Three schools offer positive updates

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Principals Bob Schell (Elm Lawn), Maria Dyslin (Sunset Ridge) and Katrina Krych (West Middleton) updated the Board of Education at its regular meeting on Monday, Dec. 11 on what is happening at their respective schools and efforts to work even more collaboratively among all of the elementary schools.

"This is my fifth time reporting to the Board and the first time using a PowerPoint so you can see what kind of influence Katrina and Maria have had on me,'' Schell said to laughs.  

Schell said he has been impress with the continuity across all six elementary schools. He believes the principals are working together even more as a team and are more unified in their approach.

He said Elm Lawn has implemented a 100-day plan with fewer goals as studies have shown that leads to  greater achievement gains.

"We can only sustain so many new initiatives before it becomes overwhelming. We want to zero in on our central goals,'' Schell said.

He said meaningful collaboration is the school's main focus this year, with the goal of using the group to raise the group. He also noted norms of collaboration and working agreements are in place not just with his staff but among the principals. He said schools are also using data more than ever to focus on student results, with the focus on what do we want students to know and be able to do and how will we know when they have learned it.

Krych said West Middleton has a new mission and vision for what they want everyone to be with the focus on compassion and collaboration. She is very excited to have more parent involvement and has even asked her parent action team to create a list of hopes and dreams for their children.

"This is the most parent involvement I've seen,'' she said. "It feels more authentic than anything I've seen before. And West Middleton is unique. We have to do this work.''

The school has developed various engagement plans to meet its Title I requirements but has tried to make things more fun with examples being Zumba Night and a Math Night where students taught their parents.

"It's not one size fits all and we've learned we need to offer a variety of opportunities,'' she said.

West Middleton has developed a Wolverine Way Fund in hopes of raising additional money for transportation, winter clothing, swimsuits and books for students whose families need assistance. They are also working on an after school program pilot that would start in January with 20 children. The Middleton Recreation Department and Wisconsin Youth Company are helping with that effort.

"I feel like the staff is 100 percent invested,'' Krych said. "They would do anything for our kids. And I know Maria and Bob would say the same thing.''

Dyslin, who is in her first year at Sunset Ridge and came from Madison Metropolitan, has spent much of the school year getting to know students, staff and parents. She noted in order to talk deeply about collaboration requires trust and vulnerability, which takes time.

She has changed staff meetings so that they are no longer informational but another professional learning opportunity. It includes deep conversation and reflection about how to impact students, she said. She noted Sunset Ridge's student achievement is high but her goal is to not only maintain but improve it.

She is trying to help staff figure out how to leverage their time to help students achieve even more and believes it isn't an either-or situation. Staff are looking at how to improve academic and behavioral systems and to use data better to inform decisions. Restorative discipline is also a focus.

"There are a lot of great things happening at Sunset Ridge,'' Dyslin said.