banner.gif (15051 bytes)

News from the week of August 24, 2005



Student to accompany Governor on China trip

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

A Tracy Area High School senior has been selected to accompany Governor Tim Pawlenty on a trade mission to China this November.

David Schiller, the son of Ken and Colleen Schiller, is one of seven student ambassadors who will travel with Gov. Pawlenty and approximately 200 business, government, academic, and civic leaders.

While the goal of Pawlenty’s trip is to promote the new Minnesota-China Partnership initiative, Schiller and the other students will have a different focus. They will be responsible for providing reports for a website about China that will be accessible to students and teachers statewide.

The educational website is being developed through an $85,000 donation of money and equipment from the Best Buy Children’s Foundation. The funding is being used to develop the website and equip the student ambassadors with laptops, cameras, and video equipment during the trade mission.

Schiller first heard about the opportunity in March from Tracy Area High School teacher and FFA advisor Paul Skoglund. Schiller approached Tracy Area High School Principal Chad Anderson and Superintendent Dave Marlette, and they encouraged him to apply.

Schiller submitted an application and a one-page essay about why he wanted to go on the trip. He felt he had a chance at being selected because of his agricultural background and FFA participation. He was selected from 79 student applicants following an interview with Department of Employment and Economic Development Commissioner Matt Kramer.

Gov. Pawlenty announced the selection of the seven student ambassadors at a press conference last Wednesday. Schiller and the other students were at the press conference and had the opportunity to meet the governor.

Schiller was pleasantly surprised upon meeting Pawlenty. The governor, he said, had gone through each of the students’ applications himself and knew about each of the ambassadors.

“He was really intellectual, but he’s pretty laid back,” Schiller said.

Gov. Pawlenty chatted with the students before the press conference, and seemed as excited as they were, Schiller said.

“It was almost like you could feel his excitement,” he said.

While Pawlenty showed this side of himself to the students, he was all business when he got up to the podium. Schiller said he was impressed with the governor’s ability to field questions from reporters.


Preparations begin

Schiller and the other student ambassadors have already begun training for their trip. They have had a crash course on Windows Movie Maker, editing videos, using music in the videos, and other skills they will need.

The student ambassadors will be mentored by Nick Buettner, a freelance moviemaker and photographer who has gone on several expeditions such as this one, including a trip with Gov. Jesse Ventura to China. Buettner’s job is to document the trip, and the students will work under him.

Each day, the students will be responsible for reporting what they did that day on the educational website. This will allow students and teachers to follow their activities daily.

The student ambassadors have been assigned research areas, which they will study beforehand and be responsible for researching further during the trip. Schiller’s focus is the environment, and the similarities and differences in how Minnesota and China approach this topic. Schiller wanted to research this topic because of its relation to agriculture.

The students will also be responsible for creating a video about themselves before the trip. The videos, along with their progress reports during the trip, will be on the educational website.

The students will work in pairs during the trip, and each pair will have a digital camera and video camera with them. They will be making documentaries on their research topics, which will be later put together into one video. The video will be made available for schools throughout the state to use in their curriculum.

“We’ll be reporters for kids our age who will be hearing it,” Schiller said.

This is the first time high school students have gone on one of the state’s trade missions.

“They’re pretty excited about us going,” Schiller said. “We will provide the younger generation’s perspective.”

The costs of student participation in the trade mission are being covered by contributions from Best Buy Co., Inc.; Carlson Companies; Dorsey & Whitney, LLP; Faegre & Benson, LLP; General Mills; Griffin international Companies; Thomson Legal & Regulatory; and TURCK, Inc. For more information on the trade mission, visit


"Grease" is the word - TAHS to stage iconic musical

Danny, Sandy, Rizzo and the gang are coming to Tracy this fall.

Grease has been selected as the fall play at Tracy Area High School, director Sue Kluge announced last week. Auditions have been set for September 8 and 9 at 7 p.m. at TAHS.

