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Menahga part of reading sustainability research study

Ground has been broken on a Menahga School building project that includes additional classroom space. (Anna Erickson / Enterprise)

Menahga School was the focus of a recently published research study about the sustainability of reading efforts.

"Sustainability of Professional Development in a Post-Reform Context: A Qualitative Study of Shared Leadership," by Ju Hur and Dr. Jennifer York-Barr, researched the leadership efforts and sustainability of the reform in the three years after the Reading First grant was completed.

Menahga elementary principal Ariana Wright said that Menahga was referred to as "Lakeview Elementary" throughout the study but was told that researchers were referring to Menahga.

Out of 11 schools that were studied, Menahga, aka Lakeview, was chosen because it had the most promise for effective sustainability, Wright said.

"Lakeview Elementary" went through many struggles to keep reform going after Reading First dollars and external support were removed from the school.

In the published study, during the third year of sustainability a primary teacher from Menahga reflected, "For me, in kindergarten, I can see how what I'm doing is transferred to second grade. And the second grade teacher in my particular group can see where the kids are starting, and we make sure we are teaching kind of the same thing so that it'll transfer to every grade."

Joleen DeLaHunt, who was elementary principal at the time, made this comment about the staff and learning.

"The [PLC] discussions are more relevant to what they need to be ... they are much more in-depth and reflective than they had been," she said. "And I think it is because they [teachers] see the relevance ... You are putting yourself out there to bring your scores and say, 'Hey, I've taught for 25 years, but I'm struggling with this. Can you help me?' That takes courage and they do that. They take ownership."

Based on the published study, Wright has developed a to-do list for the school, which includes:

Maintain a focus on improving instruction by using Professional Learning Communities (PLCs), iObservation and data analysis.

Secure resources to continue professional development through grants, cooperative support and board support.

Develop layers of leadership to support continuous professional development with the SCT committee, leadership team, STAR team, grade level teams and department teams.

"I am so honored to be in the Menahga School District with such a great history of sustained reform," Wright said.

In other business, the board:

Approved a 2012 pay 2013 preliminary levy of $823,128.74, which is the highest amount the school can levy.

Business manager Liz Olson recommended that amount because she is still working with the state to make sure the numbers are correct.

"The state still doesn't have some things right," she said.

The final levy will be approved in December and can be reduced before that time.

School board member Jon Kangas was opposed to automatically approving the maximum levy.

"I don't like the idea that we always do the max," he said.

Kangas said some property owners are hurting and a reduction of even 5 percent could help.

Superintendent Mary Klamm reminded Kangas that Menahga School District does not have an operating levy like many other schools and is paying for the building project without a levy.

"It would be a disadvantage to the students" to not levy enough, she said.

n Learned that Menahga Elementary was recognized as a Reward School under the new Multiple Measurement Rating (MMR) from the State of Minnesota.

The measurement looks at proficiency, growth in target demographics and closing of the achievement gap.

There are 337 public school districts in Minnesota and 2,478 public schools, Wright said. Of these, 956 of them are Title-I schools. Menahga is included as one of 128 schools named as Reward Schools, which is the top 15 percent of Title I schools.

n Heard an update on the building project that includes the addition of classrooms to make room for increasing enrollment.

Justin Maaninga, with JP Structures, said some work has started but he is waiting to receive approval from the state on a building permit. Approval is needed before work on the footing and foundation can begin, he said.

n Heard from high school principal Dan Stifter about ACT scores.

He said 15 students took the test in 2012 and had a composite score of 22.3 compared to 21.9 in 2011. This compares to the state average of 22.8.

Menahga's scores improved in several areas, including English, algebra and social sciences/reading. Students had a lower average score in biology.

n Stifter reported a new scoreboard is up and has already been used at the football field. Several businesses stepped up to sponsor the scoreboard.

Anna Erickson
Anna Erickson is editor of the Wadena Pioneer Journal.
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