I apologize for the delay in preparing this information, but things on the school finance side of things have kept me pretty busy. This is not a dead issue and I hope to utilize the information collected here to inform many decisions that are made on the district level for many years to come.
I wanted to be certain that all district residents, staff, students, and board members are aware of the results of the District Advisory Committee meetings that have been recently held. The goal of these meetings was to determine a vision for Prairie Farm Schools. At the last meeting, conducted on January 31st, 2011, we discussed the items developed at the December 6th advisory committee meeting, as well as our student’s suggestions regarding what the district should look like 5 to 10 years from now, etc. Below are the items discussed including the District’s input or response to the items discussed in italics.
Topics Discussed on 1/31 (Italics indicate the District’s input/ response for each area):
- More opportunities for “college prep” and advanced placement (AP) courses
The district is evaluating this area. Currently, we offer AP English via iTV and AP Calculus through Molly Olson. It would be beneficial to offer AP opportunities in science and social studies as well. There are some limitations to this regarding the number of offerings each staff member can provide, however it remains an area we would like to improve upon.
- Increase the amount of iTV offerings (classes available via a network of multiple schools)
The district is limited on the variety of classes and the number of seats we are entitled to for iTV. Each year, the district evaluates the iTV offerings and competes for seats in classes our students want or need. We currently offer about as many iTV classes as possible.
- Increased development of technology skills and experiences
The district is evaluating this area as well. Surveys were recently sent to all district families regarding computer and internet access in homes. That information has been analyzed: of 180 surveys sent, 105 were returned. Of the 105 returned, 90 stated that they had a computer with internet access which represents 86% of district residents. This data as well as the student input we received (discussed below) indicates a strong need for the district to move forward with plans to become more technology integrated. Student surveys also indicated an opinion of better developing our technology based experiences. Students had great ideas regarding the use of “smart” phones and other internet capable devices for instruction purposes.
- More “co-op” opportunities for different classes (real world, on the job sort of experiences for credit)
This is an area that some staff is interested in developing as well. There are some difficulties however, with allotting appropriate time in staff’s schedules and/or allowing for extra-duty pay as there are responsibilities that occur outside of the school day.
- Provide service learning opportunities
These are opportunities that provide students with the type of skills they will utilize in the work force, tech school, or college. Some initial planning needs to take place to develop an outline of what these experiences will look like and what curricular area or areas are best suited to providing these opportunities.
- Allow volunteer hours for credit towards graduation
Similar to the previous item listed. Many schools REQUIRE volunteer hours for graduation; there has not been a lot of discussion on this topic however, it would be fairly easy to implement.
- Development of cross-curricular projects (having multiple classes covering similar topics concurrently that add to overall understanding and rigor)
This is a definite possibility for Prairie Farm given the small class size and the fact that all of the core teachers (language arts, math, science, and social studies) have nearly all of the students in the high school. This is particularly true for 9th through 11th grade. In the middle school, this would be fairly easily implemented with some planning and preparation on the staff’s part.
- Enhancement of our virtual school program (this program is in its infancy for the 10-11 school year and will be expanded and marketed beginning with the 11-12 school year)
The district has slowly rolled out our virtual school programming this year. We will continue to offer this type of educational experience to our residents and will begin some promotional activities to increase interest and enrollment for the future.
- Increase parent awareness of schedules and class offerings
This area can easily be addressed by providing the schedule on-line through our district web site. Look for information regarding the schedule and class options on our High School web page.
- Increase parent awareness of post-graduation options for students
Similar to the item above; information will be forthcoming on the School Counselor’s web page.
- Increase and enhance home-school communication
The district is looking into multiple possibilities to improve in this area. From surveys that were completed and returned, it was determined that a great majority of residents have internet access and would like updates and information to come via e-mail and the web page. The district will likely develop a “listserve” of individuals who wish to receive information via e-mail and send out updates periodically. We will continue working on this to provide parents and community members with all necessary information in a timely manner.
- Increase attendance at parent-teacher conferences (middle and high school)
This is an area we (and many other middle and high schools) struggle with. I am open to suggestions on how to improve this.
New Program Possibilities
- Develop a day care program operated by the school for children of district residents who are not involved in full day school programs to utilize
This type of program has some great potential and the district is seriously considering making a move in this direction. We want to proceed cautiously because we do not want to infringe on any community member’s livelihood by taking away children that they provide day care for.
- Marketing of our district via radio advertising and potentially other forms
As you probably already know, the district began marketing our schools online and on the radio. We will not know the impact of this until September of the next school year and even then, it may be difficult to determine the specific reason(s) for increased numbers.
- Utilize Business Education class(es) to develop marketing strategies and programs for the school
This too, has some strong possibilities. A limiting factor can be the amount of time available to our business education position. Developing new real-world, authentic curriculum for a program such as this, can be difficult and time consuming. This is something that would mutually benefit the students and the district.
- Early foreign language development for students in elementary grades (sometimes referred to as immersion classes)
This idea has found traction in many school districts in Wisconsin and in the nation. We would be quite limited due to funding issues; things have gotten worse instead of better in this area.
- Incorporate more technology options in classes currently offered
This is an area of focus today and will continue to be in the future. Students want the tools necessary to learn, collaborate, and create content in today’s world.
- Update/ Upgrade technology for students
Again an area we are currently working on and will continue in the future. Particularly, the network for internet access needs to be updated to wireless access with little or no interruption based on location.
- Improve athletic programs/ facilities
Students had strong feelings about improving our athletic programs. Mr. Olson is currently working through developing a mission, vision, and goals for our athletic programs with coaches and student athletes; there are many aspects of program improvement becoming incorporated for next year and beyond.
Developing a vision statement:
In addition to discussing various ideas for program and district improvements, a goal of these meetings was to develop a vision statement that encapsulated a common view of what should be occurring “tomorrow”. I had outlined in previous correspondence that a vision is different from a mission in that a mission defines the activities we are constantly engaged in, while a vision defines what we as an organization would like to be or become. A vision statement should bring to mind this drive or focus on the future and be a guiding statement as decisions are made in the classroom, on the athletic field or court, or in the board room. I have developed a vision statement as one possibility, but I welcome any input and am open to making changes.
Prairie Farm School District Vision Statement: “Focus on the future”- What are we doing for students today that will prepare them for tomorrow?
As always feel free to contact me any time.
Craig G. Broeren
715-455-1683 ext. 119