A wide variety of roles and jobs need to be filled for the production, and Kluge encourages students with a variety of interests to participate. There are 17 speaking and singing roles up for grabs. She would like to build a chorus with additional performers. Back-stage help is also needed.

Performance dates have tentatively been set for Nov. 18-20.

The 1971 musical, written by Jim Jacobs and Warren Casey, was popularized in 1978 by a movie starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John in the lead roles.

Set in 1959, Grease follows the antics of the two young lovers and their friends—the T-Birds and the Pink Ladies—during their senior year at Rydell High. Music from the show includes “Summer Nights,” “We Go Together,” and “Greased Lightning.”

The school theater program was revived two years ago, when Kluge took on directorship.

Minister is leaving Church of Christ

The Tracy Church of Christ is looking for a new minister.

Pastor Chad Seamann has announced plans to leave the congregation. He will conduct his last service Sept. 11.

“It’s been an enjoyable three years here,” he said. “The people have been wonderful.” He and his family plan to move to the Cross Lake area, where Seamann will join his father in a construction business.

“This is a good opportunity for us,” he said

He and his wife, Holly, have three children: Brian, 7; Abigail 4; and Trinity, 1. Pastor Seamann has been active in the Tracy Cub Scout program, serving as cub master this past year. The family came to Tracy in 2002.


School waits for No Child Left Behind report

By Valerie Scherbart Quist

On August 29, Governor Tim Pawlenty will officially release the 2004-2005 No Child Left Behind “Adequate Yearly Progress” reports for Minnesota schools.

This is the second year that report cards have been issued for each school and district in the state. In 2003, reports were issued for elementary schools only. The goal of the No Child Left Behind law is for all students to reach 100 percent proficiency in reading and math by the year 2014.

Last year’s results

Adequate Yearly Progress is tabulated for both individual schools and for school districts as a whole. Adequate Yearly Progress is determined by annual proficiency targets on the Minnesota Comprehensive Assessments (MCAs). Each year, the targeted rate of proficiency increases, whether or not the district made Adequate Yearly Progress the previous year.

For example, if a school district has a target of 72 percent proficiency and does not achieve it one year but achieves that level the next year, it still will not make Adequate Yearly Progress because the target will have increased. In addition to MCA results, districts must achieve certain attendance and graduation rates. Elementary schools must also meet a set attendance rate, and high schools must meet a set graduation rate.

In 2003-2004, District 417 narrowly missed the Adequate Yearly Progress mark. The only subgroup that the district fell short was among third grade Asian/Pacific Islander students in reading proficiency. The district succeeded in making Adequate Yearly Progress in 71 other areas, including participation in all areas, and attendance and graduation rates. However, a “no” in any category or subgroup means a school or district did not make Adequate Yearly Progress according to No Child Left Behind standards.

Tracy Area High School did make Adequate Yearly Progress in 2003-2004. TAHS students made Adequate Yearly Progress in 36 categories, including attendance, participation, proficiency levels, and graduation rates. In total, Tracy Independent School District was proficient in 71 out of 72 measured subgroups.


What the results mean

What happens to a school or district not making Adequate Yearly Progress?

The first year, there are no consequences besides being put on a “needs improvement” list with other schools and districts that did not make Adequate Yearly Progress. If a school or district does not make Adequate Yearly Progress in the same subject area (math or reading proficiency or participation; attendance and/or graduation) for two consecutive years, it is required to offer the option of attending another school site within the same district and provide transportation if a student chooses to use this option. This would not apply to District 417 because of having only one district site.

If a school does not make Adequate Yearly Progress in the same subject area for three consecutive years, it is required to provide supplemental educational services (tutoring) to eligible low-income students outside the regular school day.

If a school does not make Adequate Yearly Progress in the same subject area for four consecutive years, it must come up with a corrective action plan that could include new curriculum or teaching methods.

After a fifth year the district or school must come up with a plan for restructuring. Restructuring takes place after six consecutive years of not making Adequate Yearly Progress in the same subject area.

