Board hears great things about Sauk Trail

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Sauk Trail principal Chris Dahlk and Elm Lawn principal Bob Schell presented the continuous improvement process action plans and data regarding improvement for their respective schools at the regular meeting of the Board of Education on Monday, Oct. 26.

Sauk Trail met its goal for math last year but not in reading, she said. She said staff is digging into achievement gap data to find the root causes, she said.

The school is now part of the Achievement Gap Reduction program, which has replaced SAGE. Sauk Trail had been a part of the state-developed SAGE program for five years. She said the school had the option of remaining a SAGE school for another year but decided to change to AGR. SAGE requires schools to have lower student-teacher ratios than most schools, while AGR offers different strategies, such as tutoring.

Sauk Trail can pick the assessment but must look at strategies to see how the school is closing the gap. She said a big challenge was the application was due before any baseline results had been developed.

One of the AGR goals Sauk Trail has is to raise the scores of students on free-or-reduced lunch by 10 percent each year.

"It doesn't feel like a big number but we wanted a goal that was meaningful,'' she said.

She noted Sauk Trail is the only school in the District with a poverty rate high enough to be eligible for the program. Sauk Trail gets $2,000 per student in kindergarten through third grade who are identified as being eligible for free-or-reduced lunch. That covers the cost of three teachers.

"It's been a great, great resource,'' she said.

The focus this year hasn't been on adding new initiatives but on relationship-building.

"What kind of culture do we want for our students and how are we going to get there?'' she said. "It was really a great start to the year because it wasn't hearing acronyms but coming together as a staff to see what do we need to help our students be productive learners.''

The Board was also excited to hear about plans to have staff use Fridays in November to provide enrichment opportunities for students. All students will participate but she believes it will really help those who don't get those opportunities in the summer.

"It was amazing watching our staff work and plan,'' Dahlk said." Our curriculum is exciting, too, but this feels a little different.''

Schell preceded Dahlk and injected some humor into his presentation by discussing his mustache and then sharing pictures of other District officials and their mustaches, including Deputy Superintendent and former Elm Lawn principal George Mavroulis from 20 years ago.

He raved about the school's PBIS efforts. Last year, 375 students were recognized 653 times for their positive behaviors and students are on the same pace this year. He also noted the ratio of positive-to-negative referrals is 4-1 and that two-thirds of the negative referrals are repeat offenders.

"That's a tough act to follow,'' said Dahlk, who is in her seventh year at Sauk Trail and has been working in the District since 1991.