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Middle school conferences will try ‘something different’

In addition to traditional parent-teacher conferences, Century School will encourage teachers this winter to try different ways to reach students' parents. Spring conferences will include a "showcase of learning."

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Century Middle School Principal Shawn Andress asked the school board on Dec. 2 to approve a format change for middle school parent-teacher conferences starting in 2020.

“We’re trying to do something different,” Andress said, explaining that there will be one night of “traditional” conferences at both the winter and spring trimesters and “one non-traditional, and we’ll report back as to what our experience was.”

Noting that the high school tried something similar last year, she said, “We are proposing, for our second conference night in January, that we would go to a model where that week, there would be an expectation that staff would document three and a half hours of communication with parents. … And then, at our second spring conference, we’d like to do a showcase of learning.”

This communication – by phone, email, group conferences, traditional meetings, etc. – would happen outside of teachers’ contract time, she said.

“We’re hitting only about 47-50 percent of conference attendance in grades 5-8,” Andress explained, voicing hope that demonstrations of student projects, new course offerings, six-week “hex” electives, and a desire to “do some things differently (will) draw some more families in.”

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Asked what the second night of the spring conferences might look like, Andress threw out ideas like a TED Talk or kids displaying their Genius Hour projects. She also noted that teachers in elective areas, such as art, don’t meet a lot of parents. Andress suggested that the showcase of talent might include an art show.

“What would it look like if we could have some kids actively participating in demonstrating their growth and their learning?” she said.

Board member Dennis Dodge moved to approve Andress’ proposal. The motion passed without dissent.

In consent items and general business, the school board:

  • Accepted the resignation of Shelby Arvik as Century School health professional, effective Dec. 11.

  • Approved volunteers Jesse Bucholz as wrestling coach and Kole Gieseke as speech coach.

  • Accepted donations totaling $2,222, including $1,000 from the Itasca-Mantrap Co-op to the English Language Learners program, $722 via Donorschoose.org to Kimberly Lembcke’s kindergarten class, and $500 in office supplies from RE/MAX to Century Elementary.

  • Heard Dodge report that he was recently elected chair of the North Country Vocational Co-op Center board, which has been awarded a $1.5 million grant to provide routers to all of its member school districts.

  • Dodge also talked about grants the NCVCC is pursuing, including one for a fifth-grade career awareness program, and the Harbor Freight Fellows Initiative, which provides incentives to both students and mentors for trade apprenticeships.

The school board went into closed session for a performance review of Superintendent Lance Bagstad and a self-review.
The school board’s next meeting is scheduled for 6 p.m. Monday, Dec. 16 at the Frank White Education Center.

Related Topics: EDUCATION
Robin Fish is a staff reporter at the Park Rapids Enterprise. Contact him at rfish@parkrapidsenterprise.com or 218-252-3053.
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