4K, Northside, Sauk Trail provide glowing reports

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Northside, Sauk Trail and 4K-early childhood provided updates on the start of the school year and initiatives that are being implemented at the Board of Education regular meeting on Monday, Oct. 24.

"The start of the school year has been phenomenal,'' said 4K principal Kari Saunders, who noted there are 324 students in the program with nine sites. "One of the smoothest starts we've had.''

Middleton Preschool's Vicki Farnsworth, Little Red Preschool's Myra Stoikes and Elm Lawn's JoEllen Pauls also were part of the discussion on Monday.

Farnsworth noted that staff worked on curriculum over the summer that connects students with nature. There are 10 units and one of the highlights is each student gets to name a tree. The lessons also connect with what is happening in the schools with math and literacy. The culminating activity is a celebration at Pheasant Branch Conservancy.

"It's another way to connect our schools and communities,'' JoEllen Pauls said.

Pauls is excited about the collaboration that takes place between the eight community-based sites and the District. The District's site was moved from West Middleton to Elm Lawn this year due to space concerns and she praised Elm Lawn principal Bob Schell for making the 4K program feel welcome. She also raved about the custodians.

"They were phenomenal getting everything ready,'' she said. "It made things go much smoother.''

Pauls noted one of the advantages of a school-based site is to make sure the District's special education students can be successful. She said it has been great at helping those students develop relationships and be supported. "That's something to celebrate,'' she said.

Sauk Trail principal Chris Dahlk reminded the Board that she provides updates twice a year. She covered the many assessments students take. She noted a big focus is comparing the results of those who are on free or reduced lunch with other students. She said the goal isn't necessarily on the achievement gap, but having 10 percent more of disadvantaged students move into the proficient or advanced range.

She also noted that the Bridges Math Program which the District is using has been very beneficial for many of her students. She also shared a visual of iceberg and said the school is spending less time focusing on student actions, which are represented by the portion above the water and more on values and beliefs, which are below the water.

Student engagement efforts included a full-day of training on behavior and trauma during the summer.

"That training has really changed beliefs of teachers and I've had a number come out to me and say that was really timely,'' Dahlk said.

Ten staff members also attended the Social Justice Institute at UW-Madison for a week in July, while she and other teacher leaders had four days of adaptive schools training over the summer as well. He goal is to have staff use these tools as a way to make collaborative time targeted and meaningful.

She also noted that a family visiting from out-of-state and considering relocating visited the school recently and had an interesting observation.

"The teachers are happy and the kids are happy. What's going on?'' Dahlk said the family asked.

Northside principal Roz Craney focused his presentation on student and staff engagement. He shared numerous anecdotes, including how MHS students visit the school on Friday afternoon to help his students with homework.

"We focus on the relationships,'' he said. "We're engaging students to know that their education is bigger than one school.''

He noted the school's SPLASH advisory program is in its third year. Every student is put in a mixed grade group of 12-13 and every staff member leads a group. Teachers write the curriculum and this year's focus is  being different is awesome. In fact, author Ryan Haack will speak on that topic at the school on Tuesday.

Craney also shared that Nothside held a run, walk, move event last week that was organized by 80 adults. He said 99 percent of the students ran at least a mile that day. and 99.9 percent of staff ran a mile, too. The school also won three state or national wellness awards earlier this year.

"We do some pretty great things at Northside but where do we go from there,'' Craney said. "I couldn't be more proud of the work my staff and students do.''