Instructional coach Katie Schroder

School board secretary Kindra Reiter and board president Kyle Grimes listen as Sibley-Ocheyedan instructional coach Katie Schroder gives an overview of her first year in the position during their meeting Monday, July 18 in Sibley.

SIBLEY—The Sibley-Ocheyedan Board of Education experienced a return to regular attendance and discussion points during their meeting on Monday, July 18.

Three individuals requested to speak during the public forum in Sibley, sharing their thoughts on creating a positive learning environment as the new school year nears.

Speaking first was alumnus Casey Hertz, who taught in Worthington, MN, for the past five years and has accepted a principal position in the city’s district.

“I’m just here to speak in support of what I believe our staff is trying to do. What I’m pushing and hoping for our school board to do is just to support students, and support teachers to hold those students to high expectations,” Hertz said.

Hertz argued experience in the classroom showed high expectations yield high results.

“They’ll learn more, they’ll achieve more, they’ll be more successful in the classroom, on the athletic field, and I believe after they graduate. That’s been true for me in my education. That’s a big part of why I went into education,” Hertz said.

High school science teacher Mike Wedge shared a reminder that schools can’t do it alone. Demands on the public education system have grown in the past century after initially being implemented to provide training in reading, writing and math. He outlined how each decade since the 1910s added items to an increasing list of requirements for schools.

“And we have not added a single minute to the school day in six decades,” Wedge said. “We can’t do justice to everything on this list but — if every parent, every teacher, every student, every school board member, every business owner, every farmer works together — we can certainly accomplish more.”

Middle school social studies teacher Ryan Wiersma concluded the public forum portion by thanking the board and sharing his thoughts on challenging students.

“I truly believe that everything that the school board and the administration does is done in the best interests of our students and our staff,” Wiersma said.

Wiersma said “the goal isn’t struggle” and said there is a misconception around the topic.

“We’re not trying to make things difficult for the students,” he said. “We just know that going through difficult things, on the other side of that is where the learning and the growth take place. The struggle isn’t the goal. It’s the process to which we get to the goal.”

Coach report

The board heard an instructional coach report from Katie Schroder, who also earned her Google for Education Certified Coach certification over the summer. She shared an overview of her first year in the position, along with goals for this coming school year.

To minimize teacher absences for training, it was decided to create a mentoring program to implement on-site that’s been approved by the Iowa Department of Education.

“That was one of my projects this year,” Schroder said. “My overall objective for this program was to provide relevant and timely support and collaboration to increase beginning teacher efficacy and retention. We want to make sure that at Sibley-Ocheyedan we provide them with the support that they need so that they want to become lifelong educators.”

Schroder demonstrated the professional development program accessed through the Data Solutions portal, where teachers focus on learning individual skills at their own pace.

“I also worked a lot with curriculum and lesson planning,” Schroder said. “I want to support our teachers in creating student-centered, rigorous, relevant lessons.”

She did not realize how involved the instructional coaches are in the district until she became one engaging in professional development implementation, curriculum development, technology integration, intervention strategies, and modeling lessons, Schroder said.

“We have an amazing teaching staff,” she said. “We have some awesome people working with our kids every day, and they’re striving to provide the best education possible for these kids. They are making huge impacts.”

Policy tweaks

A number of policy changes will go into effect, mainly in response to legislative changes. New policies approved addressed radon mitigation.

The board needed to set the maximum salary a board member could earn if they assume other employment opportunities in the district. The state changed the threshold from $6,000 per year to $20,000, but each district sets their own maximum.

Concerns with conflicts of interests and co-worker balance were voiced if the amount became too high. The board approved amending the earnings policy that the amount cannot exceed $15,000 during a fiscal year.

Board member Jamie Arend also asked about the change in open enrollment policy, which was modified to remove the deadlines for application.

In a brief administrative report, superintendent Jamie Craig encouraged board members to look for examples of student achievement and participation during the Osceola County Fair, and shared an excerpt from Dan Butler’s book “Permission to be Great” on the importance of setting positive outlooks since people tend to see and experience what they look for.

Softball achievements by Alayna Wingate and the team receiving the distinguished academic achievement award for a combined GPA of 3.446, along with summer All-Conference honors were announced by Craig during the Recognition of Excellence.

Additional documentation on board items can be found on the district’s webpage: thegenerals2.socsdit.org.