Excerpts from Perham school focus groups
The report from the Perham School District's focus group sessions are now public.
Here are a few excerpts from the reports.
Morale at Perham schools
Staff morale is being affected by lack of understanding of current economic circumstances...Shortages of support staff, including paras and custodians, are contributing to morale decline.
Should continue college level, prep classes, cut other programs before cutting college level courses.
Block schedule needs to reviewed and assessed. Is block schedule affecting arts, and music? Is it also affecting basic curriculum? Art programs need to be reviewed and possibly redefined.
Rather than cutting curriculum, accelerate the current discussions on "distance learning", online instruction, sharing, and collaborating with neighboring districts.
Lesson plans should be more public and available to the administration and families, should this be mandated for all teachers?
Perham school facilities
A large campus is a strength, but is it also affecting efficiencies for a cost effective operation. Will less custodial staff/services negatively impact the ongoing condition of the facilities over time? Are there other creative options for utilizing existing facilities, such as PACC, St. Paul's gym, etc that would reduce operating costs?
Consider more collaboration with parochial schools in curriculum and extracurricular activities.
Paying for busing, or at least subsidizing busing costs was posed as a possibility in focus group discussions.
Eliminate or charge for summer school busing. Review extra curricular busing; reduce costs by combing, consolidating. Operate buses at greater capacity.
Drivers are friendly, clean, safe and reliable, but busing service lacks competition.
Some routes too long, but shorter routes would increase cost. Shorten routes by incorporating area bus stops as pick up points.
Cost-savings through a four-day school week surfaced in several contexts-including busing.
Health services Mental health issues are increasingly demanding to staff and faculty. At what point are certain physical and mental health issues beyond the resources of the school and outside agencies take over the responsibility?
Is our school taking on issues that parents are not addressing, mental health is not the responsibility of the school?
Fine arts and athletics expectations
Extra-curricular activities are commodities that are necessary for a broad educational opportunity; it keeps students here, and draws students in. If arts and athletics go, families will leave.
It is possible to have both excellence and high participation for sports, participation should be the focus at middle school students and excellence at high school level, with better athletes playing more and longer.
Need more volunteer recruitment of coaches and mentors.
Eliminate sports when participation is low.
How is the administration justifying cutting fine arts programs, when athletic programs have not been cut? Should fine arts be advanced through a community education model, fee-based?
Is block scheduling preventing student participation in music and arts?
Perception of staff
Superintendent and principals go beyond their conventional job descriptions. Administrators are involved in both school and community activities.
There is a strong sentiment to reduce the number of principals, can the superintendent position be combined with a principal position? Are there other creative ways to combine administration and teaching roles?
A reoccurring theme that the employment relationship between staff and administration is at times strained and challenged.
Teaching staff has been responsive to student needs and is committed to quality education. However, there are concerns about organizational skills and effectiveness of some teachers; and over-protection by the union.
Support staff was commended for community involvement. Overworked, and don't receive enough credit for a job well done. Support staff ranks getting too thin, grounds showing some signs of unkempt appearance, possibly due to custodial reductions.
There is some sentiment that the board needs a better-rounded mix, parents, business owners, retired educators, and younger representation. Members should have more energy, more visibility in the school and in the community representing the school at community functions.
Term limits and no pay was one suggestion--all volunteer, unpaid school board.
Keep class size manageable based on age of students and subject matter, class size in high school less critical. More effective use of paras could help teachers be more effective with larger class sizes.
Strong sentiment to keep college level courses, provide advanced students a curriculum that challenges and prepares them for the next educational step. College courses give Perham schools a competitive advantage in attracting students.
Should advanced college classes be fee-based?
Spanish and Chinese language should be offered, as well as additional science and technology. There is a perception that there is insufficient basic math, consumer math, and also life skills for those not college-bound, however, also noted was inadequate advanced math offerings.
Shop and agri-business classes still important to local economy, but fewer classes are available.