Principal Jeff Nolte and Superintendent Jennifer Backer updated the Mabel-Canton School Board on several things during the regular board meeting last Tuesday evening. Words of congratulations and appreciation were voiced for both students and staff and the board was briefed on legislative efforts regarding educational programs.

First, Nolte took time to congratulate coaches and students who participated in winter sports. "Our winter sports teams did fabulously well this year and it's nice to talk about winning records and teams that go to Rochester," he said.

Nolte also reported the band and choir did well at contests in Caledonia on March 17. He reported the choir received two superiors and one excellent and the band has received consistent high scores. "Congratulations to both of those programs and all the kids and their hard work and the parents especially - it takes a lot of commitment to get to that final performance in those arts areas," he added.

Nolte thanked parents for attending the recent round of parent-teacher conferences. He reported 95 to 99 percent of parents attended the elementary school conferences and high school conferences were also well attended.

Nolte thanked Sue Roppe for her efforts in the recent science fair. "The kids put together great projects," he said, adding it was nice to see that hands-on work from the students.

The speech team also received several high marks. "There were three first place winners in the conference meet and three second place winners. It's nice to recognize our kids for success in all of their areas," Nolte said.

The districts' probationary teachers completed a book study, Nolte said. "They have done a very good job of collaborating with one another, really focusing on their professionalism and how to do the best things that they can for kids."

Testing season is also approaching, Nolte told the board. "As April comes, heavy duty testing comes and hopefully all our preparations and all the leaning that has happened will be rewarded with successful test scores," he said.

Nolte concluded his report by saying he had an opportunity to visit with leaders at North Winneshiek School - which has some interest in doing some cooperative sports pairing.

"I think we want to do everything we can to strengthen our relationship with them and as transition comes (to North Winnesheik) maybe there are other ways of connecting," Nolte said. "We have been strong sister schools for a long time and I hope there is some way for us to be a part of the process of change that they are going to go through in the next few years...Mabel-Canton has gained a lot from (our) relationship with North Winnesheik."

Superintendents report

"I really want to emphasize that (MCA testing) is here to stay, and we absolutely need an assessment of our public school," noted Backer as she began her report to the school board. "But what I really want to say is that doesn't mean because you don't score well in it that you're not a quality school."

"We have so many other huge successes in our allied arts program, our character education program, our special education program," she continued. "I have seen quality schools out there that maybe do not make the grade all the time in terms of that one assessment - but they make it in everything else."

Backer continued by talking about enrollment numbers. "We need more kids," she said. Mabel-Canton will be graduating a relatively large class this year with a smaller one coming in next year. Enrollment at the current time remains at 255.

A few things are happening at the state capitol, Backer reported. She spoke of the $1.2 billion dollar surplus being reported by the state. "We're hoping so, we're keeping our fingers crossed, it is our money - school districts money to have...but now they (the legislature) are diving into it and how they need to divvy it out to all the school districts."

Second, Backer reported the anti-bullying law cleared the House and she urged the district to be proactive rather than reactive on the issue of bullying.

Third, the full funding of IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) is a big topic right now. "There have been some pretty heated moments - not only at the federal level but also at every state level on how we should fund our special education groups - and we are just not getting the money that we were promised 10-15 years ago (for special education programming)."

Fourth, the legislature is talking about additional funding for lunch programs. "Getting some funding for our breakfast and lunch programs would be awfully nice," she concluded.