Pine River looks to improve district

LEROY — Pine River School District is aiming for improvement after the Board of Education approved a plan to improve the district’s performance at a regular meeting on Monday.

The district school improvement plan is set by the state each year and targets specific areas for improvement. Plans were approved for the district as a whole, as well as each of the district’s five school buildings.

“Our goals are to improve student literacy, communication skills and math skills,” said Pine River superintendent Jim Ganger. “We want to make sure every student can read and write effectively.”

As part of continued school improvement guidelines set by the approved plan, the district’s school improvement team will meet later this month to discuss options to increase efficiency of the school system. The team is made up of roughly 18 members, including an administrator, teachers, parents and support staff.

One item on which the group will focus, Ganger said, is determining a reasonable homework load for students. They plan to organize a parent survey to receive input on how much homework a student and family consider to be manageable.

“We want to set realistic homework expectations for us to ask families to support,” Ganger said. “We want to help enforce our excellent classroom instruction by students working on five or eight problems in the evening for 15 minutes or a half hour a night. Certainly every class can’t send home a half hour of homework. We realize there needs to be a balance.”

Another important issue for the district, Ganger said, is completing personalized interventions at an early age for struggling students.

“A lot of times students who are behind because of lack of maturity, home environment or anything else get behind and are labeled as special education students,” he said. “We are trying to work with and develop those kids so we can keep them out of the special ed class. We think early intervention is where it’s at.”

In other business, the board heard from Stephanie McConnell a teacher at Luther Elementary, who presented the implementation of a 90 minute reading block based on whole group instruction and literacy workstations at Luther Elementary. Teachers focus on all five components of reading, which include phonics, phonemic awareness, vocabulary, fluency and comprehension. They also differentiate workstations, so students are working at the appropriate reading level and engaging in tasks that increase learning.

“We are fortunate at Luther (Elementary) to have received some grant monies, which have allowed us to have iPads, computers and workstation materials, that enrich our student learning,” McConnell said, in an email. “We also have an amazing group of community and parent volunteers, who support our instruction. With all of these pieces working together, our goal is to support all students, so they are strong readers.”

The board also set the 2013 high school graduation date for 7 p.m. on Friday, May 31 and approved a trip to Montreal during spring break of 2013 for eight students who have completed French II class and the French class advisor.

The board will meet again at 6 p.m. on Nov. 12 at the high school media center.