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Teachers express concern over MAS policy – Board discusses issue at meeting

By Staff | Jan 17, 2008

ESTHERVILLE–More than a dozen Estherville Lincoln Central teachers expressed their concerns to the ELC School Board on Monday night about administrative intervention in the fifth-grade Missed Assignment Sheet policy (MAS).

According to fifth-grade teacher Margaret White, policy has been that students missing nine or more homework assignments are excluded from a field trip. She said on Dec. 21, ELC superintendent Richard Magnuson decided that a student who did not meet the MAS policy should attend a movie with the rest of the class.

White said the other students were not happy when they returned from the movie. She said using field trips in the classroom is a strong motivator. “The decision was made without any input from my team,” White said.

White wrote a letter to Magnuson on the issue and sent copies to school board members, team members and administrative staff. She said the MAS policy has been in place 17 years for fifth grade. White said administration had always previously backed teaching staff on the issue. The policy is in the student handbook which board members approve each year. The fourth grade has just adopted the policy this year.

Board president Molly Anderson said Magnuson considered the movie a gift rather than a reward. She said the board needs to establish what rewards are. “It comes down to what is a personal interpretation of an event,” Anderson said.

Board vice president Karen Butler said she had spoken with Magnuson about the issue and expressed her disagreement.

Board member Jodie Greig said she would have considered the trip in question as a field trip and board member Don Schiltz said he told Magnuson that he thought resolving the issue of the particular student in question was the building principal’s decision.

Middle school principal Mike Peterson said Magnuson had taken the position that as of immediately, if students have an activity then all students should participate.

Peterson asked the board how principals should proceed, noting that a message was being given that a student would not be denied a field trip except for behavior problems that could result in concerns over safety.

The board decided that questions regarding the policy should be left to the teacher and building principal and that they were to follow the policy in the student handbook as approved by the school board.

Teaching staff also expressed concern over the direction teachers should take with the Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math programs. Students who do not meet their goals cannot take part in celebrations.

Peterson said Magnuson had advised him that all future celebrations must include all students or not be held.

The board decided that since funding for the AR and AM programs was approved by the board that the celebrations should continue and include only students who had reached their goals.

Magnuson was unable to attend Monday night’s meeting because he was attending a funeral of a family member.

The board agreed to hold a special meeting noon Friday to discuss both the MAS policy and reward incentives for the Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math programs.

Magnuson said Wednesday it was his understanding the annual Christmas movie was not a field trip per se, but rather a tradition in which all students should be able to participate with parental approval and provided there are no extenuating student behavior problems.

“The Christmas movie is tradition for us,” Magnuson said, noting that students raise money for the movie through magazine sales and that it would be inappropriate to penalize students who had sold magazine subscriptions to be barred from seeing the movie.

“I just felt kids should go,” Magnuson said.

As to the Accelerated Reading and Accelerated Math incentives, Magnuson said the District Improvement Council had been working on addressing parent concerns about those rewards.

“They were prepared to think that was acceptable,” Magnuson said of rewards being extended to all students who participated in the program.

“You want to celebrate reading. That’s the reason for the incentive, not to penalize kids,” Magnuson said.

Contact Michael Tidemann at (712) 362-2622 or mtidemann@esthervilledailynews.com and visit our photo sharing Web site at cu.esthervilledailynews.com