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Pine River-Backus School Board creates curriculum director position

Renewed dedication to existing policies may raise eyebrows.

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Echo Journal file photo
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PINE RIVER — The Pine River-Backus School Board tackled issues recently identified in their strategic planning sessions through policy reviews and updates and the creation of a curriculum director position.

The vote to officially advertise the curriculum director position took place during a Monday, May 16, special meeting held after the monthly work session.

The board discussed two possibilities before deciding to create the position. One was to hire a person from within to be a curriculum lead - a position where someone would work two hours per day on the school's curriculum, versus hiring a full-time director either from within or from outside of the district to do the same but with much more time.

The board also had to decide whether it would have the position be at will or part of the master agreement.

Board Chair Chris Cunningham said he didn't believe the new curriculum position could be effective working just two hours per day. Board members Wanda Carlson and Dave Sheley both asked Superintendent Jonathan Clark if he felt the two-hour position would be enough to address the district's needs.

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Clark said two hours would not be enough, but if the board was not ready for a full-time position, it might be a way for the district to start moving in that direction.

In addition, hiring from within for the two-hour lead position would require a current employee to take on additional responsibilities, stretching their time and resources in a way that might take them away from other duties.

Clark said the director would help the district to meet needs identified in the strategic plan. The position touches on three of the district's five benchmarks. The position should address needs in the categories of student achievement, staff development and facility usage.

The person hired for the position would be in charge of:

  • Tracking the Teaching & Learning budgets addressing curriculum, professional development, assessment and instructional technology.
  • Reviewing textbooks, software and other educational materials and making recommendations on purchases.
  • Leading instructional program evaluation processes and providing routine reports, including recommendations for improvements, to the superintendent and school board.
  • Working with the superintendent to lead and facilitate the District Advisory Council.
  • Creating and implementing a district-wide professional development plan.
  • Researching and providing tools, materials, data/information and training necessary for staff to improve academic progress for all students.
  • Collecting, compiling and disaggregating data to determine whether program goals are being met.
  • Leading the development of an aligned district-wide system of interventions and enrichments.
  • Developing and maintaining Teaching & Learning information on the district website and the district internet.
  • Assessment:  Providing leadership in program evaluation and data collection that meets the needs of the district.
  • Performing such other duties as apparent or assigned.

Cunningham said after they see the standardized test scores following the aftermath of COVID-19, they will want to have someone in this position working on curriculum and student achievement.
The board agreed to hire a full-time curriculum director, at will. They will require an advanced degree but not a curriculum director licensure.

Policies

The board also reviewed three policies already in place to which Clark said he would like to see closer adherence. Cunningham and Carlson said they expect to hear from some parents when the district starts enforcing the extracurricular activity eligibility policy as written.

The policy says students with a single F in any grade cannot participate in extracurricular activities. In addition, students must have at least a C average and must be in good standing with classwork. Students with 12 or more absences, not necessarily consecutively, will also be barred from participation.

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This applies to any absence considered "unexcused," which, by district policy, includes family vacations and doctor visits if the student does not provide a note to explain their absence.

Clark said the district hasn't necessarily been that strict on enforcing this policy, which might make some parents upset when the district starts clamping down.

Clark said the district is also not doing enough to follow its current violence prevention policy. He said they need more clarity and to provide more conflict resolution training.

The board also had a first reading of three new policies on weapons, attendance and student activities. The new policy on weapons now identifies flammable liquids as weapons.

The new attendance policy includes language accommodating religious holidays, ceremonies and events. The policy emphasizes which absences are excused and which are not.

Clark did say that among the new policies he would not feel comfortable enforcing is a policy that allows reduction in grades as a consequence of attendance or behavior issues. He said grades should exclusively reflect academic performance.

A new policy on student activities specifically states that funds raised for student activities may only be used to fund those activities and cannot be used in the general fund.

Clark introduced a policy discussion on distribution of materials on school grounds by nonschool groups. One immediate example is the Gideons, who sometimes distribute small Bibles to fourth-graders.

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Cunningham said area fire departments might fit under this policy during fire safety presentations. The board will review the policy before officially commenting on it in June.

The board agreed to move the next board meeting from June 6 to June 13.

Travis Grimler is a staff writer for the Pineandlakes Echo Journal weekly newspaper in Pequot Lakes/Pine River. He may be reached at 218-855-5853 or travis.grimler@pineandlakes.com.

Travis Grimler began work at the Echo Journal Jan. 2 of 2013 while the publication was still split in two as the Pine River Journal and Lake Country Echo. He is a full time reporter/photographer/videographer for the paper and operates primarily out of the northern stretch of the coverage area (Hackensack to Jenkins).
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