School attempting to right its ‘focus’ status
MANISTIQUE – Emerald Elementary is continuing to take steps to correct its designation as a “focus school” by the state of Michigan. The district revealed earlier this year that the school had been given this label because of its gap between the highest and lowest performing students.
During Monday’s meeting of the Manistique Board of Education, a quarterly focus school report was detailed by Emerald Elementary Principal Erik Mason. According to Mason, the quarterly reports must be presented to the board and then submitted to the state.
He explained that once the school was identified as a focus school, a letter was sent to all the parents detailing what “focus school” means, what the MEAP scores were, and what the school’s plans were to correct the situation.
“The reason why we’re a focus school was the gap between our top 30 (percent) and our bottom 30,” he said. “That was the only reason why. Every other thing, we were in the green.”
Mason said the school is actively searching for ways to close this gap.
“What we found out is sometimes we work in a bubble – where we’re working with our highest need students – and we want to make sure everyone’s involved,” he said. “We’re developing a communication system.”
After looking over a survey completed by administrators and additional staff, Mason said goals were created to help the school come out of focus status.
“We need to look at the school schedule based on students needs … what are we doing with those bottom 30 (percent) students,” he said. “Are we doing anything extra or do we need to do anything extra to help out with their scores?”
Along with strengthening the communication among teachers and writing intervention, Mason said they are also looking to expand hours of instruction to meet student needs.
“How can we improve our hours within the school day to work with those students’ needs,” he said.
One course of action the teachers and administrators agreed upon was revamping the math intervention for graded 2-5.
“We’re going to revamp our halfhour math intervention … with the resources that we have, with aids and tutors and our teachers, to maximize the time with the students and what to really focus on in those math concepts,” he said.
The school has also signed up for the state’s “Superintendent’s Dropout Challenge”, where they select students they feel would be at risk to drop out by the time they reach high school and provide mentors to these students.
“Just so those people can get to know those students,” he said. “For another friendly, helping hand beyond the teacher to help those students out. It’s a very simple system, but yet it’s a necessary system … and it’s very beneficial for those students, too.”
Board member Ginger Stark asked if any of the focus school goals are having an effect on the students who are performing well.
“Are things being watered down at all?” she asked.
Mason reassured Stark that each student is receiving adequate attention and utilizing accelerated math and reader, online programs, and the Moby Max curriculum.
“(We have) great individualized curriculum for reading and math to help those students who are doing well,” he said. “They can work at a higher level … while a student right next to them is working at their own pace, maybe at a lower level.”
He noted that the students progress is monitored weekly.
The board voted to unanimously to accept the focus monitoring quarterly report.
In other business, the board voted to extend the contract of Kathy McDonough, who they evaluated last month and deemed “highly effective”.
According to board President Gail Wood, the board would freeze the current contract wage of $91,350, a $10,000 in lieu of health insurance payment and 100 percent district-paid dental and vision insurance. Any wage increase or stipend will be discussed during district contract negotiations in 2014, she added.
McDonough’s contract, which was set to expire on June 30, 2014, was extended to June 30, 2015.