The Menahga School Board authorized the purchase of intervention resources to improve reading lessons for elementary students.

They unanimously approved spending up to $30,000 at their July 19 meeting.

Specialized Program Individualizing Reading Excellence (SPIRE) incorporates multisensory activities to meet different learning styles, while also providing explicit, teacher-led lessons.

Language Essentials for Teachers of Reading and Spelling (LETRS) is not a curriculum, but rather a training tool for teachers, said Christy Henry, a reading teacher who works with the district’s most at-risk readers.

“We have many, many students that are struggling with phonological awareness skills, decoding – and all of that ties into them being able to be a sight reader and reading fluently,” she said. “We implemented screeners, and one of the things we found are these are the biggest areas preventing our kids from being proficient.”

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These programs better meet a student’s individual reading needs and offer systematic instruction for teachers, explained Menahga Elementary Principal Jeannie Mayer.

Mayer noted that LETRS is fully supported by the Minnesota Department of Education.

LETRS puts a renewed emphasis on chronological awareness and phonics, added Henry.

“Schools across the United States are finding that this has been the component that has been lacking for a very long time,” she said, noting studies have found 40 percent of students need this specific instruction to become proficient readers.

Virtual meetings remain

With the end of the peacetime emergency, Superintendent Kevin Wellen noted the school board will revert to in-person board meetings. If a board member cannot attend in person and wants to vote, she may attend via video conference, he added. Three of the board members attended Monday’s meeting virtually due to being out of town.

“We will keep the virtual meeting open for the public because, like even tonight, we had 25 people online,” Wellen said.

In other business, the school board did as follows:

  • Approved a Johnson Control quote of $59,280 to replace two air handlers in the district office and art room area.

  • Accepted letters of resignation from high school science teacher Bailey Yliniemi, effective June 29, and paraprofessional Julie Hudek, effective July 31.

  • Approved teacher contracts with elementary teachers Emily Huotari and Hannah Bliss. Both begin with the 2021-22 school year and are contingent upon licensure and successful background check.

  • Approved a contract with technology integrationist-webmaster-digital communications-district assessment coordinator Kayla Polasek, beginning with the 2021-22 school year.

  • Increased summer school teacher pay to $40 per hour, summer paraprofessional pay to $21 per hour and summer cook pay to $21 per hour for the summer of 2021 only, due to the impact of COVID-19.

  • Agreed to contribute $3,441 to Todd-Wadena Community Concern for Youth for 2022.

  • Authorized the superintendent to solicit bids to replace and upgrade the dust collection system for the high school woodworking shop.

  • Hired Kerry White as a part-time instructional coach.

  • Promoted Elena Niemela to district secretary.

  • Approved a grant application to Five Wings Arts Council to bring fiber craft workshops, taught by regional artists, to the Menahga community this fall.