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New school year, new goals for District 833 students

Isabella Roberts (left) waits in the main hallway of Pullman Elementary School to hear the bell that signals she will go to her new classroom to start the school year. When the bell rang, she got a kiss and hug from her mother, April, as Principal Ed Ross said, "Good morning, Pullman Elementary School." Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner1 / 2
Kassandra Areizaga, new first-grader at Pullman Elementary School, takes great pride in accomplishing her first task of the school year. As her classmates came into the classroom to find their desks, she printed her name on the sheet of paper given her by her teacher, Amanda Mahmood. Bulletin photo by Judy Spooner2 / 2

District 833 students headed back to class Tuesday, facing the 2011-12 school year with new school leaders, programs and goals.

"We're settling in," District 833 Superintendent Mark Porter said, "but we are still continuing to grow."

District 833 will see an assortment of new faces at the district level and at the school level.

"I'm very excited about a number of new personnel," Porter said.

Three of most prominent new faces will be new principals at three of the district's buildings -- Park High School, Lake Middle School and Bailey Elementary School.

Former Bailey Elementary principal Molly Roeske will take the reins at Lake Middle School since former principal Todd Hochman has taken a job as assistant principal at Park High School.

Roeske's replacement at Bailey is Candace Hofstad.

Another new face in District 833 is Craig Paul, who will serve at interim principal at Park High School after the departure of former principal Efe Agbamu.

The new school year will also see the implementation of several new programs within District 833.

Several elementary and middle schools will see the implementation of a new math program.

Math Corps, which is a math-recovery program similar to Reading Corps, will be implemented at Woodbury and Oltman middle schools and Middleton and Armstrong elementary schools.

"Our interest in Math Corps follows on the heels of a very successful experience with Reading Corps," Porter said. "We're certainly hoping for and expecting to see some similar outcomes."

Math Corps identifies students who are just under the math proficiency line and pairs them with a specialist who instructs them in the areas of math they are struggling in. Students, in pairs of two, meet with a specialist every day for 20 minutes.

"Math Corps tries to take those kids who are just under the proficiency line and get them to the proficiency level," said Elizabeth Cattarall, the coordinator of the program within District 833.

Currently Math Corps has 20 students.

When students are identified for Math Corps they go through an assessment to identify what are their problem areas, Cattarall said.

"They're taught based on what they're missing in their math repertoire," she said. "We're looking to fill that hole."

Students study through interactive exercises, computer programs and worksheets.

A new program being implemented at the high School level is Advancement Via Individualized Determination (AVID).

AVID to be offered at Woodbury High School

Currently AVID is offered at Park High School and Oltman and Cottage Grove middle schools, but Woodbury High School will be offering it for the first time this year.

The AVID program targets students in the academic middle who have the desire to go to college and the willingness to work hard. AVID places academically average students in advanced classes and provides them with an elective class that prepares them to succeed in rigorous curricula, enter mainstream activities in school and increase their opportunities to enroll in four-year colleges.

The 2011-12 school will mark the first year that District 833 will begin implementing its new strategic plan -- "Pathway to Excellence."

Porter said one of the first objectives that District 833 has begun implementing is "performance excellence."

"We're beginning to look at the entire district through the lens of continued academic improvement," he said.

Porter said District 833 has developed an academic improvement team to help formalize the objective.

Another strategic objective that District 833 will soon begin implementing is "learning for lifelong success."

To achieve this objective, District 833 will begin implementing a vision card which will look at student proficiency, student growth and college and career readiness -- all with an underlying equity component.

Previously the district only looked at achievement from a proficiency component, Porter said.

"We're going to be much more intentional about identifying our achievement," he said.

Amber Kispert-Smith

Amber Kispert-Smith has been the schools and Afton reporter at the Woodbury Bulletin since 2008. She holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism from the University of Minnesota. She previously worked as a reporter for Press Publications in White Bear Lake.

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