Chatfield Elementary Principal Craig Ihrke was pleased to be able to report to the school board that students' MCA testing scores have risen significantly since last year. He noted the fourth graders' reading scores increased from 44 percent to 69 percent, for a total of 25 percent, during the regular Chatfield School Board meeting, held last Monday evening.

"This is fantastic growth," he stated. "Over the course of the year, we've asked a great deal of the teaching staff and they have delivered. The effort has been extraordinary."

He acknowledged "that effort needs to be maintained" and in order to do so, the staff will need to have investments made in their teaching techniques through the inclusion of staff development time during the school day.

However, Ihrke pointed out, while most neighboring districts might have chosen to take early outs on a particular day of the week, Chatfield Elementary School is working to make staff development possible while also giving students an opportunity to catch up on their Action 100 reading steps by delegating paraprofessionals and part of the teaching staff to oversee classrooms while other staff members are given a turn to study together.

"We're excited about it, and we know we'll be able to make it work," he concluded.

High School Principal Randy Paulson commended the band, choir, directors Katy Jablonski and Barbara Ahl, the FFA and advisor Stacy Fritz and History Day national-bound competitor Alli Hanson and advisor Tom Hilgren for recent accomplishments.

He also went on to relate that MCA testing scores at the high school have also improved greatly and "a lot of students are gaining" in their pursuit of better scores.

Action 100 and Reading Research specialist Elissa Johnsrud reported on the programs' successes during the 2013-2014 school year and shared that she and staff anticipate making them successful once again during the next school year.

She told the board how plans are in motion to help students maintain their reading progress and, on average, they made 1.31 years' reading growth.

Tech coordinator Kristy Cook spoke about changes in curriculum and a conversion to digital, online curriculum that will evolve as teachers need it to.

"We just became part of the Minnesota Collaborative Curriculum, which is a digital curriculum we'll have access to for third through 12th grade language arts, social studies and math, and this coming school year, I'll be working with Mr. (Lee) Becker on seventh grade social studies," she explained.

Additionally, the board heard Cook's statement about the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) program, an effort to equip students with their own Internet-ready device, as the district has determined that all ninth graders will be required to have their own device for the coming school year.

Cook shared the district has chosen to collaborate with Best Buy, Inc., in providing purchasing opportunities for families through a discount on the Best Buy website, or, if they would like, they can buy the iPads the district already provided students for $150.

Students who receive free or reduced lunch would be given financial assistance in obtaining a device as well.

Superintendent Ed Harris observed that the purpose of requiring students to have an Internet-ready device is not just to put the devices in their hands, but to acquaint them well with various types of technology so they are literate in workplace and everyday technology.

Harris also congratulated the students and staff for doing well in concerts, at the academic banquet and in spring sporting events.

He went on to tell the board about a $25 per pupil increase in state aid approved through the spring legislative session. He added there will be full state funding for the reduced lunch price program for families who participate.

"At the June meeting, we'll have our first look at the fiscal year 2015 budget," he added. "We will look at revenues and expenditures and how we might roll back some of the expenditures and costs."

Other business

The board heard an update from Chatfield Center for the Arts (CCA) guardian Al Dietz, who was excited to bring news of $5.3 million in state bonding funds being awarded to the CCA. He thanked the school district for its part in the partnership between the city's economic development authority and the volunteers who have worked to make the former school building into an arts and cultural destination.

The consent agenda included approving the resignation of high school paraprofessional Karen Forde and high school paraprofessional and eighth grade boys' basketball coach Adam Hurley. The board approved posting for elementary summer school teachers and paraprofessionals and approved the 2014-2015 food service management contract with Taher. The district will also be advertising for an ag instructor, an elementary custodial position and the eighth grade boys' basketball coaching position.

The board approved a change for the July school board meeting date, moving it to Tuesday, July 15. The June school board meeting will be Monday, June 16, at 7 p.m. in the high school media center.

Finally, it was noted Friday, May 30, is the end of the fourth quarter. There will be an early out for students and teachers will spend the remaining time of the day in staff development workshops.

Graduation is Sunday, June 1, at 1:30 p.m. at the high school gymnasium.