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Perham-Dent School District reports improvements in achievement and integration

Hannah Levenhagen, the student success coordinator for the district, presented the World's Best Workforce report at the Wednesday, Jan. 18 school board meeting.

Exterior front entrance to Perham High School.
Perham High School
Perham Focus file photo
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PERHAM — The Perham-Dent Public School District is currently taking several steps to help facilitate student success. Several of these steps were discussed at the Wednesday, Jan. 18 school board meeting.

Hannah Levenhagen, the student success coordinator for the district, presented the World's Best Workforce report. Every district in the state of Minnesota is required to develop plans to address World's Best Workforce goals, which fall under the five different objectives: kindergarten readiness, reading at grade level, closing the achievement gap, college/career/life readiness and graduation.

Levenhagen also gave an achievement and integration report, in which she discussed the different goals set by the district three years ago to reduce achievement disparities, increase racial/economic integration and increase access to effective and diverse teaching.

One goal is to reduce the proficiency gap in math testing between students who receive free and reduced price lunch and those who do not. Another is to increase the graduation rate of free and reduced price lunch students. The third is to increase cultural competency in staff and students.

Through several different programs implemented by the district over the years since those goals were set — such as math tutoring, power hours, academic support specialists, cultural competency training, diverse lessons and more — Levenhagen reported that numbers showed the district was gradually improving and reaching those goals.

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Currently, the district is working on putting together its next goals and strategies.

Heart of the Lakes Elementary is at the end of year one of the identification cycle for school improvement. Principal Mike Kunza mentioned that three areas of improvement were identified for the elementary school to focus on for the next couple of years.

For the first area of improvement, they plan to look at their initiatives to refocus and retrain staff so that everyone is on the same page. For the second, they hope to find more ways to help Spanish-speaking families with communication, homework and more. For the third, they found that about 45% of Hispanic kids are missing 18 or more days of school, so they hope to find ways to help families and reduce absences.

The elementary school surveyed Spanish-speaking HOTL families and students to determine ways to move forward with these areas of improvement.

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Also discussed at the school board meeting were the following:

  • School board members DJ Altstadt, Justine Anderson, Mike Hamann and Nate Rooney took the Oath of Office after being elected to the board in the 2022 general election.
  • The school board reorganized some roles of board members. Justine Anderson is the chairperson. Nate Rooney is the vice-chairperson. Sue Von Ruden is clerk. Cyndy Huber is treasurer.
  • The school board approved a new cooperative agreement with Detroit Lakes to sustain numbers for girls hockey. Now, Frazee, Park Rapids, New York Mills and Wadena will be included in the agreement alongside Perham and Detroit Lakes to keep numbers up and the program going.
  • Heart of the Lakes families donated 2,501 pounds of food to the Fill the Yetti Food Drive. The winning class was Kelli Heeter's class. They donated 336 items and earned a pizza party.
  • Heart of the Lakes staff completed analyzing data from the first half of the school year. They will use this data to identify students in need of interventions.
  • The kindergarten open house for the 2023-24 school year will be March 30 from 4-7 p.m. The preschool open house will be April 4 at 4 p.m.
  • Prairie Wind Middle School is trying "Tech Free Fridays," where they challenge students and staff to go a day without their phones. The school will place a bucket in the cafeteria, and the students who put their phones in the bucket for the day will be eligible to win a prize.
  • The middle school will get new lockers in the summer to accommodate its growing number of students. There will be about 340 total lockers to accommodate 680 students since the lockers are shared. The project should take about a week or two. It will start in July and will be done before the start of the 2023-24 school year.
  • From Dec. 1 - Jan. 18, the Perham-Dent School District hosted 25 different home events and 83 different matches and games.
  • The Alternative Learning Center (ALC) believes most seniors are on track to graduate in 2023.
  • The next school board meeting is Wednesday, Feb. 8, at 5 p.m. in the Perham High School Media Center.
Elizabeth (she/her), 23, graduated with a degree in Journalism and Communications from the University of Wisconsin–Stout in 2020. Elizabeth has always had a passion for telling stories about people and specializes in community features, which she uses for her Perham-centered content.
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