Marion board congratulates team on first MCAA season

The starting lineup at the Nov. 9 meeting of Unified School District 408 Board of Education meeting was Dale Vogel, Casey Nelson, Russell Ploutz and Drew Looper.

These Marion High School football players joined coach Grant Thierolf as he talked about Marion’s first season in the Mid-Central Activities Association.

“It was a fun season-interesting because we didn’t know anybody,” Thierolf said. “The other teams were very complimentary of these young men this year and thought they represented Marion quite well. It’s quite an accomplishment to go into a new league and win.”

Eight Warrior players were named to the all-league team. (See Page 16.)

Superintendent Lee Leiker and the board congratulated players and coach for the season.

FCCLA members Nikki Johnson and Kacey Evans brought 10 18-inch-by-24-inch metal signs and asked that the signs be placed at school buildings and athletic facilities as a reminder “that our schools are smoke free,” Evans said.

According to Myrta Billings, FCCLA sponsor, the signs were available free of charge from TASK, a coalition that promotes tobacco-free teens.

“We filled out an application form and sent in a copy of our non-smoking policies,” she said.

The board discussed the prevalence of smoking by adults outside the gymnasium and athletic fields, and agreed unanimously to accept the signs. Leiker said the district will handle installation.

Casey Case, of Case & Son Insurance Co., presented the school’s insurance policy, which is up for renewal Dec. 15.

“As you know, the insurance industry went through a major overhaul after 9/11 events; premiums have been going up by double digit percentages,” he said. “This year will be a 6 percent increase, about $3,000. But your commercial auto premium went down almost $3,000 due to good experience. The company increased your blanket coverage about $1 million.”

He said total coverage would be $16,895,311.

The board approved board clerk Martin Tice’s recommendation to accept Case’s proposal.

Missy Stubenhofer, district curriculum coordinator, presented data trends reflected in last spring’s state assessments and Iowa Test of Basic Skills. Those scores affect the district’s standing in the No Child Left Behind initiative.

Stubenhofer said the fourth grade showed steady improvement, but “unfortunately not the same trend at seventh grade level.”

She said the categories “exemplary” and “advanced” are satisfactory, “but we have too many in ‘basic.'”

She said in 10th grade, all students improved in all areas.

“These students scored well when they were at fourth and seventh grade also,” she said.

Leiker said administrators are taking “a long, in-depth look at scores.”

At the elementary level, Stan Ploutz said, “We’re targeting individual students to try to get their scores up. And we also target certain areas that are close.”

High school principal Ken Arnhold said at the high school level, motivation is a major factor:

“Maintaining that ‘Do the best you can’ attitude can be difficult, and sometimes it’s the high-end kids who don’t try their best,” he said.

Middle school principal Tod Gordon expressed concerned about special education numbers.

“Take a small class of 44 students that has 18 percent special-ed students,” he said. “We improved on three of the four math areas. Now we have about eight new areas to deal with. The state mean is going up…we have to make sure ours go up, too.”

Arnhold said that in some schools, if a student goes down a level on the state assessments, a remedial course is required.

He said that he and Gordon had recently attended a meeting in Wichita where administrators discussed some of their strategies to motivate students.

Gordon said one school had been advised by the state that they could not reward only the top level of students. All improvement should be rewarded.”

PassKey and Assessment Conditioning Exercises (ACE) are two resource tools used in the district to help students remediate and prepare for state assessments. The principals reported encouraging results with these computer programs.

Leiker suggested the board consider touring classrooms while they are in session, acknowledging that there might be some conflict with board members’ work schedules.

Rex Savage, board president, suggested the tour be combined with a board meeting. Board member Chris Sprowls moved that the Dec. 6 board meeting be moved to 7 a.m. rather than 7 p.m., with a recess during the meeting to go on the tours.

Leiker said he would schedule groups of two or three to visit different classrooms in each building, then reconvene to review what they saw. The board unanimously agreed.

The board discussed softball and baseball for next season, particularly the possibility of Peabody participating in the Marion program. Their major concern is cost, with transportation and an assistant coach needed.

Athletic Director Tod Gordon said, “Peabody doesn’t intend to have its own team in the future, as there aren’t enough kids.”

He said the state has a Jan. 1 deadline for requesting state permission to add Peabody players. He anticipates two softball players and at least six baseball players from Peabody.

Leiker said a new superintendent must be evaluated twice, once in the fall and once in the spring, according to state requirements, and he asked the board how they would like to proceed.

Savage said an evaluation document is in place. “Typically, we put it together, tabulate the results, and go over it as a board (with the superintendent) in executive session.”

He recommended keeping that system and asked board members to return their evaluations to him at least one week before the Dec. 6 meeting.

The board discussed TEEN and block scheduling. Arnhold said he has attended an organizational meeting for the year, along with Marion High School counselor Phoebe Janzen and two teachers, Janet Killough and Gary Stuchlik.

Each team is to come up with survey questions to be sent back to TEEN director Sharon Tatge for review

Arnhold said smaller schools need the ability to share teachers, and the block schedule is sometimes a problem within a school and between schools that have a different block or a daily schedule.

“I’d like to see the TEEN schedule work best for MHS, since we provide 80 percent of the teachers,” Sprowls said.

Leiker noted the most current enrollment for next semester shows only one student who will receive TEEN instruction from outside sources.

“I hope some of those (other TEEN) schools will look at offering some classes which are not offered in our district,” he said.

Ploutz announced the Marion Elementary BalAVisX program, in place for two years now, may hit the big time, because Time magazine is writing a story about its founder in Wichita. He gave the writer the names of Pam and Keith Jones as parents who successfully used the program.

Ploutz said, “We hope it will be published in December…. We’re the only program that does a lab.”

Arnhold relayed feedback about a program sponsored by Tabor College during which Rich Nielsen provided entertainment and talked about his work with prisoners.

“When the bell rang at the end, not a single student stood up until he finished,” he said.

Arnhold expressed appreciation for Don Krebs, director of student success initiatives at Tabor, and for Nielsen and the students in the audience.

In other action:

n high school student Anna Krch’s request to enroll at Marion High School was approved.

n Leiker followed up on weapons policy wording. He said the KASB doesn’t recommend a change because the wording follows that of state statute. The policy was approved as presented.

n Following a 15-minute executive session with teacher representatives Chad Adkins and Michelle Adkins, Savage announced Kathy Meierhoff and Gene Bowers will represent the board in teacher negotiations.

n Bill Pickering is to be offered contract as bus driver and maintenance worker.

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