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Serving Northern St. Louis County, Minnesota

Teachers back early release proposal

Catie Clark
Posted 3/16/23

ELY- The proposal for the Wednesday early release program for professional development and training was once again the main topic of discussion before the Ely School Board at its March 13 meeting. …

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Teachers back early release proposal


ELY- The proposal for the Wednesday early release program for professional development and training was once again the main topic of discussion before the Ely School Board at its March 13 meeting. Since the last meeting, the district reached out to parents for their input, and so far, reaction hasn’t been either firmly in favor or against the proposal, according to Washington Elementary School Principal Anne Oelke. However, “Why Wednesday?” was the question from at least one parent, Oelke said.
The early release proposal would use 50 minutes at the end of the school day on most Wednesdays during the school year for professional development. The students would be released from school early in order to facilitate the program, giving rise to the program’s name. Several neighboring school districts have already adopted early release on Wednesdays for professional development.
Eight teachers from both the high school and elementary school attended the board meeting and several commented in favor of the program. “We never get the one thing we want and that one thing is always time,” commented second-grade teacher Megan Wognum. She argued that adopting an early release program would help by making professional development training more timely during the year, instead of cramming it all into five teacher in-service days.
Special Education teacher Autumn Boedeker agreed. “The benefit (of ongoing weekly professional development) to the students would make up for the time we would take away from them (through early release).” She used the recent lock-down at the elementary school as an example of how early release would provide more timely training: “We could have used Wednesday early release time to consult with law enforcement (for debriefing).”
Superintendent John Klarich noted that the proposal to adopt an early release program was entirely staff driven. The school decided to add a vote on the early release proposal to the agenda for the next board meeting.
New equipment
Multiple mentions of new equipment deliveries were buried in the reports of the district’s two principals and its facilities director, including a new scoreboard and shot clocks to be shipped on April 20. Also listed were two vertical mills for the metal shop and a new metal lathe. High School Principal Jeff Carey remarked during the meeting that, “One vertical mill was purchased with a donation from Cleveland Cliffs.” The other mill was bought with federal Perkins funds and the lathe was bought with funds from the sale of old shop equipment.
Also mentioned was the award of the Lake Country Power Educational Excellence Grant for $100,000 to remodel the high school chemistry lab. This money is in addition to a $20,000 private donation for the same purpose.
Some of the new furniture for the media center has begun to arrive according to the principals’ report. In addition, the new choir chairs and the new cafeteria tables have both arrived.
In other business, the school board:
• Approved the termination and non-renewal of contracts for two teachers, 7-12 math teacher Sarah Anderson and Kindergarten teacher Brittany Baier. No reason for the terminations were stated at the meeting or at an inquiry after the meeting.
• Approved and signed the Minnesota-required American Indian Parent Advisory Committee report coordinated by Paige Falt, the district’s indigenous support interventionist, on the district’s efforts for Native American students and the involvement of their families in their education.
• Received the Minnesota Department of Health inspection report of the district’s food service facilities, which recorded zero violations.
• Approved Washington Elementary School Principal Anne Oelke as the Identified Official with Authority (IOwA) for Ely Public School District. Designating an IOwA is a Minnesota Department of Education requirement for access to the state’s online education information systems.
• Approved forming a coop for baseball with Northeast Range for the spring 2024 season at the recommendation of Tom Coombe, the district’s athletic director. “I think this is a win-win for everyone,” remarked school board chairperson Ray Marsnik. “I think both districts will benefit from this.”
• Approved a $1,500 donation to help fund the high school trip to Washington D.C., and a $2,500 donation for the baseball program, both from Virginia Ivancich.