While school is now underway in Prentice's new buildings, work is still ongoing with the aim of completion by Christmas. Prentice school board members received an update on the construction and remodeling project by district administrator Randy Bergman at their regular meeting Sept. 17.
The majority of the school construction is completed, with a few aspects nearing completion. Projectors are being installed in all the elementary classrooms. The band and choir walls are being built, with the ceiling rafters to follow. The fitness room is still in need of ceiling panels. Work on the entrance to the district office is underway, with the cement slab being laid, to be
followed by brickwork and metalwork.
Work on the parking lot was held back due to the rainy weather, but is expected to be completed by October.
Bergman informed the board that while he had heard some concerns about the fact that the project was still ongoing, it is continuing on track and has always been scheduled to finish by the end of the year. There will also be some landscaping work done outside the school in the spring.
Some issues — such as bells that failed to ring in the boys locker room, or windows in the elementary that need blinds — were discussed and will be addressed as the project continues.
"[The contractors] are working very fast right now, so if they keep up, they will still be ahead of schedule," said Bergman.
The start of school began as scheduled, if with a few stressful moments, according to Bergman. Teachers were given two extra days of professional development time in order to set up their classrooms before the start of school, and as the district was short a bus driver for one of the routes, Bergman filled in in order to get all the kids to school.
Work is underway in the classroom, with elementary and middle school students working through Education Galaxy's Wisconsin Forward Exam preparation program and Star assessments. Education Galaxy allows students to work on meeting the Wisconsin Academic Standards, while providing teachers with assessment reports to help identify students' individual strengths and weaknesses.
"Education Galaxy is new, but the reports you get are very thorough and really hone in on specific needs, so that is very helpful for us as we move forward," said middle/high school principal Melissa Pilgrim. "We're going to sit with each kid and go through it ... so they have a better understanding and ownership over it."
The Star assessments collect data on all students' performance in math, reading, and literacy.
Bergman noted he has observed more students entering the elementary school with mental health and behavior issues that can be disruptive to the learning process.
"Students aren't all coming into the district at the same starting level," he said. "We're trying to work on that — and we're getting better at working on that. We have a lot of paraprofessionals in elementary working with kids one-on-one or one-on-two to keep us moving forward."
On Oct. 14, two foreign exchange students will arrive from Germany, staying in Prentice for a month. Pilgrim said that the district is looking forward to hosting the students. Prentice high schoolers will have the opportunity to travel to Germany in August 2020.
Communication software changed
Bergman recommended the school board changing their text messaging software — used to send out mass communications to staff, parents, and students — from Remind to Infinite Campus Messenger.
The district currently uses Remind, which recently upped their charge to the district to $1,600 annually. Bergman said that last year, he had sent 52 messages over the course of the year. With the new rate, that would cost the district over $30 per message.
Bergman reported that the school already uses Infinite Campus as their student information system, and parents could enter their phone numbers into the system and check the box that will allow the district to send them messages. The first year cost for Infinite Campus Messenger, including setup and training would be $2,681, and the annual renewal cost would be $1,081.
"It makes sense to do it all in one spot, rather than having dual systems," said Bergman.
The communication system can be used by the district administration, teachers, and coaches.
The school board approved the change unanimously.
Bergman said that a letter will be sent out to all parents informing them of the change, and showing them how to sign up for messages.
Snow removal from new sidewalks considered
With winter looming on the not-too-distant horizon, Bergman asked school board members how they would like the district to handle the removal of snow from the newly expanded sidewalks surrounding the school.
In the past, the work has been done by an individual contracted by the district to remove snow from the parking lots and sidewalks. However, with the changes at the newly renovated district buildings, Bergman pointed out there is a lot more sidewalk to be cleared.
Bergman noted that if the work is done by the district, equipment will need to be purchased as the sidewalks will not be able to be maintained in a timely fashion with shoveling by hand.
School board president Randy Erickson recommended that Bergman contact a local contractor to determine whether they would be willing to take it on and what the cost would be to the district.
The topic will be revisited at the board's next meeting in October.
The school board unanimously approved the hiring of long term substitute teacher Michelle Ulrich in the role of special education aide at the elementary school, and current first grade teacher Hilary Pond as the assistant for the musical/variety show this year.
It was noted that there will be a variety performance held this year instead of the traditional school musical, with students demonstrating singing, gymnastics routines, and special talents. With the construction ongoing in the band and choir room, there are plans to hold the performance at the Ogema old town hall.
The resignations of assistant baseball coach Jeremy Brayton, and assistant track coach Dennis Weeden were also accepted.
Continued county health services approved
The school board was presented with the Price County Health Services memorandum of understanding, which informed the board about the scope of services of fered by the county.
The county Health Department provides nine different services to the school at no charge, including the following, as read aloud from the memorandum to the school board.
* Perform communicable disease investigation, control, and prevention for public health protocols, as well as provide public health education to families and school personnel.
* Assist with assessment of immunization status of all students according to legal and recommended requirements, and provide consultation guidance on immunization questions and concerns.
