WESTBROOK, Minnesota (STPNS) --     WWG — Westbrook Walnut Grove has been in the consortium known as the Flexible Learning Year. Originally five years ago, about 25 schools in  southwest Minnesota petitioned the State Education Department to start school before Labor Day.

    At the time, the main reason for starting early was to improve test scores. However since that time little, if any, improvement has been shown indicating test scores have not had any significant change.

    Some area schools at the time opted not to join the FLY, and now on the second go around others have since dropped out. The only neighboring school left is Windom.

    Woelber said, “some  of the concepts of the FLY are good, noting in particular that the Professional Learning

Community, and communication between districts have been a good thing for our district. Even if we decide to drop out we will continue to work with those concepts.

    Some of the cons are being a part of a group that tends to be dominated by larger districts, there are things that they want that are not very feasible for smaller districts.

    He noted although it is nice to get out early, it really puts huge pressure to schedule everything at the end of a early end to the  school year.

    Woelber says, another thing we would keep, is our mentoring program for new teachers. That has worked very well. It really helps new teachers learn our system, and adjust to it.

    A meeting with the teaching staff to discuss the matter will be held at the beginning of January. If it is determined the district will drop out, a public meeting will be held later in the month.

    MREA delegate gave a report on the resolutions that were passed at the Delegate Assembly.

    The following resolutions passed by the assembly:

    • 1. Allow districts to use Health and Safety funds for school security upgrades.

    • Adjust the “Funding Donut Hole” of disparity between districts of different sizes.

    • Allow districts to levy for increased T.R.A, plus add Minneapolis and Duluth to T.R.A.

    • Increases to T.R.A. should be shared by teachers.

    • Dropping the limit for sales tax on student fund raising.

    • Exclusion for bullying training for school volunteers.

    Kleven also noted that Special Education costs are rising through-out the state, and Autism is more prevalent in the state.

    Joel Stencel of the auditing firm of Eide Bailly gave an executive summary of the district’s financial audit.

    He reviewed various parts of the report noting areas that are good and those that could use improvement. He also noted that the districts administrative costs are on the high side.  But there are reasons that it appears higher  than it really is. He noted that a lot of districts code a lot of their administrative costs so they do not show up as such in their audits.

    Overall he felt the district was in a very good financial position with a very good fund balance. Woelber noted that Westbrook Walnut Grove was one of the very few districts that has not had to borrow money to operate in many years.

    Cathy Baumann talked about the classes she teaches. She teaches 8th grade Earth Science. She likes the block schedule because it gives more time for doing labs, but it also is tougher getting through all of the  material.

    She works with her students to develop their reading comprehension and to get the kids to do more independent reading.  She also works on their note taking skills.

    She teaches ELL and has 26 students that qualify for the program, and she expects to have four of them exit the program this year. We have had some kids, new to the country, that are doing very well in their fourth year of the program.

    She says recently hired Hmong Para’s are very helpful as they are fluent in Hmong for translating. Some of the students were raised  both with Hmong and English, but not proficient in either.

    First year teacher Adrienne Kletscher teaches eighth and ninth grade English. In her ninth grade class she is focusing on reading and grammar. She has a Para which she says helps a lot with ESL students,  especially because there are quite a few of those in the class. Next semester she will be teaching another group in ninth grade English.

    Her eighth grade class is learning the basic parts of English and basics of grammar, along with a quarter of reading.

    In the first quarter she taught a class in Journalism, and followed up with a creative writing  and poetry class. She says they concentrated on fictional stories as well as poetry.

    She directed the junior high play this past fall.

    Athletic director Leo Theisen reported there would be a home  wrestling meet December 17 against Luverne and Fulda. There are 5 WWG students participating on the team. He reported the State High School League will be coming out with a realignment of football teams in all classes of the state in 2015. He is hopeful it will not affect WWG that much.

    He noted James Kleven has agreed to take over as score board operator for basketball.

    Theisen noted his stock market game teams placed quite high out of over 900 teams in the state. The teams placed 12,15 and 22.

    Woelber reported he would like to see a larger door put in the old shop at Walnut Grove. He said the door is not big enough to accommodate the newer school busses, and it is needed when the busses need to be thawed out or to work on them.

    Woelber talked about renovating the lunch room at Westbrook to look more like a commons area style. It would be nice for use as a study hall or after school place for kids to go to while waiting for rides and such.

    He suggested the board look into a special capital expense levy  to help maintain the facilities at the three campuses.

    Principal Bill Richards reported on the Portable Video production studio he has put together. He took the equipment to a couple of workshops to demonstrate the equipment and software. He said the school would be renting the use of the equipment in the future.

    He noted there will be a workshop for teachers on January 2.

    The board approved the following measures:

• Financial audit from Eide Bailly.

• Contract for principals Richards and Olson.

• Certified the final levy pay 2014 for $417,427.94 down from last year’s levy of $425,000. (Lower because of less health and safety needs)

• Flexible learning year discussion/concerns. January formal action.

• MREA ballot. Recommend board support for Brian Michelson.

• Support staff handbook for 2013-2014.