What corrective action and restructuring will look like under Minnesota law has yet to be determined. Legislative approval is required before these actions can be written into Minnesota’s No Child Left Behind plan.

Parents must be notified each time a district or school does not make Adequate Yearly Progress after two consecutive years on the list. In addition, consequences will continue for the district or school until it makes Adequate Yearly Progress in that subject area for two consecutive years. These federally mandated consequences only apply to districts and schools that accept Title I funds.


Teachers added

District 417 has taken a proactive approach to the No Child Left Behind Adequate Yearly Progress reports. Several changes have taken place in both Tracy Area Elementary School (TAES) and Tracy Area High School (TAHS) in the past few years. The most dramatic changes took place last year when English-as-a-Second Language (ESL), Title, and Special Education staff was restructured and certified staff was increased.

At TAES, certified ESL staff has been increased from one full-time equivalent (FTE) teacher during the 2003-2004 school year to two in the 2004-2005 school year. At the high school, ESL certified staff was increased from .5 FTE to one FTE, and the ESL paraprofessional duties were restructured so that person could spend more time working with ESL students. In all, ESL certified staff doubled in the district, from 1.5 FTE in 2003-2004 to three FTE in 2004-2005.

The Title I program also had sweeping changes in 2004-2005. The Title I program was reformatted so that instead of having six paraprofessionals, there were three FTE Title I teachers, and two Title I paraprofessionals working one hour a day in the program.

How Title I services are offered to students also changed drastically. Prior to last year, students were pulled out of class for Title I services. With three fully licensed Title teachers on staff, it allowed for a separate section of Title I students to be taught in reading and math for grades one through six. If students in this group show considerable gains, they are moved out of the Title I classroom and into a section for students performing at grade level.

Elementary Principal Scott Loeslie said this method allows the school to keep class sizes lower in reading and math, and allows each student to advance according to his or her skill level. Smaller class sizes also decrease student frustration and enable teachers to tailor instruction to meet individual student needs and abilities.

Enrichment programs were begun last year in both the elementary and high school settings.

At TAES, enrichment programs were offered in reading and math for students performing below grade level. This involved hiring a part-time licensed elementary teacher. The High School Enrichment Program included having a math teacher volunteer to work overload.

Both schools also implemented an after-school program during the 2004-2005 school year. At TAES, students in third through sixth grades were allowed to stay after school two nights per week for 90 minutes each session. During these sessions, students could work on homework and receive assistance from teachers and paraprofessionals who were on hand to provide guidance. On average, 35-50 students attended the TAES after-school program.

At TAHS, an after-school program was also offered twice a week. Two to four teachers and at least one paraprofessional were on hand to help students. On average, 30 students attended this program each night.

Other changes included adding Northwest Evaluation Association (NWEA) testing at both TAES and TAHS to help determine the ability levels of students in reading and math. Also new last year was the formation of the Hmong Relations Committee, the purpose of which is to build relations with the Hmong community and work together to help students succeed academically.


Continued efforts

Efforts will continue on both the elementary and high school level as further changes take place during the coming school year. At TAES, some restructuring of last year’s Title I and ESL programs had to take place because of decreased Title I funding. While funding was decreased, the positions were able to be restructured so that the total number of positions working in these areas will be the same. There will be 2.86 FTE Title I teachers, 1.57 FTE ESL teachers, and a .57 reading specialist, for a total of 5 FTEs—the same as last year. The reading specialist will focus on serving students in K-2.

At TAHS, 2005-2006 will be the first year parents will be able to access student grades through JMC online. Parents will be able to access their children’s homework, quiz, test, and other scores on a weekly basis. Also this year at TAHS, teachers will have a web page for parents to access teachers’ e-mail, tentative syllabus, schedule, and grading policy.

At TAHS, to meet increased state standards, a new science teaching position has been added to teach chemistry to all juniors. Chemistry classes will be divided into two sections, chemistry and conceptual chemistry. An academic excellence committee is being formed this year as well for Tracy Area Public Schools.