* Accept referrals from parents and/or school personnel on students with health related concerns.
* Accept referrals from parents and/or school personnel on students who require the development of a health plan. The public health nurse will assist in the development of the plan.
* Provide assistance and consultation to school personnel and parents on vision and hearing screenings.
* Serve as a member of an Individualized Education Program team for children with special health care needs as requested.
* Review draft policies related to health issues developed by district personnel and provide input.
* Provide health related classroom presentations and in-service to teachers per request of the district, contingent on availability of staff and resources.
* Serve as health consultant and resource person for health curriculum per request of school personnel, contingent on availability of staff and resources.
The memorandum also clarified that the public health nurse is not a school nurse, and does not provide the emergency nursing services required by the Department of Public Instruction. Implementation of emergency nursing services, plans, and policies are the responsibility of the district.
When board member Nick Adams queried how often a representative from the Health Department visits the school, Bergman responded that is used to be weekly or more frequently if requested.
"They would if someone would call or say we need them to come check something," he said.
The school board unanimously approved the memorandum.
* A closed session was held by the school board in order to consider data related to network technology responsibility and salaries. Following the closed session, the board approved hiring Heikki Heikkinen for the school year in order to help with technology. Heikkinen will work remotely to update equipment, among other duties.
* The school board approved their continued membership with the Wisconsin Rural Schools Alliance.
* The annual report on the third Friday student enrollment count was postponed as the meeting was held before the third Friday of the month. Bergman reported there are between 20 and 30 new students in the district, although some students have also left.
Last week, 55 years after Kjell Stundal walked the halls of Phillips High School as the district's first foreign exchange student, he returned to the little Northwoods town for the reunion of the 1964 graduating class. In 1963, Stundal was one of about 100 Norwegian kids who were approved to travel to the United States for a cultural and educational exchange. While Stundal knew he was heading for a new country and a world of new experiences, he had no choice in his final destination and was selected to be the pilot foreign exchange student for a program newly begun in the Phillips School District.
The international exchange program, known at the time as the American Field Service, was introduced to the school district when Frank Boyle — a senior at Phillips High School and the president of the student council — suggested that a foreign student might help broaden the perspective of Price County residents.
With the support of Lorraine Raskie, the student council advisor and district's biology teacher, the student council spent a year working to raise funds for the creation of the program. Harold Hendrickson, a junior in 1962-63, worked with Boyle and when the district was assigned their first exchange student, Hendrickson's parents agreed to host the 18-year-old Norweigian.
Halfway around the world in his small hometown of Aurland — located on the banks of Sognefjorden, Norway's longest and deepest fjord — Stundal could only imagine what the coming nine months would hold.
When it came time to leave Norway, Stundal boarded a ship with a host of fellow foreign exchange students from across Europe, and for nine days, they slowly crossed the Atlantic Ocean to the shores of America.
When Stundal arrived in Phillips, the Hendricksons welcomed him into their home, and Harold and Stundal quickly hit it off.
On what was likely a crisp September day in northern Wisconsin, the two boys walked a stone's throw across the street from the Hendricksons' home at 604 Beebe Street and through the doors of the Phillips High School.
Today that building stands vacant, one of the many changes that have transpired in Phillips over the past half century.
As an exchange student, Stundal's primary responsibility — apart from finishing his high school education — was to share the Norwegian
culture with the people of Price County. During the months he lived in Phillips, he spoke to church, school, and community groups and participated in numerous local events.
"The whole culture was different, so it took some time to adapt," recalled Stundal. "It was mostly exciting, but also a little scary. I had to go out and meet people, tell them about Norway and make speeches — which I had never done before — in English."
Stundal also found some familiarities here in northern Wisconsin, where many Scandinavians immigrated and brought aspects of their culture with them to the new country.
Being flung into a world based entirely on a foreign language was the first challenge Stundal had to overcome, and it took some time before it began to feel natural to communicate solely in English. Yet after half a school year, Stundal recalls he began to think and dream in English, and knew he had finally mastered the language.
On a national level, the year was not without incident.
On Nov. 22, 1963, news of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy ricocheted around the country, leaving an indelible mark on history. For students at Phillips High School, the news felt particularly personal. Only a few years before, JFK had visited Phillips as part of his campaign, meeting with students and citizens.
The months that followed as the calendar turned to 1964 were filled with moments now significant in history.
U.S. speed skater Terry McDermott won gold at the 1964 Winter Olympics in Innsbruck, Austria.
Beatlemania began to take the country's young people by storm, as The Beatles began releasing hit songs such as "I Want To Hold Your Hand."
Plans to build the New York City World Trade Center were announced.
New president Lyndon B. Johnson announced the U.S. had developed a jet capable of sustained flight at more than 2,000 miles per hour.
By the end of the school year, the first United Nations Conference on Trade and Development was being held.
Yet most of Stundal's memories are connected to Phillips High School, around which his entire life revolved for the nine months he lived in Wisconsin. During the 1963-64 school year, the school was bursting at the seams with 93 graduating students. When he wasn't in class — which was in session from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. every week day — Stundal was playing soccer for the Loggers or participating in other extracurricular activities.
