pat's, Central Elementary or McCook Junior High for more information about being a mentor.

-- Posted by dennis on Tue, Dec 14, 2010, at 6:55 PM

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