Lofty goals

“Our local school board and administrators have really stepped up to the plate and approved many financial increases to meet the challenges of NCLB,” said Superintendent Dave Marlette. “While we do believe we have made many changes to help students achieve the standards set by No Child Left Behind, we realize it is a tremendous challenge to meet proficiency in all 72 different subgroups of NCLB.”

TAPS also believes the overall concept of No Child Left Behind is a good one, and believes it has been positive in making the district re-evaluate how it deals with all students’ assessment, curriculum, and instruction, Marlette said. While it is a well-meaning concept, NCLB does create problems for District 417 and all other school districts.

“Expecting 100 percent of the student’s population to be grade level proficient by the year 2013-2014 is an unrealistic goal,” said TAES Principal Scott Loeslie. “How can school districts ensure that all special education students, ESL students, and Title students can perform at the same level as our brightest and most talented students? If we were able to use this same federal mandate and apply it to the health industry, could hospitals ensure that 100 percent of their patients would leave the hospitals healthy and no one would ever die? We will all likely make the medical ‘needs improvement’ list at some point during this on-going process called life,” Loeslie said.

Loeslie referred to Martin Luther King, Jr.‘s famous quote, “We all may have come over on a different boat, but we all are in the same boat now,” which he believes applies to finding an appropriately diplomatic way of presenting the needs improvement factors.

“We don’t have to reflect back many years or generations to understand that our forefathers had some of the same challenges of learning a new language and trying to be successful in the American education system,” added Marlette. “The Tracy School District does want all students to be successful and is committed to do everything possible to ensure that result.”


EDA loan set for new bakery operation

Tracy Growth and Development has been approved for a $13,500 loan from the Tracy Economic Development Authority.

The loan will be used to help open a new bakery in the former P Plus grocery building in Downtown Tracy. The EDA will have a second mortgage on the building as security for the ten-year, 2.62% loan.

This spring, the EDA okayed a Tracy Growth and Development loan to help purchase the Tracy Bakery property. However, Tracy Growth & Development later changed their plans and decided to buy and renovate the P Plus building rather than buy the Tracy Bakery property. The initially approved loan was never disbursed. Friday, Tracy Growth and Development representatives presented a new loan application based upon the renovation of the former Asian grocery building.

In other EDA business Friday:

• EDA budget requests for 2006 were reviewed. Community Development Director Robert Gervais has asked for $9,000 to help market and promote Tracy. Expenditures of $30,000 for a business development revolving loan fund and $20,000 to tear down dilapidated housing has been requested.

• Appraisals will be sought for properties at 72 Morgan, 62 Morgan and 79 First St.. Acquisition of the houses is being considered for future redevelopment projects. It was noted that vacant houses at 58 and 72 Morgan are being investigated as possible hazardous buildings, a first step toward the parcels being cleared and redeveloped.


Tracy schools prepare for Sept. 1 opener

The end of summer for District 417 students is barely a week away.

The first day of school for Tracy Public and St. Mary’s Catholic students is Thursday, Sept. 1. But local schools are already bustling with activity.

Seventh graders and other incoming students gathered at Tracy Area High School Tuesday for new student orientation. Other students in grades 8-12 stopped by the high school office Tuesday and Wednesday to pick up schedules, handbooks and locker assignments.

Tracy Area Elementary School plans a “Visitation Day” Wednesday, August 31, from 1 to 3 p.m. Students and parents will be able to check homeroom and teacher assignments and tour school facilities.

St. Mary’s School plans a Parent Information Night Wednesday, Sept. 7.

Teacher workshop days for St. Mary’s School faculty began Thursday, August 25, and will continue through Wednesday, August 31.

Workshops for public school faculty are scheduled Monday and Tuesday, August 29-30.

High school athletic competitions begin next week. The Panther volleyball team opens its season with away matches at Slayton, Monday, August 29, and Marshall on Thursday, Sept. 1, while the cross country team travels to Mt. Lake Wednesday, August 31. The football team’s home opener is Thursday, Sept. 1 against Canby.