Of the classes offered at Phillips, the ones that held particular interest to Stundal were those that offered musical education, which was different than what he had experienced in Norway.
"In Norway, we didn't have a system for learning music in the classroom, so we had to learn it by ourselves," he explained. "It was much more developed [in the U.S.]."
Stundal participated in band, pep band, and choir at school, sang in the church choir, and played the trumpet in instrumental competitions. When his trumpet was damaged, the students raised funds to buy a brand new one made in Kenosha and shiny enough to be made of gold ... which Stundal still has to this day.
This experience would prove to be life-changing for Stundal. When he returned to Norway at the end of the 1963-64 school year, he attended university, studying to become a music teacher.
For his entire career, this is the work Stundal has pursued both as a professional and a volunteer, sharing his love of music with countless students. Over the years, he founded and directed two music schools, and joined what was a growing movement in Norway to preserve the country's artistic culture. Now, public schools in Norway offer classes in traditional dance, music, and art.
"My year in Phillips was very important in my development, not only in my work as a music teacher but also on a personal level," said Stundal. In fact, it was through his love of music that he met his partner, Ingunn Bjorland, who is a pianist.
"I think it's a very good investment to have exchange students," said Stundal. "I think it broadens your view on cultures, different political systems, and people."
Before he returned to Norway, Stundal worked with Hendrickson and the student council to raise the funds to support the next foreign exchange student that would follow in his footsteps.
"Kjell was an excellent ambassador for Norway," Hendrickson said. "On a personal level, it was very good for me to have Kjell here to have a better understanding of Norwegian culture."
The two have remained friends over the years, and although their contact is sometimes limited to annual Christmas cards, they remain connected by the friendship forged during that school year 55 years ago.
After graduating high school, Hendrickson has traveled to Norway twice, visiting Stundal's hometown and the surrounding fjords and countryside. Although it has been many years since Hendrickson has visited Norway, he has plans to return again in the near future.
Stundal, whose recent trip to Phillips was the first since leaving it as a high school graduate, found that despite the changes to the small town, the welcome was just the same.
Chequamegon students' standardized test scores continued a steady trend up in math last year but dropped in English and average ACT score for 11th graders, according to results released last month by the state Department of Public Instruction.
Scores on tests measuring mathematics abilities have increased 8 percentage points over the last three years, but scores on tests measuring English, reading, and writing skills have dropped 4.2 points during the same timeframe.
Those numbers are according to the Wisconsin Forward Exam given statewide to nearly all public school students in third through eighth grades last spring. The exam is intended to determine students' mastery of state academic standards.
Compared to the rest of the state, Chequamegon is exceeding in the number of students considered proficient and advanced at math but has not caught up in English.
Principals for the elementary and middle school explained the testing results to the Board of Education Sept. 24 in Park Falls.
According to Marilyn Brink, elementary principal, although the elementary has lagged behind in proficiency of English language arts, grades kindergarten through fifth are implementing new learning material and the schools are working on better identifying students who need additional learning help. She said she has seen a jump in learning between third and fourth grade due to the new implements.
"I am really excited with the results, and this is one of the action plan items that we're putting into place is to implement that ELA education K-5," said Brink. "We have good results in first grade just not formal state testing results to show for that too."
She reminded the board that, because of the small class sizes, 1 1/2 to 2 percentage points represents about one student.
Chequamegon Middle School Principal Kacey Hanson attributed math success in grades 6-8 to a greater focus on
mathematical practices and professional development in that area but said the school wants to continue to improve.
In the lagging area of English, Hanson said the district needs to refocus on writing.
"Our district at one time had a very robust writing curriculum that went all the way through — from kindergarten to 12th grade. Within consolidation and change over on the staff, our training has wavered. So it's a focus that we want to bring back," Hanson said.
High school juniors last year took the ACT, which is intended to measure college readiness. The state average ACT score has been on a downward trend over the last four years, from above 20 in 2015-16 to 19.6 this year.
Chequamegon ACT scores averaged 19.4 in 2019, down from 19.9 in 2018 but up from 18.7 in 2017.
Tim Kief, high school principal, stated although students are testing well in reading, overall English scores are testing more erratically and math scores are trending down, just like the state. He attributed the positive reading scores to a focus on reading in recent years with teachers in all areas focusing on that component. He said teaching staff can adopt the same template to target math and English.
Students in grades four, eight, and 10 are tested in social studies, but new standards were released for that test in 2018, meaning scores are not yet reflecting the new standard.
Grades four and eight are also tested in science, but, similar to social studies, are adjusting to the new standards.
Hanson reminded board members the state tests don't tell the entire story of students.
"This is not the entire picture of one student," said Hanson. "It's standardized testing. It's one test. This is one snapshot of one piece of the puzzle. We do many more assessments with each individual student. It's one piece of the puzzle that makes up a whole kid. It's not something we can live or die by but gives us a snapshot comparison with the state."